International Friendship Day | Four ways to foster social connections between colleagues

Four ways to foster social connections between colleagues

Sunday, July 30th, marks International Friendship Day (or International Day of Friendship - the titles appear interchangeable depending on which nation you’re in).

Founded by the United Nations in 2011, the idea behind the annual event is that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

To the mark the occasion, the UN encourages governments, international organisations and other civil groups (we’re looking at you, HR!) to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting dialogue, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.

Ahead of this weekend’s event (or afterwards, depending on when you read this), people managers must revisit how they can help facilitate relationship building within their teams.

Economic turmoil, an ongoing climate crisis and continued recovery from the social isolation invoked by the pandemic have all contributed to a tough first half of 2023 for many people.

At the heart of all businesses, people are undoubtedly what makes a workplace tick. Their happiness, sense of belonging and engagement with their roles are key to a thriving team, and leaders and people managers have a role to play in facilitating this positive relationship building.

During tough times, fostering positive relationships can be integral to an employee’s happiness and engagement with their job.

Below, Nicole Bello, Group Vice President, SMB and Channel, EMEA at UKG outlines four top tips when it comes to facilitating healthy and conducive relationships between employees in the workplace and welcoming new employees in the right way:

1. Supporting new hires from the offset

Bello says: “How you welcome a new employee will set the tone for the environment that you wish to create. New employees will predictably feel uncertain about those early weeks in the workplace, so having a small welcome gift is a nice gesture to mark the occasion. The gift can be completely homemade, such as a map of the building/area or include branded merchandise to make people feel at home in their new team.

“Whether it is a low-cost DIY item or something that costs a little extra, these gifts can transform an otherwise forgettable start into something memorable and make the office a place that people are happy to frequent.”

2. No such thing as a silly question

“Buddying new starters, whether virtually or in person, with someone who can show them the ropes can be a fantastic way of onboarding and welcoming new team members,” Bello explains.

“Having a seasoned member of the team designated as a go-to for any and every question can be comforting and create an environment of collaboration from the outset.

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“Follow this up with weekly check-ins to address any lingering questions and ensure that you are able to spend time face-to-face. Even if these only take a few minutes, giving new employees the extra attention and opportunity to ask questions will send a welcoming message.

“With many employees reporting that they often feel unheard in the workplace, it’s important to put measures in place ensure new starters get off to the right start. Leaning on more experienced employees is a great strategy to not only ensure they feel valued but also help foster one-on-one connections with new staff.”

3. Strength in numbers

Whether or not you’re in a physical office at the same time, there are many benefits to regularly bringing whole teams together, Bello explains.

“Collaborating and seeking ways to gather ideas from each and every member of staff is crucial to a healthy and functioning workplace as long as each and every person is invited to share their ideas.

“Doing so can help to foster community at work. Some teams will organically build connections on their own, but with a little extra effort, you can make up for missed opportunities.”

4. Diversity of people and ideas

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are useful ways of connecting team members who share common ethnicity, culture, gender, interest, nationality, or sexual orientation.

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Employees don’t necessarily have to share identity or direct experiences to join one of these groups but can be an active ally instead. In fact, ERGs are at their best when they include a diverse group of participants and perspectives.

Bello says: “These groups provide professional development through a sense of belonging, facilitate mentoring and ensure that communities are sharing ideas. ERGs also give team members an opportunity to make a positive impact on a business, as long as they are given the power to share feedback and be agents of change when it comes to company processes and plans.

“These groups are useful ways of handing a voice to every member of your team and facilitating an environment that allows them to feel a sense of belonging. Managers can support these groups with individualised budgets, near- and long-term plans, and metrics to help the groups grow and thrive.”



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