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6 ways to help staff build better relationships

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We spend more time at work than anywhere else, which means the people we see, hear and speak with the most are our colleagues, bosses and other team mates.

So it makes sense that a survey by NTUC U Family found one of the biggest reasons Singaporean employees remain happy in their current job is down to the solid relationships they have at work.

Getting the right people in the door still comes down to money for most people, according to this Happiness Poll 2013, but to retain them and ensure they stay engaged you need to keep an eye on how they are interacting with the people around them.

1. Hire like-minded, supportive, team-playing people

I am one of those people who has stayed in a job longer than I probably would have because of my amazing colleagues. Not only did they provide friendship, but there was so much mutual support (read: after-work drinks) and they were all fantastic listeners and motivators when things were really tough. The company may have had a few issues with morale, but they did a fantastic job in recruiting the right people for the job – and for each other.

Not all staff in any given department are going to get along, but there’s every chance they will if they portray similar characteristics and personality traits, which might be what led them into your industry and to your company in the first place.

2. Take them out to lunch

You know that feeling when you start getting to know someone you never spoke to before, and you suddenly realise they’re actually a great person and wonder why you never spoke to them before? That’s what some entire offices are like.

The reason your staff don’t work well together might simply be because they don’t know each other well enough yet. It can be difficult to really get to know someone else inside the confines of an office and under pressure, but taking people outside work to bond is simple and effective.

Invitations for a regular team lunch works, or perhaps think about doing a more regular team building exercise which requires the whole team’s participation.

3. Communicate with them, and get them to communicate with each other

This is difficult – you’re not going to get everyone to open up to each other, especially in a bigger team. But the way I have witnessed it being effective is like this:

  • Conduct regular one-on-one’s. Ensure the manager or supervisor lends a listening ear on a weekly basis (or monthly) and really takes note of an employee’s concerns, issues or feedback. This gets staff into the pattern of understanding they are being heard.
  • Conduct regular team meetings. Most companies do this, but not many do them other than to manage time and keep on top of what people are doing. Regular team meetings should involve group conversations abouthow a particular task/programme/project worked (or didn’t work), why this was the case, how it can be made better, how you can make it easier next time around, etc.

If you find people aren’t opening up, make sure the manager starts the conversation with his or her two cents. Soon enough, you’ll find everyone openly chatting about their work and true thoughts.

4. Celebrate excellent teamwork

This is simply a matter of positive reinforcement. Not everyone is going to get along with each other, and not everyone is naturally going to work well together, but if you make sure there’s something in it for them to work together they’re more likely to get it done.

Whether it’s a team-incentivised bonus structure or a cashless recognition programme, acknowledging employees for their teamwork (both to individual team members and as a group) works wonders.

5. Make sure staff adhere to deadlines

I think this is something that’s often overlooked. Obviously at a magazine like Human Resources deadlines are massively important, but in any company it’s important all staff and colleagues realise everybody’s work is intertwined.

Encourage your staff to keep their commitments and hit their deadlines, because otherwise their failure to do so will affect their co-workers’ workload. This, in turn, can breed resentment and anger among colleagues.

6. Encourage a culture of problem-solving

Remember what it was like to be tattled on to the teacher by a friend in school? Sure, you may have messed something up or offended someone, but by that person running and telling the teacher about it, all you probably felt was anger at being ‘told on’.

Offices which require a manager or supervisor to step in and resolve every conflict are counter-productive to providing a happy and comfortable work environment. Ensure staff don’t go straight to their managers with small problems – they can come to HR, but you should be suggesting they work it through with their colleague (and facilitate this if necessary) before the manager needs to step in.

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Rebecca Lewis
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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