We all want a harmonious staff. A collaborative team churns out better work, has higher employee retention and creates a happier environment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.
Hiring for skill has become secondary to cultural fit, as companies are finally realizing that one bad apple can spoil the bunch. A contrasting personality can tarnish a culturally strong workplace, and from there, everything else could follow suit.
So how can you create the foundation for a solid culture, a happy workplace and a collaborative group? By matchmaking.
Before you start to cringe, I don’t mean romantic setups. I’m referring to social matchmaking, where leaders create opportunities for employees to be friends rather than just colleagues.
The end goal isn’t to make someone the best man at the next wedding. It’s to create more meaningful connections so staff can feel like they’re genuinely part of a team. From there, they’ll feel supported, trusted, encouraged and engaged in their role.
Some leaders can fear that workplace friendships would create bigger problems down the road, especially if the friendship goes sour. However, it’s far worse to deal with a disconnected team in the long term than a disagreement in the short term. There’s a much bigger picture to think of.
A study by Gallup found that employees who have “a best friend” at work are seven times more likely to be fully engaged in their jobs. In addition, those with close friendships at work were 50 per cent more satisfied with their jobs.
Here are three ways to start the social matchmaking process:
Make it mandatory
Making friendships mandatory doesn’t mean you sit two people down and declare they’re now friends. What I’m referring to is time. In order to get people high-fiving and fist-pumping, you better give them the space to do so.
Without opportunities to get to know each other, people simply don’t have the time to connect on a level that could create a stronger bond. Being bogged down with the day-to-day can seem far more important than hearing about what Susan did over the weekend.
At Creative Niche, I’ve introduced mandatory screen time for 30 minutes, every day. During this period, everyone must shut down all electronic devices. Staff are encouraged to play foosball, chat in the lunchroom or grab a coffee together.
We’re all busy, but 30 minutes will do wonders for your staff (and your own) energy levels and productivity. It certainly has for us.
Your onboarding process lays the foundation for stronger bonds between staff. Take advantage of this fresh start and create opportunities for them to connect as a team, both individually and as a group.
One idea would be to create a mentorship or buddy program. Invite current staff to show the new hire the ropes. This would entail introductions to each employee, giving them an office tour and showing them how to use any systems your team has in place.
You should also organize an office lunch, inviting their department out to get to know the new employee, and vice versa. Or this could be Friday Happy Hour or Monday morning coffee meetings. Taking the group offsite creates a more relaxed atmosphere to get the organic (ie. non-work related) conversations going.
Fund the fun
Sometimes what you or your HR team think would be a good time could be in complete contrast to what your staff would rather enjoy doing. That’s why you should put some funds behind fun, giving your staff a budget to plan events outside of the office.
Not only will this create teamwork, it can drive excitement within the group as they choose what they want to do. From weekend retreats to attending sports games, you’ll create the foundation for bonds to start forming that run much deeper than exchanging the odd email or a nod in the hallway.
• Mandy Gilbert is CEO of Creative Niche, a Toronto-based staffing, recruitment and executive search firm and partner of RED Academy, a design and technology school.