Without the past two years of formal and informal socializing that used to take place in the form of small talk in the break room and customer dinners, opportunities to get to know even basic information about fellow colleagues has been severely limited. This is especially true for people who started their jobs recently. Instead of waiting for the slow, organic return to watercooler conversations, how about implementing a creative and low-cost approach to creating community?
Here are three ideas to help foster connection and engagement with new employees.
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 this unprecedented occasion. The gift can be completely DIY, such as a curated map of the building/area. Company swag like a coffee mug or pen is another low-cost idea. With a small budget, you can buy a colorful balloon, a single flower, or even a candy bar for employees (get to know your new and current employees — ask about their favorite foods, vacation spots, TV shows, etc.). If you have a larger budget, consider a gift certificate or a floral arrangement folks can enjoy at home. Whether it is a no-cost DIY item or something that costs a little extra, these gifts can transform an otherwise forgettable return into something memorable.
Assign a volunteer buddy to each new hire to spend a short amount of time showing them the ropes — virtually or in person. If the new hire is starting remotely, have the buddy set up bi-weekly video check-ins to review items like company communication etiquette: Do most team members communicate via messenger or email? When do most employees break for lunch? How do you enter an IT service ticket? If meeting in person, guidance on where to hang coats, where to store lunch, and where to get coffee are all helpful. Even if these directions can be shared in a few minutes, giving new employees a little extra attention and the opportunity to ask questions will send a welcoming message. With many employees reporting that they often feel unheard in the workplace, these are perfect opportunities to ensure folks get off to the right start. Check-ins could evolve from weekly to monthly to quarterly once the new hire is feeling more settled. Leaning on veteran employees is a great strategy to engage experienced employees and foster one-on-one connections with new staff.
If you’re in a physical office, a fun way to make all employees feel welcome is to organize a simple scavenger hunt to complete in pairs or small groups. The list should require employees to explore the office space and engage with other employees. Offer simple prizes such as a $10 gift card to a local coffee shop or make it a group celebration with a low-cost pizza party for all who participate. Ask veteran employees to join the fun by including them in the activity.
The list should encourage folks to move around the physical space, picking up clues and answering questions such as:
- What color is the back-entry door?
- What type of flowers are in conference room C?
- How many water fountains are on the first floor?
- Find an employee who has worked at the company for more than 10 years.
- Take a photo with an employee whose first name starts with a vowel.
- Take a photo with an employee who shares a hobby.
- Get a signature from an employee who has a birthday the same month as you.
Limit disruptions to work by scheduling this on a Friday afternoon or after a companywide deadline. Also, if you have the bandwidth, you can link the activity to a theme like the local sports team or the time of year. For example, your city’s Major League Baseball team or the start of spring.
The time is now to foster community at work. An organic approach toward building connections is nice, but with a little extra effort, you can make up for two years of missed opportunities. Anyone can find creative solutions that are low cost, high impact, and will help build community.