Finding the right talent to join your team is only half the battle — without a strategy for building real connections between colleagues, your team is still a long way from realizing its full potential. To transform a group of employees into a winning team, there’s one thing in particular that’s critical to focus on: peer relationships.
Employers who support peer relationships enjoy the benefit of a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s in the best interest of both your people and your business to find a strategy to support these connections. This article shares five recommendations for strengthening peer relationships that you can implement with your team today.
1. Schedule regular check-ins.
If there’s one thing that’s critical for functional relationships (in the workplace or otherwise), it’s communication. Employees do their best work when they clearly understand their colleagues’ objectives, priorities, and needs. Communication empowers employees to support one another in pursuit of shared high-level goals.
As a leader, the responsibility falls to you to ensure this communication takes place. Scheduling regular check-ins for your team creates a built-in time when employees can discuss the things they’re working on, get aligned on what they need from one another, and track progress towards major objectives. Not only does this help smooth the logistical challenges that sometimes come with collaborative work, but it also gives employees a better idea of how their work relates to their peers’, and how both relate to the company.
2. Communicate across departments.
Just as communication within each team or department is beneficial to peer relationships, cross-departmental communication is, too.
Employees need to have at least a high-level understanding of what colleagues in other departments are working on. Not only does it help them understand how their own work fits into the company’s larger objectives, but it also helps employees develop a more complete understanding of the resources available to them. That means employees will know who to ask for what, and will be better equipped to collaborate when necessary.
You can support communication across departments by scheduling regular all-hands meetings, during which each department shares major updates with the rest of the company. Group discussions with representatives from different departments are also effective for facilitating cross-departmental communication. Whatever the method, having some kind of strategy in place to support communication across teams is key to developing healthy peer relationships.
3. Facilitate mentorships.
One defining characteristic of most successful employees is a hunger to learn. They’re ambitious and eager for opportunities to grow. Workplace mentor programs are one of the best ways to support professional development at your company, and as a bonus, they also bring peers closer together.
Your team is probably made up of employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and varying degrees of seniority. As a leader, you should take stock of the different skills and experiences each team member has to offer, and also make an effort to learn what each employees’ career goals are. Once you’ve made a note of these two things, you can begin to draw matches between the things more junior employees want to learn, and the things more senior employees have to share.
The expertise and potential for learning are already present within your existing talent pool; mentor-mentee relationships are just an effective way to harness those resources and leverage them to make your team stronger.
4. Recognize your team.
Nearly one-third of US employees report that they feel under-appreciated at work. That doesn’t mean those employees actually aren’t appreciated — it just means their colleagues aren’t in the habit of expressing gratitude to their peers.
Usually, that problem can be remedied by a company-sponsored peer recognition program. Not only do these programs make the process of recognizing colleagues simple and streamlined, but they also reinforce the idea that regular recognition is an expectation at your company. As recognition becomes a recurring cultural norm, employees will steadily begin to internalize the message that their efforts on behalf of the company are seen and appreciated. As one might imagine, when employees feel valued by colleagues, those relationships become more positive and productive.
5. Collect feedback.
By and large, the best resource you have for assessing and improving the quality of peer relationships at your company is employees themselves. Employees experience these relationships day-to-day and can offer critically valuable insight into ways your team is functioning successfully and areas that might stand to be improved.
Most employees won’t offer up this feedback unsolicited. It’s important to create easy, formalized ways for employees to share this kind of feedback, preferably with the option to remain anonymous if desired. That might be an engagement survey, structured discussions about culture, or some other platform that gives employees the opportunity to make their voices heard.
If you proactively respond to these insights, you’ll be able to develop strategies specific to your existing company culture and help your team become stronger still.
In addition to these more structured strategies, continue to facilitate opportunities for peers to socialize outside the office. Sometimes, a conversation completely unrelated to work can spark the best workplace relationship of all. All of these recommendations, especially when combined, will contribute to a work environment where peers connect, communicate, and collaborate more successfully.