How to Encourage Socialization in the Post-Pandemic Era
The pandemic has reshaped the way we work, introducing a new set of challenges that extend far beyond remote work logistics and technological adaptations. As we collectively navigate this uncharted territory, one issue looms large: the erosion of social skills in the workplace. This isn't just a challenge for Gen Z; it affects professionals across generations, from baby boomers to millennials.
For many new-to-the-workforce employees, the transition has been especially daunting. A whopping 51% of Gen Z employees report that their education has not adequately prepared them for the intricacies of professional life. The pandemic has exacerbated this issue by limiting in-person opportunities for these new professionals to observe workplace norms and etiquette, making it challenging for them to determine what is appropriate and effective within their organizations.
However, it's crucial to understand that this is not solely a generational issue. Burnout, exhaustion, and career insecurity have taken a toll on professionals from all backgrounds, resulting in performance erosion. The truth is, no one has cracked the code for navigating our new shared professional environment. The challenge of rebuilding and maintaining social skills spans across generations.
Focusing exclusively on Gen Z will not adequately address this challenge. Instead, organizations must redefine professionalism for their entire workforce. The key is to promote intentional connections among employees, transcending geographical and generational boundaries. Here are three elements to consider in this endeavor:
Employee Choice and Autonomy: Let employees decide how they want to engage with their coworkers. One effective approach is to have them complete a connection preference assessment, allowing managers to tailor interactions to individual preferences. Some may prefer virtual happy hours, while others lean towards lunch-and-learns.
Clear Structure and Purpose: Establish clear norms and organizational values to eliminate confusion and doubt. For instance, specify which meetings require video participation and which do not. Allowing teams to co-create interaction and communication norms fosters a safer space for authentic connections.
A Sense of Levity and Fun: Encourage a light-hearted, enjoyable atmosphere at work. Introduce elements of fun and camaraderie that can counterbalance the rigors of a professional environment.
A 2022 Gartner survey of nearly 3,500 employees unveiled a promising outcome. When organizations actively assist their employees in building intentional connections, the results are impressive. Employees are five times as likely to be part of a high-performing team and a staggering 12 times as likely to feel truly connected to their colleagues.
In the wake of the pandemic, as we rebuild the social fabric of our professional lives, it's clear that these changes transcend generational boundaries. It's a shared responsibility for organizations to nurture a workplace where everyone, regardless of age or background, feels connected, supported, and valued. By fostering intentional connections and embracing choice, structure, and levity, we can rebuild and strengthen our social skills, ensuring a more successful and cohesive workforce.