A sense of community

Stephanie Hamilton, Director of People and Culture UK and Ireland – ISS UK explains how a strong workplace culture can make all the difference.

A diverse, exciting community is difficult to achieve in a virtual world.

These days of IT-led communicating, shopping, interacting, sharing memories and creating virtual families all seem so impersonal to me. I cannot grasp the idea that I live in a ‘virtual’ community, I like to chat things over a coffee, not read or speak to it on my screen. The trouble with this type of virtual reality is it takes a few moments to even speak to a ‘real person’. Take the voice activated telephone management systems, so broadly used now and I am sure for most, a very efficient system. For those who don’t know me, I have a Northern accent. Talking to an automated system, in my experience, with any type of accent is both annoying and also hilarious, it is often the most ridiculous one sided conversation to have!

I live in a Close, with the name Brook in it – now, I pronounce ‘Brooooook’ rather than ‘Brock’ and for the life of me, I don’t understand how I can say Close any other way than the way that I do, but, the computer most definitely says NO! I often quickly get to the point of being cut off on many automated telephone calls – I am the disaffected community, by the fact that I am actively pushing back on the virtual community – ‘they’ don’t understand me, my northern accent and I prefer the personal touch!

A strong sense of real community or culture is a feature in the work place that we should not overlook. I don’t feel that a virtual community is something that people can have a strong sense of belonging to, not when we all have to have the same accent and inflection of voice. In my opinion, a feeling of belonging and sense of being oneself at work  is critical to success and an ability to really achieve great things in our work space. This is a sense of true community.

Driving culture can come from key points in the employee journey. At ISS we call them Touchpoints, the key moments in an employee’s day that really makes the difference to them and their productivity as well as providing a sense of belonging and wellbeing. Just identifying and managing these moments says a lot about our culture. After all, if we spend time, money and resources on making these Touch points positive employee experiences, this in its self lets people know how critical we see the team and how they feel about working for us.

We have recently published a whitepaper on the direct link between employee engagement and positive service experiences, the premise of which is that better engaged employees provide better service – that sounds easy when written in a sentence! The implementation of employee engagement strategies, on a workforce that spans cultures, industries and regional boundaries requires strong leadership and development, but it also requires community. A sense of belonging, of a shared goal, something that is private and meaningful to an individual, an enabler that within this community you are allowed to be yourself, that you will be celebrated and supported, enabled to do your job well and to achieve your aspiration.

A sense of community in these challenging times, is crucial and it is something that we are intentional about building at ISS. This creates the foundation for a workforce that is engaged and enabled, but also supported and respected as individuals, nothing virtual here, concrete solid foundations that lead the business in our pursuit to become the world’s greatest service organisation.

I speak about many things in induction, but my main area of conversation is reminding people on connecting their feelings to their work. When I feel welcome at work, I become a better employee, when I feel accepted by my peers, co-workers, neighbours and colleagues, I am better in all aspects of being me. 

The recent tragedy in Manchester saw the very worst of times for all those involved and the best of community spirit, of people helping and supporting each other, both emotionally and physically.  People who took to the streets with cups of tea and water, of taxi drivers taking people home, of strangers opening their home.

These people demonstrated a sense of community spirit, when the hardest times were upon them. My article this month is dedicated to them, to say ‘thank you’ for those moments of selfless behaviour and for giving my daughter the role models, found in that community at a time when it would be so easy to retreat and view the tragedy online, in a virtual capacity. To the good people, that went out and demonstrated the sense of what the community stands for, to those people that far outweigh anything else.