If you landed here in search of a ‘Five Ways to Build Community at Your Workplace’  article, unfortunately, that is not what you will find. No community is built in an afternoon with a pamphlet and couple of screws like a piece of Ikea furniture. And no forced, quick fix “community day” can remedy the foundational absence of community at a company. But as a fast-growing global firm ourselves, we are also no stranger to the question, “how do you create community?” Fortunately, deriving a sense of connection and belonging from our communities is as human as the need for food, water and shelter. Regardless of the current state of community at your company, the people within your walls will continue to seek community in the workplace, whether they know it or not. So instead of telling you how to do that, I’ll share a perspective on the pillars of our community, how they challenge us, and make us a better business. 

“You can’t make old new friends”

One of the greatest barriers to entry for a strong community is the element of time and history. The shared experience of challenge, triumph, growth and failure with coworkers are all critical events that shape a workplace community and our sense of self within it. The string of such events both give meaning to our time and can only happen organically over time. For leaders trying to make a difference in a community, the first important note is that change takes time. The second note comes from high school physics class: positive work is force and displacement moving relatively in the same direction. Even though forming a strong community takes time, an active community force that leads by example, combined with decisions that have community in mind, is positive work for building a community and is, arguably, community in and of itself. How leadership executes on force and displacement are relative to the age, size, and type of company, but the foundation is applicable from start-ups to Fortune 500s. 

The shared experience of challenge, triumph, growth and failure with coworkers shapes workplace community

As Elixirr continues to grow and expand hub geographies, firm leadership faces the ongoing challenge of maintaining community throughout these changes. These are not without their growing pains. However, understanding that community requires time to develop, and making decisions with community in mind (unapologetically saying sorry later), has allowed our US teams to grow organically. While I look forward to reading this article in five years and smiling at how far we’ve come, I’d like to share some of the overarching, unwavering pillars that define our community and will make us the best consultancy in the world. 

1. Feedback culture

Despite a world of people growing ever more sensitive to critique, supporting mutual growth through feedback is a defining pillar of the Elixirr community. From analysts to the boardroom, we are thrill-seekers who enjoy jumping in the deep end. This proclivity for challenging ourselves, combined with ambition, is a recipe for personal and professional development. As a firm of entrepreneurs, it is foundationally how we grow. However, we also know that to increase our wins, we also must increase the inevitable losses. That is where we rely on our community. Keeping honest with each other and humbling ourselves internally enables us to produce industry-leading results externally. Throughout any engagement, from a three-day proposal to a three-year project, there is constant feedback running up and down the team. Championing coworkers comes through equally in praise and in critique of growth areas.  As we continue to lean into bigger challenges, providing and receiving feedback is an opportunity for a self-expansive perspective and nurtures a community genuinely interested in mutual success.

Feedback is an opportunity for a self-expansive perspective and nurtures a community genuinely interested in mutual success

2. Influence over competition

To challenge convention, we must take on problems others will shortcut. This requires a powerhouse team that is willing to learn quickly, work dynamically, and make shit happen. The unintended consequence of this pace and caliber of work is that there is no room left for internal competition. The ‘us against the gun’ reality is an enabling force for a community that influences each person on the team towards growth, benchmarked mostly against ourselves. In a sense, community is the very foundation of our identity as a firm of entrepreneurs. Without each other we are nothing. To rely on each other, let alone shatter ceilings, we must be invested in influencing each other to beat our personal bests—not plotting how we can get ahead. 

3. Open lines and open desks

The first task of any Elixirr new joiner is a company-wide introduction email. The second is setting up 20 coffee meetups with people across all departments, geographies and grades of the business. This is not a challenge meant to make the introvert stuck in an extrovert’s body cringe. It is a precedent-setting exercise. Elixirr is a firm founded on the community value of open lines and open desks. If there is a question, no one asks a person who will ask another person who will ask someone else. The question goes directly to the person with an answer, even if it’s a partner and the question is coming from an analyst on their first day. This openness fosters a community much like a jungle gym, where every person playing can move dynamically and efficiently. In the most literal sense, this is reflected in offices designed without assigned seats or closed areas. Rather, a physically open space where a partner may sit next to a talent analyst or a manager next to the marketing team. 

As we think about business goals for 2023 consider the community behind it

In essence

Much like family or school, you may not necessarily choose the people you’re surrounded with. However, the community fostered within a workplace can eventually become one of the most defining aspects of one’s life. It is a community that will celebrate wins and validate ideas. A protective place during tough times and comradery through life’s challenges. People to laugh with, fail with, and experience one of the biggest portions of life with. As 2023 gets underway and we think about business goals, five-year plans, and so forth, consider the community behind it, and how leaders can factor such a pivotal piece of their business into those plans. 

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