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I recently read an article about a brave teenager who created an app, giving lonely lunch room goers an opportunity to meet new friends. The Sit with Us app is giving high schoolers a platform to fight bullying and create a more welcoming environment in high school cafeterias.
Some of you may remember the 2004 movie, Mean Girls. There is a scene where Gretchen Wieners, a member of “The Plastics,” tells Regina George the infamous words, “you can’t sit with us” after she wore sweat pants on a day their clique wasn’t supposed to wear sweat pants.
Unfortunately, some people don’t grow out of the “you can’t sit with us” phase, and it’s something that can even be seen in the workplace. My hope is that everyone reading this is lucky enough to work at a company where employees swap stories in the breakrooms, embrace friendly conversations on the elevators and high-five coworkers in the hallways.
Here are six tips to help you create or embrace a welcoming culture in your organization:
1. Start with Your Facility
This year, our offices went through major renovations. One element of design our executive leadership really wanted to focus on was the common area. Our breakroom has tripled in size and is filled with family style tables and comfy booths for employees to enjoy group lunches. Take a look at your office space and ask yourself if it welcomes friendly conversation.
2. Incorporate a Secret Pal or Mentoring Program
This can be especially beneficial for new hires! It allows them to have an “office buddy” right off the bat.
3. Have a Lunch Table that is Always Open
Several years ago, a few employees at my company started a “lunch bunch.” Every Friday, a restaurant is selected and a group (comprised of regulars and newbies) meets in the lobby at a specific time to enjoy fellowship and a meal together. This brings me to my next point…
4. Create Opportunities for Different Departments to Mingle
This can be in the form of company outings, cross-department Secret Santa exchanges or anything that allows employees from different areas of the company to engage. Create a company culture that doesn’t keep people glued to their departments. Doing this will allow organic encouragement and working relationships to blossom!
5. Implement a Welcome Committee
Depending on the size of your company, you may want to implement a Welcome Committee as a part of your onboarding program. This group of seasoned employees can help introduce the new employee to the company culture, decorate a new employee’s office on his or her first day, and take employees out to lunch during their first week!
6. Appreciate what Your Employees do Outside of Work
Does your company have a community bulletin board or a newsletter? Allow your employees to post pictures of their kid’s first day of school, volunteer opportunities or allow employees to hang posters, such as those looking for a dog sitter.
What is your company doing to make employees (new and seasoned) feel welcome? We would love to hear from you! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
— Ashley Metivier
Activities Coordinator, NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT)