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  • Writer's pictureMark Samuel

The Overlooked Secret To Retention: How To Build Familial Teams

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

When we were forced to leave the office and take our work home, a lot of leaders were concerned about the productivity and accountability that might be lost from this new working environment.

Happy team working at table

However, we learned that people were much more accountable and dedicated to their jobs while working from home than was ever thought possible. In many cases, productivity and customer service improved, while leaders and employees alike learned to support each other with genuine care. Normalization of virtual team meetings meant closer relationships for team members who worked from around the world, and many people started to experience a better work-life balance.

But even with all of these benefits to individuals who now have the freedom to work from home, companies are finding it hard to retain their employees. This is likely for many reasons, but there’s one in particular that no one is talking about: employees have lost their sense of “work family” that is so critical for experiencing a sense of belonging in their jobs.

Our work family includes the people we see and talk with routinely at the office. This social connection gives us a feeling of connectedness and belonging that is such an important factor for human safety and growth. While many people like the convenience of working from home, they miss the camaraderie of being at the office with others as their jobs become reduced to tactical issues and simply getting their work done.

I learned the importance of work family in a project for a university’s IT department many years ago. As a government organization, the compensation was half of other companies in Silicon Valley. They couldn’t attract or retain top tech talent. But within a year, they created a team culture, and by the second year, they had improved retention rates, solving their five-year retention issue. They had so many applications due to their new reputation in Silicon Valley that they were turning candidates away.

It’s not only critical for people to have a sense of direction and purpose in an organization to feel a sense of loyalty and commitment, but they also need to know how they “fit into” the purpose of that organization. We like to feel that we are a critical cog in the wheel that allows the organization to progress and move. Being distant from the office reduces the automatic sense of community within the organization, so it must be fostered intentionally.

Recovering From The Pandemic And Increasing Retention

While most organizations are trying to figure out the appropriate protocols for working in a hybrid environment, very few organizations are discussing the importance of bringing back a sense of team to every part of the organization. So even when people are returning, they don’t know exactly what they are returning to.

The Value Of Building Teams In The Wake Of The Pandemic

  • The process of rebuilding your team moves people from in the “weeds” of their job to thinking more strategically, prioritizing their work, coordinating with others and feeling part of something greater than their job or tasks.

  • Rebuilding your team will give each person on the team a renewed sense of purpose and participation, making them feel valued and respected. Without that, each person is just doing a job that they can do somewhere else, thus the propensity to leave.

  • As a team, the focus should be on optimizing team execution, which amounts to removing obstacles like poor communication, poor coordination and unresolved problems or conflicts that make working very frustrating. Being part of a team effort in which everyone is making things better all the time provides a sense of support, security and secondary purpose that is hard to leave.

  • While money is one factor in why people want to work somewhere, community is sometimes an equal if not greater incentive. The common statement is that people leave their managers, not their job. But the issue is not only the manager but the culture of the organization. People easily leave their bad managers and the unhealthy culture of an organization for better opportunities, especially if the pay isn’t meeting their needs or expectations. Building strong performing and supportive teams is attractive to most people and will not only resolve the retention issue but also the attraction gap that is felt as well.

Five Steps To Rebuild Your Team Simply And Quickly

Step 1. Recreate your purpose, and this time include not only the results you want for your internal and external customers but also the ideal environment within the team to create those results. You may even consider coming up with a team name that can help people feel a sense of belonging.

Step 2. Discuss each person’s role and relationship with the other team members, including the importance of each role, the interdependence of each role and the key handoffs between team members.

Step 3. Clarify how the team will need to optimize team execution given the changes to a hybrid workplace, including practical ways to optimize each person’s work schedule, ensuring excellent coordination and communication between team members, solving problems and making decisions and any areas for improvement that the team can work on together.

Step 4. Schedule meaningful meeting time that is both in-person and virtual to ensure it accommodates all schedules. Most importantly, make sure each meeting is valuable in terms of solving problems, addressing change or reviewing improvement efforts.

Step 5. Recognize team success and acknowledge the individual contributions that fostered that success. Also, include team members in the process of hiring and onboarding new team members to ensure they feel part of the team right away.

Well-functioning teams create a sense of belonging and loyalty that is very attractive and keeps people committed to each other. Feeling valued and respected as well as having a sense of camaraderie and teamwork causes people to want to come to work, be loyal to their teammates and do their best for the company.

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