How to Build Culture in Fragmented Workforces: The Role of Meetings and Incentive Travel
Company culture is a growing priority for businesses in every industry. Not only are today's job candidates more motivated by potential employers with strong cultures, but a lack of company culture can inhibit a company’s potential to grow and succeed.
Building company culture is no easy task however, and many organisations are faced with workforces that feel fragmented and disconnected for a variety of reasons. Helping to establish a sense of culture in a company and aligning employees with values and goals is one of the best ways to avoid fragmentation, and meetings and incentive travel can play a big part in this.
In this article, we explore the causes of fragmented workforces, how building culture can prevent this, and how companies can use meetings and employee incentive trips to create stronger organisational culture.
In this article:
What Causes Fragmented Workforces?
There’s no single way to define a fragmented workforce. It can refer to a group of employees that are geographically displaced and working remotely. It can refer to a workforce that isn’t aligned on goals and expectations, and is therefore working in a disordered and fragmented fashion. It could be a company without a clear sense of purpose or set of values, or it could be a combination of any of those things.
Since 2020, remote and hybrid working have become popular across a wide range of industries. Whilst initial numbers of employees working entirely from home are falling again as people return to the office for some days of the week, 44% of workers reported either home or hybrid working in a study from the ONS at the end of 2022. Therefore, a significant contributor to a feeling of fragmentation in the workplace could be down to the fact that employees aren’t interacting in person as much or at all.
It’s more than possible to run a successful business with an entirely remote workforce, and many employees agree that they feel more focused and productive when they work from home. However, remote employees are also more likely to feel isolated and may struggle to form trusting relationships, which can prevent teams from feeling connected and make collaboration more difficult.
Along with an increase in remote teams and hybrid work, fragmented workforces can also be caused by a lack of alignment. If a business isn’t clear on its overall goals or isn’t good at communicating these to the rest of the team, employees will be working without a clear idea of their impact and their purpose.
This lack of alignment leads to decreased engagement at work, with 68% of companies lacking organisational alignment reporting poor levels of engagement. And when employees aren’t engaged they are less productive and companies tend to have much higher turnover rates, which can cost them a lot of money.
Whether they’re working together in person or not, feelings of fragmentation within an organisation may also be caused by poor internal communication. Not only can this lead to confusion about tasks and requirements, but it can also make it harder for employees to form positive relationships, which makes teams feel fragmented.
86% of employees feel that ineffective communication is the main cause of failure at work. Without effective systems of communication, or opportunities to communicate in ways that work for every individual, it’s easy for workforces to feel disconnected and misaligned.
How Can Culture Help a Fragmented Workforce?
As we’ve seen, there are many potential causes of a fragmented workforce. The impact of this can be widespread, as not only does it create a much less enjoyable work environment but it can also decrease productivity and retention, both of which can be costly for a company.
One of the best ways to prevent or heal a fragmented workforce is by establishing a strong company culture. This involves clarifying your organisation’s goals, values and purpose so that employees understand what they’re working towards and how their role contributes to the business. It also means clarifying expectations for behaviour and performance at work to make it clear how employees should conduct themselves whilst at work.
Having better organisational culture can reduce fragmentation because it decreases employee turnover. 24% of employees that think their company’s culture is poor are likely to quit their jobs within a year, which demonstrates the importance of strong culture for employee retention. Teams feel far less fragmented if people remain in their roles, and positive culture is a great way to ensure this.
A clear idea of company culture can also reduce feelings of fragmentation because culture helps employees to feel more aligned, especially when you hire people that share your company’s values. Organisational culture involves defining purpose, and when employees understand the goals they’re working towards they feel more motivated and productive, as well as experiencing greater satisfaction with their work.
Activities designed to establish and strengthen company culture can also help to make a workforce feel closer, even if they’re not interacting in person. Whether you’re organising virtual socials, delivering presentations about the impact and achievements of the company, or recognising performance and success, these are all methods of strengthening a sense of culture in a company that can help bring employees together and help them feel more connected to their teams and the organisation.
As a final benefit of working on your company culture, a study from Forbes found that businesses with strong cultures have seen a 4x increase in revenue. What’s not to like about those prospects?
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What is Incentive Travel?
Recognition, rewards and incentives play an important role in company culture, and incentive travel can be a really valuable part of this.
Incentive travel is a reward program where employees are motivated to perform well or meet targets by offering them a place on a trip. It’s a kind of reward that is growing in popularity as businesses consider the most valuable things they can offer their workforce to encourage and reward exceptional work.
Employee incentive trips can take a variety of forms and incentive travel programs are organised with a range of different approaches. In some cases, one employee may be rewarded with a trip if they outperform all of their colleagues, and in others a group of employees may be given places on a trip if they’ve all met a target or contributed to a goal.
How to Build Company Culture with Meetings and Incentive Travel
Whilst the content of meetings and incentive travel programs are quite different, they have a lot in common when it comes to the work involved in organising them. They’re also very similar in their ability to transform and strengthen company culture, which we have shown is a successful tactic for preventing a fragmented workforce.
Meetings at work are held for all kinds of reasons, but when we’re talking about meetings in this section of the article, we’re referring to in-person meetings of employees that are held in order to share information about the business and facilitate discussion about projects or strategies.
If you’re wondering how to build culture in the workplace with incentive travel and meetings, here are some of the best approaches.
Set Clear Intentions
As with any successful event or endeavour, you need to have a clear goal for your meeting or incentive travel programs if you’re going to use it to build company culture. It’s not enough to have ‘better company culture’ as your goal - you need to clarify what this involves and how you’re going to measure it.
For example, stronger company culture might be higher levels of employee engagement or increased employee communication. Define this goal and also define how it’s going to have an impact on company culture.
Once you’ve clarified your intention for your incentive trip or meeting, then you can start planning it with this goal in mind. This makes the likelihood of success much higher, as the trip or event has been designed around a specific outcome.
Ensure You’re Offering Value
With incentive trips in particular, you need to ensure that your employees are going to be motivated by the prospect of attending. The best way to do this is by offering a trip that’s valuable, and the best way to understand what employees will find valuable is to ask them.
You run the risk of a lot of wasted resources if you plan corporate incentive trips that nobody wants to attend, so ask your teams what they’d be motivated by and then design your program around this.
In terms of meetings, value is still important if you want employees to remain engaged and arrive at the meeting with a positive outlook. You want to ensure that the experience offers something that couldn’t have been given in a message, presentation or online interaction, so consider the ways that you can make an in-person meeting uniquely valuable for your team.
Make it Relevant
Alignment is a key part of strong company culture, so when you’re planning incentive travel or a big team meeting, you want this to feel relevant to your organisation and its values. This is more important with incentive trips, but you should still keep relevancy in mind when organising meetings, considering things such as the way the meeting is structured, how employees interact and where the meeting is held.
With incentive trips for employees, relevancy refers to whether the travel experience on offer feels connected to your culture and even your brand image. For example, if your organisation prioritises sustainability, you don’t want to send your employees on a long-haul flight to a destination suffering from over-tourism.
Think about the values you promote as part of your culture and consider how a travel experience can help employees embody or feel more connected to these values. What personal development opportunities could you offer as part of the trip, or how could your employees make a positive impact whilst they’re in another country?
Authenticity plays a huge part in a successful company culture. There’s no point in making gestures or preaching about values if they’re not actually a legitimate part of your approach to business.
With this in mind, make sure that when you’re organising meetings or incentive trips, they feel like authentic extensions of your company culture. One incentive travel program a year isn’t going to make a difference if employees aren’t recognised or rewarded at any other time, and a whole-company meeting won’t bring people together if you don’t facilitate this kind of connection at any other time.
Personalise Based on Attendees
Linking back to our point about relevancy as one of the key strategies to build culture, you’re going to make the biggest impact with meetings or incentive trips if you personalise them based on attendees. Don’t just come up with a template and copy it every time; help employees feel considered and think about how you can tailor the experience for them.
It can be tricky to do this if you’ve got a lot of attendees, but with incentive trips in particular, think about the options you can offer employees so they can personalise the experience. Can you give attendees a list of activities to choose from, and can you ask employees to share preferences for meeting time, location and even catering options, so they feel more involved?
This contributes to company culture because employees feel more recognised by their company, which makes them feel more connected to and supportive of the organisation and its goals.
Incorporate Meetings with Incentive Travel
We’ve talked about meetings and corporate incentive trips as two separate ways to build company culture, but you can approach them in combination. Consider hosting a company trip where meetings and workshops are on the agenda, or turning a meeting into an opportunity to travel somewhere new to inspire new perspectives.
This idea is dependent on budget and the size of your team, but hosting a trip or retreat in order to hold meetings, share plans and facilitate collaboration is a fantastic way to strengthen your company culture. It rewards employees with a trip whilst still getting them to participate in corporate meetings and creates a lot of opportunities for connection, helping teams feel much closer and creating relationships that lead to better work together.
Fragmented teams are a reality that many companies face at the moment, especially with so many employees working remotely at least some of the time. Organising regular meetings and offering incentive trips are both great ways to prevent or reduce fragmentation in a way that also builds a stronger sense of company culture, as long as you keep your goals clear and remember to embody your values in the trips or events you organise.
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