We recently encountered a client with a problem. They wanted to build their business with an engaged, cooperative workforce—a common goal of so many of our clients. However, their company was extremely compartmentalized, so employees from different divisions hardly ever spoke to each other. This led to a great deal of disconnect between various departments. For instance, the sales team and the warehouse team viewed each other as adversaries, rather than as allies. Obviously, this was a roadblock on the path to their goal.
The CEO knew that to truly serve customers well, all employees had to be connected to each other and fully engaged with the corporate mission. But how could he build connections between groups of people who hardly ever saw each other during a typical work week? To create the workforce he needed, the CEO was going to have to get creative.
The Brady Bunch is a classic comedy, but it also provides very real insight into how leaders can build connections between diverse groups of employees. In the television show, Carol and Mike Brady have to create a single family from two very different groups of children.
To bring the boys and the girls together, the Bradys must give them opportunities to:
Have fun together: To do this, Mike and Carol take the entire family on a camping trip. While the vacation starts out awkwardly, by the end, everyone is having fun and creating lasting memories.
Work together: By working together, the children learn about each other’s strengths and weakness and begin to see each other as valuable partners. For instance, in one episode, the children are afraid that their parents are regretting the marriage, so each child writes a letter to a local advice columnist. By working together, they resolve the problem and realize that they’re all on the same team.
Serve one another: When the girls struggle to build their own treehouse, Mike and the boys build one for them, even sacrificing parts of their own treehouse to create a better one for their sisters. In the school election, Marcia decides that Greg would make a better class president than she would, and helps him achieve victory. Finally, when the children hold a contest to see whether the girls or the boys get to spend the family’s stash of green stamps, the girls win the right to choose the prize. However, instead of buying themselves a sewing machine, they choose a television so that their brothers can enjoy the purchase, too.
While the Brady Bunch is a fictional family, creating a family atmosphere in the workplace can help your employees cooperate with other departments while remaining engaged with their jobs. Elements of a family atmosphere include transparency, trust, and comradery. By demonstrating your enthusiasm for these values as Mike and Carol Brady did, you can encourage your employees to view each other as parts of a single family rather than as competitors for your approval.
Obviously, you can’t take your entire company on a camping vacation to teach employees to see each other as family. However, you can create events and opportunities that allow diverse groups of employees to have fun together, work together, and serve one another. These events create the sort of family atmosphere that leads to an engaged and cooperative culture in the workplace.
For instance, experts recommend informal gatherings that increase employee engagement, build connections, and start conversations. These fun, friendly contacts lead them to recognize each other as members of the same team and to collaborate on larger projects. In the case of our client, they organized a barbeque for employees of the two antagonistic departments. By meeting in a fun, non-stressful situation, sales staff and warehouse staff were able to recognize the things that they had in common, such as children, sports teams, hopes, and fears. The ensuing conversations allowed them to see each other as complete individuals—so much more than a faceless role in a company. After the barbeque, they were better able to empathize with each other’s needs in the workplace and to support each other as they worked for the overall good of the business.
It’s also possible to create opportunities for different departments in the company to work together on a single project. Even if their professional paths don’t usually cross, as a leader, you can arrange community service opportunities to bring them together. For instance, if your Customer Service and IT departments are sometimes in conflict, you could arrange for both departments to work together on a Habitat for Humanity project for a day. The shared goal will take them out of competition with each other, and as they work together, they can discover each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. In the end, shared satisfaction in a job well-done will create a family-like bond.
Finally, you can create a family atmosphere by giving your employees chances to serve each other. You can lead the way on this by acting as a servant-leader, providing help and support to those who need it. For instance, you can take the lead in providing support for employees going through medical treatments or other family crises. Or, this mutual service could take the form of departments hosting each other for meals or snack breaks, or companywide “Secret Friend” programs where each employee does something kind for another employee in the office. The key is to encourage service between groups who might not normally help one another. This service builds bonds of gratitude and helps employees realize that everyone in the company should looks out for each other, no matter their department.
As a leader, you set the tone for the whole company. If you treat your employees like family and emphasize honesty, service, and communication, they’ll learn to demonstrate these values in their workplace interactions. By modeling good “family behavior” and giving employees opportunities to act as family towards each other, you can create the sort of corporate culture that makes people proud to work for your company.
Do you have a plan for events to encourage your employees to have fun together, work together, and serve one another? Applied Vision Works has proven experience in building a strong company culture that can boost cooperation between employees and increase employee engagement. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.