Strengthening relationships in the workplace

‘Dialogue’ is a workplace game designed with a national charity to strengthen relationships between employees and inspire cultural change.

 

The challenge

We were approached by a large national charity to assist them in their efforts to foster better collaboration between their employees. Their brief was to create activities that help to enhance communication and strengthen connections across siloed departments. Their aim was to make the organisation function better, by working together to make change.  

A recent report by leadership professors, Davidson and James (2007) found that employees are more likely to flourish at work when they have high quality workplace relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. By focusing on strengthening relationships rather than making efficiencies, we took a human-centred view of what constitutes a healthy, productive organisation. 


Our approach

After a deep-dive into the organisation’s strategy, aims, and culture, we agreed on three elements that the workplace game needed to have built-in: 

1. Stimulate dialogue to surface shared values

Research highlighted that despite departments often sharing the same values and goals, teams expressed distorted negative imaginations of each other. Many employees misunderstood the value of work done by departments that were not their own, and invisible hierarchies blocked effective communication. To tackle this, we used storytelling mechanics to boost understanding and empathy which enabled employees to be open and to make connections between things that are important to them. As the game progressed and commonalities were formed, a series of interlinking cards created by the players, provided a visual representation of shared values between teams. 

2. Abstract the workplace to reveal interdependencies

Teams inside the organisation were working independently resulting in a lack of collaboration. In addition, support for each other’s work was low and many employees felt that different departments slowed them down or even actively blocked their work efforts. To build on the shared values agreed by teams, the game progressed by taking them on a journey designed to reveal interdependencies between departments. To do this, everyday work scenarios were abstracted into a navigable play-space. As players worked co-operatively to reach organisational goals within the game, they were able to see how individual actions might have consequences on the shared aims of all the employees. 

3. Use competition to promote practical action

The final part was designed to activate practical action and promote behavioural change among the players. By borrowing gameplay from a familiar card game and by utilising competition, players were stimulated to create pledges as ‘hands’ that they could act on immediately. The pledges were shared across the organisation inviting players to start to making change for themselves. 


Results

  • By making participation in difficult issues entertaining, staff engaged quickly and responsively, spurred on by their desire to progress through the game.

  • Staff developed a clearer understanding of their role and how it effects the efficacy of the organisation as a whole.  

  • Teams were able to publish and share tangible representations of their reflections and pledges throughout the day. 


This was actually fun! I found out so much about my colleagues and it was great to do it in a way that didn’t feel pressured or strange
I hadn’t realised quite how much other people in different departments relied on me, it’ll certainly stay with me

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