Much has been written and said about the importance of employee engagement and team building in the workplace. Scratch beneath the surface however, and you will reveal what it is that people truly want from their employer – a sense of togetherness, a sense of purpose and shared values.

We spoke to Reddin Group Partner and workplace expert, Merran Brown about the concept of a ‘community’ within an organisation and why she believes we’ll be hearing a lot more about building and managing workplace communities in the future. There seems to be an inverse relationship happening, the more disconnected we have become as a result of covid and flexible working arrangements, the more we seem to crave connection.

“The more we look at what is going on in the workplace, including the habits and needs of new generations as they enter the workforce, the more we learn about what’s really driving people to perform at work.

“What we are seeing is that it’s more than building a ‘high performing’ team that people yearn to be part of. At the heart of it is that sense of community that people are craving. This includes a shared sense of purpose to drive individuals, teams, and entire organisations to new heights and fresh possibilities,” Merran says.

Having been through the unprecedented challenges that that Covid-19 pandemic threw at us, it is little wonder that those organisations with strong employee engagement and thriving company culture were able to weather the storm better than others?

US-based research institute O.C. Tanner recently published their annual Global Culture report focussed on the concept of workplace community:

“What is it about these cultures that gives them their strength? What holds them together? In a word, community. Community makes us feel like we’re part of something, whether it’s a neighbourhood, church, school, sport, or just a mutual interest.

In the workplace, a potent sense of community exists when employees feel they belong in the organisation and contribute to shared goals in meaningful ways. This is important because being part of a community means employees care about one another, and they work and grow together. The innovation and productivity of a true community is greater than the sum of its parts. And a healthy workplace community works together to make better decisions and is more committed to its success”.Workplace Community | Global Culture Report | O.C. Tanner (

With interest rates trending upward, a potential recession, unseasonal weather events on the Australian east coast and continued staffing and supply chain issues disrupting business, is it really any wonder that people are seeking more from their constant – their job?

A study by McKinsey & Associates has found the top reasons people quit their jobs are not feeling valued (54%) and second, not feeling a sense of belonging at work (51%).

“After more than two years of isolation, social distancing, and strenuous uncertainty, employees crave a sense of belonging and meaningful connection. We want to be part of something bigger. We want to feel we matter. In fact, employees say the biggest incentive to work in the office is interaction with their work friends (42%). Simply put, we want to be part of the community.” – Workplace Community | Global Culture Report | O.C. Tanner (

Merran believes that the sense of workplace community isn’t something that employers should actively build because it makes people feel good. The intent and follow through must be genuine or it just doesn’t work. Once established there are serious business benefits to ensuring a workplace community once formed.

“Organisations fostering a sense of community and belonging are reporting to have higher retention rates (43%), higher eNPS scores and less burnout. These are top barriers to organisations success,” she explains.

She also believes that its an excellent way of encouraging employees back into the office after long lockdowns and work from home orders.

“Now that the ways of full time working from home are behind us, we must find a way of coming back together in office environments. This is particularly important for those millennial employees who have joined the workforce during the past two years and haven’t yet sampled the myriad of positives  that come from working alongside peers. To be frank, some younger employees just haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to behave in an office environment. Others would benefit from that osmotic effect of hearing how others enact business even when they are not directly involved. You learn organically and pick things up intuitively just by being around your peers.  Without true workplace cohesion, these newer employees cannot thrive and therefore are unlikely to stay.

“To my mind, I believe that workplace communities will be the differentiator between those organisations struggling to retain talent and those organisations that have people lining up to work for them,” she says.

So, if we are sold on the concept that workplace community are the way forward, how do we create them not just for now, but for the long-term and create them so they are attractive and inclusive?

Stay tuned for part two of Workplace Communities where Merran discusses how to practically build communities with employee attraction, retention, and performance at the centre.

Connect with Merran to find out more about workplace culture and employee engagement.

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