The Value of Rituals

Meaningful rituals can connect people and remind them of why they work for the organization and why they matter.

I recently had a conversation with a senior Human Resources executive at an insurance company. She explained how the pandemic was impacting their culture. In March 2020, everyone in the organization immediately started working from home, never expecting the crisis to last this long.

While working remotely, the organization engaged in training focused on its values to help employees feel connected. But she wanted me to create a workshop for leaders to address topics such as communication, compassion, and culture. My conclusion was to develop a workshop on the value of rituals.

Rituals are actions performed in order and repeated, but they are more than habits or routines. They are intentional and carry more meaning. Rituals can be new ways to connect people virtually, as they would have done in-person.

3 INTERRELATED “P’s”

Erica Keswin’s book, “Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Rituals into Workplace Magic” (https://www.amazon.com/Rituals-Roadmap-Transform-Everyday-Workplace/dp/1260461890) is a great resource. She says rituals can emphasize three important interrelated “P’s”:

  • Psychological Safety and Belonging
  • Purpose and Values
  • Performance

Start and/or end each meeting with a ritual. This can be a simple check-in with members such as: Use one adjective to share how you are feeling today. Or answer the question, “How do you feel today?” by using a color—green, yellow, or red. Based on the answers, leaders have a better idea of how to support people.

Other rituals often include eating. While people are working remotely, the company could send employees gift cards to be used to order food for takeout. Then everyone goes online to share their lunches together with no agenda other than building a sense of community.

Create rituals based on company values. If a value is Respect, find ways to reinforce this value. Start each meeting with a story that reflects a company value.

Keswin advises leaders to make sure the rituals are inclusive. If the ritual is hosting happy hours over Zoom, make sure people who don’t drink feel welcome. “You can’t force-feed rituals or people may rebel,” Keswin cautions. The process should be organic—ask employees for help in creating some meaningful rituals.

In times of tight resources, rituals can add value and not cost much. The key is to create meaningful rituals that make people feel connected and reminded of why they work for the organization and why they matter.

Jann E. Freed, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, coach, and leadership development and change management consultant. Her most recent book is “Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts” (ATD, 2013). For more information, visit: http://www.JannFreed.com.