How to build a sustainable community group that makes a positive impact

More and more people are participating in the great resignation to find other roles that align with their cultural and work-life values. As a result, nurturing and retaining talent within your organisation has never been more critical.

A survey conducted by Workable asked, ideally, what could your employer improve for a better employee experience? 34% said better relationships with their teammates, and 24% said overall company culture.

Introducing a workplace community group can help strengthen those relationships, cultivate inclusivity and diversity, and most importantly, give your team or groups a space they feel comfortable and able to make impactful contributions outside their usual duties.

What is a workplace community?

A community is a group or team formed around a specific topic, such as LGBTQ+. They are composed of members who align themselves with the subject directly, or as an ally. Their foundations are made up of effective communication, equality, and respect.

Simply put, the main goals of a workplace community are to build upon workplace culture and create a feeling of common purpose. In addition, beyond the daily “business as usual,” it helps to foster strong team spirit and camaraderie.

Sabrina Ahmed, Marketing Associate at Novuna, would describe it as:

“a place run by our colleagues for our colleagues. The diverse range of communities enables us to connect with people across all our sites, make friends, share information on important topics with one collective voice, resulting in making a positive difference to our business.”

How would you get started?

Setting up a sustainable community isn’t complicated; the members will run it themselves once it's active. But, some investment in creating an initial framework to run and promote the community/communities is imperative to get there. Here are four tips.

  1. Give it some time

Allocating time within regular working hours will encourage employees to participate. It shows that you are willing to invest in the group. How much time is up to you, but even one hour a month to meet and allow members time to organise and complete tasks around usual duties will go a long way in helping the group grow.

  1. Add some light structure

A community group is no different to an organisational team; it needs structure to operate efficiently and effectively. The focus of a community is a vision of the future that can be created together through communication planning.

Depending on the size of your organisation, you could have a singular person championing a group that covers a wide range of sustainable goals. It’s all about what your people are passionate about. In larger organisations, you could consider having at least two community group leaders per topic. Usually, the employees who set up the group will be the leaders. Encourage them to appoint various responsibilities such as a researcher, writer and content creator. Of course, not everyone needs to have a role, and there aren’t always actions, but it’s good to be prepared, have transparency and accountability.

Carla Grant Pickens, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at IBM, talks on their Be Equal program and allyship in a community.

“It is more important than ever for allies to stand together and use their privilege to actively champion and promote equality and inclusion.

  1. Provide a platform

This can come in many different forms and should be considered by the desired end goal, such as raising awareness, engaging the business, or even recruiting more members. Allowing community groups access to internal newsletters, webinar software, or even poster boards will go a long way to making an impact.

Consider the options you have to offer and provide some guidance and governance on how they could submit or use the resources available to them.

An active community group is only as strong as its members input and output. It should be made up of many voices, not just the leaders. Encouraging showcasing and internal promotion allows each group to grow in its diverse thinking and approach, meet the needs of those represented, and avoid falling into echo chambers.

  1. Finally, get involved

As a business leader, take an active role in promoting and encouraging a community space. Show your employees that you value discussion and want to support each community's growth and success. This could be done by asking for a monthly report, a summary of conversations for a business update, raising awareness for the groups and celebrating their achievements at company events.

Harvard Business Review, for example, suggests that leaders should “honestly reflect on the extent to which they’re listening to employees, driving cultural values themselves, and recognising employee performance — all of which are critical to empowering a diverse workforce.

Once you have the light framework in place, send it to your employees and let them help shape, strengthen and define it. Constantly iterating and developing your culture is a sure-fire way to create a sustainable workplace.