How do you build community in your organization when employees are remote?
On October 14, 2016, Bethany J. Adams and I had the honor of representing the VU HRD program through a concurrent session presentation at the Greater Valley Forge Human Resources 2016 Summit. Our presentation focused on building community in both virtual and traditional organizations. It is our belief that building a community is important in today's high technology environment where workers are often remote.
In our experience in the VU HRD program, we are creating a learning community for our program with our students, faculty, and alumni. We want our students to feel a “sense of community” that comes from being part of Villanova University and the HRD program. Building community and creating that feeling, which has many positive outcomes, can be replicated in various organizational environments.
The “Sense of community” (SOC) is defined by McMillian and Chavis (1986) as a “feeling that members have of belonging, that they matter to one another and that their mutual needs will be met through their commitment to be together.” The McMillian and Chavis model of community includes four elements, Membership, Influence, Fulfillment of Needs and Shared Emotional Connection (which we have come to call Spirit). You may have experienced that Spirit as “esprit de corps” if you have been on a high performing team, a high stakes project at work or involved in a service project to help others recover from a disaster.
In our presentation, we shared how the VU HRD program incorporates practices in each of the four elements of the model. Using the SCI-2 Sense of Community Index survey, developed to measure the McMillian and Chavis’ model, the participants completed an assessment of their own community, displayed their results and then shared examples at their tables and large group. We engaged the participants, both in the room and virtually by using a fun web based tool called Kahoot.it, which is a free audience response system that uses computer or mobile devices. The session was presented using Adobe Connect so that some could attend virtually. However, the most popular participant was Shea Mazar, VU HRD Administrative Assistant, who attended via a Double Robotics iRobot. Shea rolled into the room and was able to join small group table discussions of best practices for each element of the Community model. She was able to move through the room and interact with multiple participants and groups.
What is your experience with virtual communities? How have you experienced a “Sense of Community” in the VUHRD program or in your professional life?
Lawrence Cozzens, PhD is an Assistant Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about him here!