Creating Community in the Workplace: 3 Takeaways from Jess Sims

February 24, 2023

Fitness professional Jess Sims finds strength in connection, offers actionable insights to motivate employees, and inspires thousands of HR leaders at Paylocity keynote event.

Educator and fitness professional Jess Sims knows how to bring people together. Speaking at a Paylocity virtual event on February 23, Jess shared her vision for community with more than 3,750 HR professionals and partners.

From starting out at Teach for America to now being one of the nation's top fitness instructors, Jess has created a community of dedicated enthusiasts from all skill levels, geographies, ages, and genders. Every day, she connects with thousands of faithful followers and motivates them to not only take better care of themselves, but also to support one another.

With her trademark passion, Jess offered these insights for creating a healthy environment where everyone can thrive.

1. Community Is a Team Sport

The whole point of a community is that many people are involved. In school, Jess found herself drawn to team sports, where her leadership skills soon surfaced. “It’s always been about the team for me,” she said. “It’s not the individual or the points on the board. It’s not what you do one time. You are what you repeatedly do.”

For a team to win, everyone doesn’t have to be the best athlete on the field. Succeeding as a team means developing a sense of responsibility to one another and to the organization as a whole. In a competitive talent landscape, employees are motivated when they understand their impact on the business and have the support to grow and contribute in meaningful ways.

2. Strong Leaders Create Strong Connections

The stronger the connections, Jess explained, the healthier the community, and that starts with leadership. Organizations can inspire people to do their best work by providing an environment that keeps all workers motivated and feeling fulfilled. Especially when employees are remote or hybrid, leaders need to be intentional about engaging with individuals. “Leaders have to show that they are in the work with everyone else,” Jess said.

But a community isn’t a connection of one person to many others. Jess encourages her followers to reach out to one another with a virtual high five by announcing milestones and letting the community do the rest. This kind of peer recognition is a powerful self-motivator, which drives even higher performance.

For leaders, this may mean a shift in perspective. Rather than thinking about leadership as a top-down approach, Jess continued, “You’re standing in your spotlight to invite other people to come stand with you.”

3. Amplify the Positive

Jess is the first to admit that building community is hard work that takes perseverance, endurance — and more than a little sweat. “It takes discipline to stay motivated,” she admitted with a laugh. “And habits take time to change.”

But she also warns leaders to avoid toxic positivity, especially in challenging times. Employees need to know their concerns are heard and that the organization is committed to evolving as the world changes.

“I like to say everything happens for an opportunity,” Jess said. “There are always going to be negatives. But I choose to amplify the positive. That puts me in control, gives me the steering wheel, and that’s very empowering.”

Staying Emotionally Fit: How to Keep Yourself Motivated

Following the keynote, Jess answered questions from the audience, which included many Paylocity clients. She acknowledged the unique challenge for HR professionals of finding the emotional balance between caring for others and caring for yourself. “You’re not going to find time,” she pointed out to an aspiring runner. “Sometimes you find money in your pocket, but you won’t find time there. You have to make time.”

As final inspiration, Jess reiterated one of her favorite mantras: “I always say in my classes, ‘You are allowed to be a work in progress and a masterpiece at the same time.’ You’re working really hard, but you’re also doing something really hard. Give yourself some grace.”

The power of community swept through the audience as they connected not only with Jess, but also with one another — filling the chat with their favorite mantras and sharing their social media links.

How Paylocity Drives Community

Creating connections is at the heart of Paylocity’s integrated HR and payroll solution, which includes the social collaboration hub, Community. Along with other easy-to-use communication and engagement tools, the Paylocity platform streamlines everyday processes while helping HR build culture throughout the employee lifecycle. The all-in-one suite was recently ranked by users as the #1 HR Product in the 2023 G2 Best Software Awards.

Known for its own unique culture and consistently recognized as one of the best places to work, Paylocity accompanies its clients on the journey to create great workplaces and help all employees achieve their best. Find out more about the most complete HR system that employees actually love to use, too.


Expand Your Reach

Improve communication, enable engagement, and connect your employees, wherever they are, with Community.

Connect Employees

Modern HR Tools

Recruit and retain talent by shaping an environment that makes employees feel valued and engaged. Let our HR tools help.

Explore HR Solutions