Two Challenges at Work
Communication at work
If those are the only people you know at work, there are some problems that arise. If these are the only people most people at your work know, there are bigger problems. Those problems can be grouped into two overarching problems. First, it’s lonely. Most of us want to feel a sense of connection and purpose, and it’s hard to feel connection and purpose when your social connections are so limited. Second, this pattern of communication leads to knowledge silos at work: One group doesn’t do what the next group is doing. Both of these problems are important.
My claim is that communities at work help address both of these challenges: silos and engagement.
Work Focused Groups
Both kinds of groups directly help employees do their jobs better. They are worthwhile based on that value alone. The groups also foster a sense of belonging and establish connections across the company, both of which may be more valuable than the direct benefits. More on both of those later.
Non-Work Focused Groups
|Assorted baked goods to be shared at a recent Cookie Club meeting|
How Communities Make Work Better
Breaking down silos
For example, I’ve personally benefited from my connections at Cookie Club. After the most recent Cookie Club I had a great discussion with someone from the learning and development team (Jen) about development topics that impact me and the company. Previously, I’ve coordinated a training event for my team with Jen. My working relationship with Jen is strong in large part because we bake together.
Beyond bridging silos, communities cultivate a sense of belonging and shared purpose, leading to improved engagement. The work focused communities help employees see why their work matters, and how their work fits into the big picture. Work focused communities also help employees do their jobs better (improved skills and network) and better see the impact of their work and their improved skills. Our performance interest group shows me and others how MongoDB cares about performance across products and departments and the cumulative impact of all of our performance work.
The non-work focused groups also improve engagement. The non-work focused groups enable employees to put energy into things they care about, and share those experiences with co-workers. I have great shared experiences with colleagues across the company due to Cookie Club. I also see colleagues coming together to make MongoDB and the world a better place through supporting underrepresented groups in our Allies community.
This leads to happier and more fulfilled workers. It also develops a larger sense of shared identity with colleagues. They have stronger relationships with their colleagues and a greater sense of belonging. Employees with a strong sense of belonging are engaged employees.
Call to Action
As described above, communities at work help foster random connections throughout a company, improving employee engagement and breaking down knowledge silos.
Yet the work to support and organize communities at work is often overlooked and undervalued. I hope my words make you think about work communities more and value them more highly. If I’ve succeeded at this, I would encourage you to participate more in the communities that interest you and possibly help organize or foster a small number of them. You will benefit, and so will your company.
If you are in position of power at your company there are additional high impact actions I hope you take:
Make it easy for your rank and file to organize and foster communities
Reward and recognize the people who do so
If you make it easy to organize and foster communities, your employees will do so. Making it easy can entail such things as making it easy to communicate (messaging, wikis, mailing lists), allowing time in the work day for activities, or providing funds. If you reward and recognize your employees who do so, those employees will keep at it and other employees will build on their efforts, ultimately building a stronger company.
Special thanks to Rita Rodrigues for feedback on this post. Rita helped make this post better and makes our writing community a stronger community.