Five compassion-driven keys to building community at work

Donato Tramuto & Tami Booth Corwin, Authors, The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results write about why building a community at the workplace is important and how it can be done.

Five compassion-driven keys to building community at work

Donato Tramuto & Tami Booth Corwin, Authors, The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results

Building a community at the workplace is essential to increasing employee satisfaction, loyalty, and retention; creating stronger teams; and driving innovation and productivity. When asked in a 2018 LinkedIn workplace culture study what would keep employees at their company for the next five years or more, the number one answer was a sense of belonging, having people at work they can be themselves around. In this time of workplace talent shortages and global crises having a community at work is imperative.

Here are five main elements of a strong community:

1. Espouse an Engaging Mission

For leaders, it is very hard, if not impossible, to get a consistently high level of performance when employees don’t feel invested or connected.  When we feel like we’re part of a greater mission, and are acknowledged and valued as a part of the team, we naturally want to (and will!) shift from our standard ho-hum performance mode into higher gear.   

A strong mission creates stronger desire among workers to help one another. Research conducted by Shawn Achor showed that “work altruists were ten times more likely to be engaged, and forty percent more likely to receive a promotion.” These people are the ones who are so connected to the mission of a company that they increase social interaction during a crisis rather than decrease it. Reward these workers to reinforce to them and others that their commitment to the community is highly valued.

Take time to clearly articulate a mission and purpose that is authentic, engaging, and highly synced to the business and the customer/community it serves. 

2. Communicate Community Values from the Top

A leader's job is not only to articulate the mission, but also to define, articulate, and reinforce shared values to allow people to feel fellowship around common goals, mission, expertise, and interests. 

One of the most important cultural values for organizations is a 'we versus me' mentality. Many organizations reward individual achievement in the way they create incentives, or who they publicly reward or validate. It's key to shift to or balance with reinforcing the importance of the team. Reward groups and validate outcomes and actions that support group goals or shared mission.

Critically, leaders must “walk the walk” in addition to ‘‘talking the talk” to model and embody these values.

3. Empower All Levels of Management to Share Values and Co-Own Community

Managers at all levels should recognize the power they hold in creating a valuable work environment that has at its forefront— empowerment. In fact, researchers found that middle managers were especially important and valuable aspects in building community, not only because of their knowledge of the organization but also because of their level of commitment to the company. 

Our own original research showed that middle management is sometimes the level at which a gap forms between the top layers of leadership and the rest of the group. Staying in sync with middle management and every layer throughout an organization is critical. 

Regardless of. your level, communicate with leaders above and below yourself to make sure the values are shared and articulated with consistency.

4. Encourage Communication, Commitment, and Collaboration

In our workplace survey, communication, commitment, and collaboration ranked as the top three keys to compassionate culture and collaborative teams. These keys of compassionate leadership combine to help the people involved form a strong sense of community, which is the essence of successful teams. 

Leaders who are most successful at creating strong communities and teams focus on these three aspects. One way to communicate and show commitment is to be available to listen and check in with your workers. 

While you may not literally have an open door all day long, make sure your team knows that you are available. Make sure they know by your actions that you listen closely and with care, understand, won’t crush ideas, won’t make people afraid to speak to you or in a group. And when action is needed, follow through.

5. Give Everyone a Voice

All people need to be seen and heard to feel they belong. It is important for a leader to understand the communication style of all team members. When another’s style is radically different from your own, you’ll need to step up and shift to their style—if only for a moment—to permit each member to speak up in their own manner. 

Some individuals don't speak up. They might be shy, or don't have confidence in their ideas or views. Encourage them to share in groups to draw them out. Or proactively ask them one-on-one for their opinions.

Sometimes people don't speak up in groups because there are others that steal all the airtime - and sometimes that's the leader themselves feeling they need to have all the answers. This is a danger because if an employee is consistently not allowed to speak, they become disengaged. You and your team will miss important ideas or concerns if you're only hearing from a few. Take those talkative team members aside and validate them positively for their commitment and contributions. Then, with compassion, suggest they show their leadership by encouraging others on the team to share too. 

If you find that you do too much of the talking, try flipping it around and being the one to speak last after hearing from others.


About the Authors

Donato Tramuto & Tami Booth Corwin are the authors of The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results (April 2022). Tramuto is a global health activist, former CEO of Tivity Health, and founder of the TramutoPorter Foundation. Booth Corwin is a veteran publishing and media executive, recognized in The Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch: list for ‘leading a striking turnaround’ at Rodale’s book division.