On Our Minds

Working with so many organizations across multiple issue areas gives us a unique view into what’s happening in the social sector. This is where we share our insights and ruminations.
Colleagues enjoy a laugh on the break room sofa
Stop focusing on “perks” and start creating values-led opportunities for team engagement

In today’s workplace zeitgeist, “team engagement”—the way employees positively commit to both their organization and their work—is critical to productivity and success. But it’s easy to pay lip service to team engagement without listening to or acting on what colleagues really need. Some of the most progressive workplaces may offer free snacks or games to help employees decompress, but if those perks don’t align with what their employees really value or need, or if their teams don’t have the proper workplace structure or environment to use those amenities, then the investment is wasted. The best way to show your commitment to your employees—and turn “team engagement” from a buzzword idea to a daily practice—is by creating a culture and offering benefits that feel meaningful to employees and true to who you are as an organization. 


Why this matters to your business
Creating opportunities for employees to engage with each other has a ripple effect. Employees feel empowered to voice their goals and challenges and have the flexibility to use the perks available to them. This type of culture helps everyone feel more energized at work. And that energy fuels the work they do each day, generating better outcomes among teams and, ultimately, better outcomes with their respective external audiences.


Using your values to identify engagement opportunities
But where do you start? Your core values give you a lens through which to look for engagement opportunities that are genuine and meaningful to your team—and to your particular business needs. For example, if work-life balance is one of your core values, and you are providing unlimited snacks but not a work-from-home policy, you’re missing the opportunity to strengthen your company culture—and give its personnel perks that are going to increase satisfaction and engagement. 


How to engage your team holistically
Regardless of your specific core values, here are some everyday actions you can take to create opportunities for engagement and help build a stronger culture:

  • Practice mindful, active listening: Ask how your team members how they’re doing, and pay attention to their responses. If someone is experiencing challenges, set up time to discuss a solution.
  • Give team members space: Allow people to take quick coffee breaks, create “privacy bubbles” with their headphones, or seek out an area of the office for brief down time. If you can allocate a conference room or other space for these kinds of breaks, even better.
  • Encourage informal interactions: Work is often a professional environment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun. Making a concerted effort to chat with team members, grab lunch with them, or organize get-togethers like happy hours, birthday celebrations, potlucks, or group activities shows that you value a friendly culture.
  • Vary the structure and size of your engagement opportunities so that everyone feels included: Some people may not feel comfortable socializing in certain contexts, and therefore not show up. Offering a variety of engagement options and group sizes for people shows that you want to be inclusive of everyone.
  • Establish a team engagement committee: Get your employees involved in creating the culture they want. An employee-led group dedicated to planning activities and getting the overall temperature of the office helps show that you acknowledge their needs and ideas.
  • Be conscious of noise levels: While it’s natural to have formal and informal conversations throughout the work day, it’s also important to not distract from the work at hand. Like the age-old elementary school saying goes: use your inside voice.
  • Establish boundaries: Respect the time and workload you ask of your coworkers. If team members are over capacity, consider allocating other resources to help them. 
  • Show appreciation: Share knowledge and ideas, give credit and thanks where it’s due, celebrate work milestones and anniversaries, and acknowledge talents and skills openly. Encourage people to share successes as well. 
  • Ask for feedback, and take it seriously: Caring about your team requires listening to their needs and supporting their work where appropriate. One way to do this is to include time for feedback and questions during staff meetings. When you engage “downward” and ask for team feedback, it improves your own work environment, creates team trust, and helps you lift others up as well.