The need to unite teams has been amplified over the past several years and has required leaders to think outside the box when doing so. Leaders have been tasked with finding ways to connect their employees, create purpose and keep people engaged, and in most cases without the benefit of co-location. Creating unity in the workplace, especially during the periods of uncertainty we have experienced lately, is critical to an organization’s growth and stability.
What is Unity?
Unity might feel like an abstract concept, so let’s define it. To feel a sense of unity anywhere requires you to feel as though you belong. Unity promotes a sense of togetherness, equity, and common purpose. According to writings by sociologist Neil J. Smelser, unity is the “commitment to a common culture and mission, a sense of solidarity, lack of conflict, and a generally positive attitude toward others in one’s social category.”
The entire concept of workplace unity changed drastically during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, unity so often involved community-building events, 1:1 in-person meetings, and large group outings. As the pandemic forced the shift to remote work, which has now become the preference of many workers, creating a sense of unity is that much more challenging. It requires deliberate and consistent effort, strategic use of technology, and active engagement from leaders.
What Does Unity Look Like in the Workplace?
Unity in the workplace is built on three key elements – trust, equity and communication.
Leading from a position of trust and not from fear empowers employees to do their best work without micromanagement. When leaders micromanage, they demonstrate to employees that they don’t trust their ability to get work done without supervision. This disempowers the employee and conveys a sense of doubt in their abilities. Fear-based leadership is by nature divisive.
Treating employees fairly and equitably is the second crucial component of unity. When employees feel as though they have the same opportunities and the same ability to succeed as others, they feel engaged and motivated to achieve great results. Employees in this environment are also far more willing to lend a hand to another colleague, engendering unity through a culture of support.
The final component of a unified workplace is communication. This is arguably the easiest thing for leaders to do, but so often ignored. According to HRD, “communication is one of the most important aspects of a well-put-together culture. When people feel like they know what is needed of them, and they receive constructive feedback from their managers, they’re more likely to be invested in the company as a whole.” There’s no faster way to disenfranchise and divide a workforce by creating a culture of those “in the know” and those that are not. Leaders of all levels must take care to thoughtfully and clearly communicate expectations of employees, business decisions that impact employees, and to provide feedback – positive or critical – that will influence employee success.
3 Suggestions for Creating Unified Work Environments
There are countless tactical ways to foster unity in your workforce. Here are three you can easily implement right now:
1. Strategically use your technology platforms. Leaders today rely on virtual platforms such as Slack, Teams and Zoom to foster connection. Using these platforms strategically is important to ensuring ease of connection and information gathering. For example, entrepreneur.com suggests leaders consider creating “channels for marketing, IT and finance. If there are side projects with members from various groups, you can set up spaces for them, too. This system will arrange your group’s communication and make it less complicated to find responses to questions.” A quick way to divide staff in today’s remote climate is to deny them the tools to do their jobs effectively.
Conversely, sometimes technology can have an adverse effect. For example, pay attention to “video fatigue.” While video conferencing is often a great way to encourage connection while remote, employees may need a day where they’re off-camera. Offer the employee the choice to remain off-camera ahead of a scheduled meeting. If you’re reaching out unexpectedly – just call the employee directly and give the video a break.
2. Create space for Employee Resource Groups. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be a great way to foster unity in both in-person and remote workforces. The Association for Talent Development (ATD) defines ERGs as employee-led networks that “engage individuals based on shared backgrounds or interests, such as people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, working parents, veterans, and more. Within companies, ERGs can serve as support groups or advocacy groups, or as both.” The key component of an ERG is that it is employee-developed and employee-led. Employers should avoid forcing the creation of ERGs – allow it to happen organically in order to reap the full benefits. Leadership or HR might consider rolling out an “ERG Proposal” form that suggests ERG structure, leadership, and expectations. Rolling out a proposal form will allow employees in specific groups to propose the group’s creation and empower them to launch it company-wide.
3. Conduct regular company-wide meetings. Sometimes called “town halls”, the need to create a medium for communicating important information is important regardless of where people are located. Communicating with consistency, rather than relying on word of mouth, builds trust and ensures all employees are aware of important company news. This creates a sense of belonging, common purpose, and engagement.
Unified organizations are successful organizations. If you’re looking for even more ways to promote and foster unity within your team, Teamraderie has your back! Our unique team-building experiences promote trust, connection, and collaboration and will support you in unifying your teams.