Tips for making employees feel like family

Growing up in a third-generation family business, I never thought twice about creating a family atmosphere in the workplace. I’ve always worked with members of my family, and, in the early stages of our business, I hand-picked each employee we hired, which forged close relationships among all of our team members.

Every step of the way, I’ve seen the benefits of making members of the team feel like part of the family. Creating a family atmosphere within the workplace builds trust, makes individuals feel valued and empowers each of us to learn and grow.

Here are some ways you can promote a family feel within your company.

  • Food is love. Recently, my president and I grilled lunch for the entire team at our headquarters. Everyone genuinely enjoyed relaxing and celebrating summer together with a cookout. Like a family around the dinner table, catching up on each other’s activities over a shared meal is a terrific way to stay connected.
  • Family helps family. Through the difficulties of the global freight crisis this past year, we’ve worked closely as a team to do everything possible to get inventory into our facilities and quickly back out to customers. When freight backlogs started to clear, there was a sudden influx of product. Warehouse staff went on the road, traveling among three fulfillment centers to help wherever the need was greatest to keep inventory moving efficiently. Families share the load to get the work done. Doing the same in the workplace not only helps reach goals, it draws team members who work through a challenge together closer.
  • Grow together. Offer ways for employees to grow personally as well as professionally. We provide personal finance classes to help team members plan for their futures and a book club that delves into professional development topics, along with more general tips for living your best life. Look for unique ways to meet the needs of your work family. My wife has celebrated her birthday the past few years by offering Zoom and in-person retreats for the women in our ranks featuring work/life balance, self-care discussions and inspirational guest speakers.
  • Celebrate milestones. Acknowledge special occasions in big ways and small. From recognizing birthdays and work anniversaries in the employee newsletter, to celebrating employees who achieve employee of the quarter honors or complete leadership training classes, to welcoming new spouses and babies, acknowledge and enjoy each other’s successes.
  • Family comes first. Recognize that family needs to come first for team members. We offered an additional 80 hours of COVID PTO at the outset of the pandemic to help team members cope with illness, childcare issues or de-stress from pandemic upheaval. When you support your team in their own family obligations, employees know you have their backs.

As COVID-19 changed the office landscape, the benefits of fostering a family environment became more apparent. Though many of us remain in remote or hybrid work arrangements, we continue to maintain close team connections and open lines of communication. By striving for relationships based on respect and encouraging team members to try new things and learn from mistakes, we empower individuals for success, which is a win for everyone. ●

J.D. Ewing is Chairman and CEO of COE Distributing

J.D. Ewing

Chairman and CEO
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