Building a team is a two-way street. On one side, your employees agree to use their talents and experience to drive the organisation forward. On the other hand, companies agree to compensate them for their work.
But there’s more to it than that. Setting your team up for success – especially in hybrid settings – comes down to the emotional, intellectual, and physical ways you support them. And it’s not as complicated as it may seem—the simplest things can create a positive work environment and leave employees feeling like more than just salaried workhorses, but valued members of the organisation.
1. Prioritise onboarding and training
There was a time where starting a new job meant doing the rounds of the office, learning where the stationery cupboard is located and feverishly trying to learn all your new colleagues’ names.
But for those starting their new jobs remotely, onboarding can feel daunting, and if done poorly, can impact retention. In fact 20% of all employee turnover is likely to occur within the first 45 days of employment, and only 59% of Australian knowledge workers feel their organisation has onboarded new-hires well.
An employee’s first two weeks are crucial to creating a positive work environment. Just ask Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot: “We use Slack to actually nudge people throughout their training and remind them of all the reasons they joined,” says Katie. Team leaders customise a bot to deliver exactly what they want new starters to know and when. Once they’ve settled in, a Slack notification can remind them of important first-day materials, connect them to employee resource groups and give them a heads-up on upcoming HubSpot activities.
Ultimately, managers need to create opportunities to help get newbies through the awkward initiation phase and help them understand their role in the company. Some strategies include:
- Introducing a buddy system or internal mentors
- Sharing clear expectations around behavioural standards and performance expectations.
- Ask for feedback on the onboarding experience, ideally within the first month.
- Educate them on workplace safety and codes of conduct
- Clarify how you can work with them as a manager.
2. Help your employees find a comfortable work environment
Remember back in March 2020 when we suddenly found ourselves WFKT (working from kitchen table)? Wherever your employees are working, they need to feel empowered and comfortable to do their best work. This means supporting them to create comfortable home offices and workspaces. Remember, employees can’t do their best work in a space they find disruptive.
- Hybrid workplaces: If your team is coming into a physical office space regularly, focus on creating a comfortable, productive space. This encompasses everything from ergonomic furniture to temperature-regulated interiors. Adjustable standing desks and well-positioned computer screens can not only alleviate pain but can also affect employees’ emotional well-being and promote focus.
- Remote workplaces: If your employees are working from home 100% of the time, consider providing them with a stipend to spend on home office equipment, as well as a workplace self-assessment and resources on ergonomic safety.
And beyond physical comfort, it’s also essential to account for your employees’ mental wellbeing. While working from home can open up work opportunities for those who don’t live in major cities, it can also be isolating and can blur the boundaries between their home and work lives.
According to the Australian Productivity Commission, some tools that organisations can employ to support their employees include setting up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or appoint a contact person in the organisation who workers could talk to about any concerns related to working from home.
3. Conduct regular check-ins
It’s no surprise: People who actually like coming to work do better work. And contrary to popular belief, creating a positive work environment for your team doesn’t have to be complicated.
46% of remote workers believe the best managers are the ones who check in frequently. And in the case of remote employees, they need to know they are being supported beyond the confines of regular 1:1 chats, especially if they’re used to being able to walk over to your desk and ask a quick question. Err on the side of communicating too much, and use collaborative tools to ensure an open flow of conversation.
You can also include your team in decision making: send them a quick informal message asking for their opinion. Then show care and attention by following up. You’ll be surprised by how much these small actions can boost productivity across an organisation, regardless of an employee’s location.
4. Encourage team collaboration and communication
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that team members don’t feel left out.
Of course, you can’t always be in the same room to create an inclusive atmosphere. That’s why establishing efficient and effective communication is essential. A few ways you can do that include:
- Using dedicated channels for new projects
- Including coworkers in appropriate email chains
- Making team priorities easily accessible, like pinning them to the dedicated Slack channel.
Simple, straightforward, and honest communication builds a team’s foundation. It also creates a sense of community that will contribute to the group’s success moving forward. Plus, it can make new hires feel supported, even when the management team isn’t available.
5. Develop a strong workplace culture
According to McKinsey & Company, companies with a strong, clearly defined identity see anywhere between 60% and 200% higher returns to shareholders. That’s because everyone knows and understands the company’s primary goals.
Every company’s values and priorities will be different. The main thing is to create a culture that unites employees and sets a clear direction. That said, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Here are some of our favourite examples of companies that have developed a positive workplace culture:
- Square encourages staff to adopt a ‘virtual commute’ so that employees can ramp up in the morning and disconnect in the evening.
- HubSpot builds a community with four core employee resource groups that are open to anyone, from fledgling HubSpotters to executives.
- Culture Amp has a Slack channel for every city and encourages local camaraderie through interest-based clubs like knitting, cooking and dog appreciation.
- Trivago gives employees a voice thanks to a customisable Slackbot called Leo to check the pulse of their employees. Responses will inform what HR and organisational development teams prioritise.
- Shopify: built an app called Rate My Plate that announces the lunch menu an hour before. Rate My Plate also lets employees vote on the tastiness of the meal, data that helps the front-of-house team plan future orders.
- Canva uses integrated online culture platform Disco so colleagues can give shout-outs to their colleagues. Every time someone gives kudos, the app comes up with Canva’s six values that we can attribute their great work to.
6. Facilitate opportunities for learning
When it comes to setting teams up for success, it’s tempting to focus on the things that will make them more productive in the short term. Workplace learning and experimentation, however, is equally important. Employees thrive and performance increases when a company becomes a true learning organisation that prioritises professional development.
Providing opportunities for informal learning and knowledge sharing is also key, especially with new hires. A company can save millions in lost productivity by making sure that employees have access to the information they need to do their jobs.
A positive work environment begins with a collaborative foundation
Building high-performing teams hinges on the culture you cultivate, the hybrid work environment you create, and the relationships you build.
If you want to retain your best people, you can’t just put them to work; you need to give them something that can often be rare to find: a Digital HQ that they find fulfilling
Reinventing work: New imperatives for the future of working
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