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Fostering Healthy Internal Communications and Culture During COVID-19 and Beyond

Stay­ing con­nect­ed has nev­er been more impor­tant. But not just in our social cir­cles. With so many of us work­ing from home, it can be hard to keep the morale and cre­ativ­i­ty up with­in a com­pa­ny or team. Sure, we can move meet­ings and calls to a vir­tu­al plat­form like Zoom, but what about the ‘water cool­er talks’ and office banter?

Hav­ing a pos­i­tive, cul­ture-focused work envi­ron­ment is an impor­tant part of Bell­mont Part­ners as a com­pa­ny – we were recent­ly named to Inc. Magazine’s Best Work­places list for the sec­ond year in a row because of it.

Here we want­ed to share a few of the things that keep con­nec­tiv­i­ty and col­lab­o­ra­tion high at Bell­mont Part­ners, even when we can’t phys­i­cal­ly be in the same con­fer­ence rooms:

  • Keep con­sis­tent meet­ings on the books. One of our new 2020 team ini­tia­tives was to have a stand­ing (lit­er­al­ly) Mon­day morn­ing meet­ing with the entire team. We imple­ment­ed this well before COVID-19 sent us all home, and it’s one of the things we’ve pri­or­i­tized main­tain­ing, although now it’s vir­tu­al. These were meant to be a quick check-in for each team mem­ber to share their top pri­or­i­ties for the week, see if any­one is look­ing for help on a project or if any­one was expect­ing some extra band­width dur­ing the week. It’s hard to know who may need a hand or who has an extra hand to give when you’re not in the office, but these week­ly touch bases give a way to do just that. “It’s also a good time for quick ‘how was your week­end?’ updates that we’d usu­al­ly talk about Mon­day morn­ing in the office,” Account Super­vi­sor Megan Ander­son points out.

Addi­tion­al­ly, every Wednes­day at Bell­mont Part­ners now ends with a vir­tu­al hap­py hour. These are by no means required, but a com­mon high­light, fea­tur­ing a favorite bev­er­age of choice along with fre­quent appear­ances from beloved chil­dren and pets – and as of this week, a vis­it from ALPACAS! “Our vir­tu­al hap­py hours are a great way to con­nect with whomev­er can make it and catch up on life dur­ing this strange time out­side of work. I look for­ward to it every week!,” says Part­ner Shel­li Lis­sick.

  • Check in on one anoth­er. Work­ing from home every day can be drain­ing, and you may find your­self or your col­leagues more eas­i­ly dis­en­gaged. On a reg­u­lar basis, check in with your fel­low team mem­bers and direct reports about more than just the tasks at hand. First of all, see how they are doing – how are they real­ly “Our BP fam­i­ly has been doing a great job of this through 1:1 meet­ings with man­agers, prac­tice group team hud­dles, staff meet­ings, one-off calls from a col­league and more,” says Senior Account Exec­u­tive Sara Gras­mon.

“Take time to ask employ­ees their dream projects, new ideas or upcom­ing ini­tia­tives they’re excit­ed about,” adds Senior Account Exec­u­tive Johan­na Hol­ub. “Under­stand­ing what we’re each pas­sion­ate about can help deter­mine if there are new oppor­tu­ni­ties to look into and keep every­one engaged and cre­ative, even when we’re phys­i­cal­ly apart.

  • Ensure every­one is involved. “At Bell­mont Part­ners, a senior leader does not always run the meet­ing. Often times, they don’t. See­ing our senior lead­ers share respon­si­bil­i­ty by allow­ing employ­ees to head up var­i­ous ini­tia­tives from lead­ing team meet­ings, to prac­tices groups and beyond cre­ates a cul­ture of pride and shared own­er­ship,” Senior Account Exec­u­tive Michelle Cook points out. Fur­ther­more, team mem­bers are often includ­ed in the big-pic­ture plan­ning and dream­ing for Bell­mont Part­ners as a whole, ensur­ing we all have our voic­es heard and can help shape the direc­tion the com­pa­ny goes.

Anoth­er way we make sure every­one feels engaged is by hav­ing lunch dates with Bri­an and Jen Bell­mont. Team mem­bers take turns going out to lunch (or Zoom­ing) with Bri­an and Jen to talk – about life, goals, ideas and beyond. This direct line to our top lead­er­ship is open around the clock, but hav­ing a ded­i­cat­ed time to sit down and focus on each oth­er and the con­ver­sa­tion is a unique way to ensure every­one has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect and feel encour­aged to share their thoughts.

  • Be a cheer­leader. Use this time apart to real­ly learn to sup­port each oth­er. For those look­ing to fill new­ly found time, pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for staff to grow indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly. Whether it’s con­tin­ued edu­ca­tion cours­es, webi­na­rs, tak­ing a deep dive into all the func­tions of Zoom – make sure that team mem­bers don’t feel stag­nant and are encour­aged to learn new things, if they have capac­i­ty and desire to do so.

Know­ing the added stress many are under, con­sid­er ways to throw kudos and com­pli­ments around like con­fet­ti, and be mind­ful of lan­guage that affirms team­work. “I’ve learned to replace ‘I’ with ‘we,’” says Senior Account Exec­u­tive Kalli Plump. “In part because that’s the pre­vail­ing cul­ture at Bell­mont Part­ners, but also because the projects I work on here are always so col­lab­o­ra­tive – every­one is touch­ing it at some point whether it’s draft­ing, review­ing, pitch­ing, etc.” Encour­ag­ing “we” cul­ture and lan­guage is critical.

  • Have a way for employ­ees to com­mu­ni­cate beyond email. Many com­pa­nies and teams have plat­forms for com­mu­ni­ca­tion out­side of email. Some use Microsoft Teams or Skype for Busi­ness. We at Bell­mont Part­ners use Glip, through Ring Cen­tral. You can cre­ate office-wide team con­ver­sa­tions or small­er teams to more eas­i­ly share ideas and brain­storm. This more relaxed for­mat invites casu­al con­ver­sa­tion and – per­haps most inter­est­ing to us – GIFs and memes! As Pres­i­dent Bri­an Bell­mont says, “I tru­ly think our Glip use has evolved into a com­mon pri­vate lan­guage of sorts – that’s pret­ty cool.” And you just nev­er know when a cat GIF will sud­den­ly be the thing that brings every­one a gen­uine smile.

We’re always look­ing for new ideas to strength­en our inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions. We’d be inter­est­ed to hear what you’re enjoy­ing and would rec­om­mend, or we’re hap­py to dis­cuss how these prac­tices are work­ing for us and how you might be able to incor­po­rate them into your busi­ness. If you’d like to con­nect, please reach out to us at info@bellmontpartners.com – we’d love to chat!

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