Finding connections with others is one of the most vital parts of being human. According to a recent study by Blueboard, 85 percent of HR professionals say that feeling connected at work is paramount. Why? 95 percent of the same group say the connection is part of employee retention.
And employees agree: In their study, 60 percent of employees said they would consider leaving their jobs if they didn’t feel connected. But connection at work is becoming more complicated with the rise of the remote workplace. Employees may work with teams they rarely or never meet in person. That distance only makes conscious connection-building more critical.
The Basics of Connection
Employees want to feel connected to three aspects of their company, according to Blueboard:
- People: Do they know and trust their team?
- Purpose: Are their goals and values aligned with the organization?
- Position: Is their job positively impacting the lives of people around them?
Psychologist Susan Pinker conducted a study of 25,000 call center workers. She said that those who had at least 15 minutes during the day to chat with their colleagues had a 20 percent increase in performance.
Meeting the Challenge
The first challenge to meet is connecting people. Blueboard says there are three main tools companies are using to connect their employees:
- In-person, remote, and hybrid events – employees that started jobs during the pandemic may not have physically met their teams. To foster inclusion and belonging, expand traditional employee get-togethers, such as offsite happy hours, and look for ways to bring everyone together. Consider gifting remote employees a gift card to a local restaurant so they can also enjoy a night out or host virtual trivia so that everyone can be involved.
- Collaboration software – most organizations already have an IM/communications tool such as Slack or Teams, but there are additional ways within those for employees to connect. Consider creating channels for outside-of-work content, such as recipes, things to do, book clubs, etc. This option helps employees to connect based on hobbies and interests and expand their internal network.
- Employee recognition programs – having systems that make it easy for leaders and employees to recognize their peers helps boost engagement and increase belonging. Some reward programs also allow employees to “cash in” on their recognition, using their points for gift cards, technology, etc., that they may not have splurged on themselves.
Consider these tools and determine what works best based on your organization and your employees. Have your employees been feeling connected at work lately? How much do they know about their coworkers? Their answers could reveal how connected your workplace is. Most people want their employer to stand for something, to mean something. But according to Gallup, only 41 percent of employees feel strongly that they understand what their company stands for. That means there may be a disconnect between what teams are doing and what they think they’re doing.
Remote employees can especially struggle to connect with their company’s culture. They’re not in the office, and they can miss out on the everyday communication and rapport-building that can be important to developing a sense of purpose and community. This gap means that when leaders talk to their team, they must consistently communicate what the company cares about—both explicitly and implicitly. Otherwise, your organization risks losing credibility as employees stop believing your organization holds the values it claims.
Structuring Around Values
As you think about what might change in the day-to-day operations of your company to align with your corporate values and mission, Gallup recommends asking a few questions:
- How will leaders communicate organizational values with their teams? Will executives have regular meetings to explain these values, or do you trust leaders to impart them implicitly?
- Does the organization include remote workers in the same rituals as the in-person team? Is there time and space for remote workers to unwind?
- How are your remote workers interacting with your organization? Do they have different points of contact? Are they being supported?
- Are remote workers recognized in any formal or informal capacity? Do you have clear and achievable goals for them which align with your company’s values? Is your recognition of them meaningful?
The ways organizations adjust their culture to help employees connect with the company will reflect and depend on its values. But when leaders analyze their organization through the lens of how their teams interact with it and lead with consistency, clarity, and credibility, we can help connect employees and our values.
The intersection of effort and results
Employees come to work every day and do their jobs. They might appreciate their manager and share the company’s values, but they can still fall into a routine in which they forget about how their work engages with the broader world. Your team can put in the effort, and they might see the impact, but none of that necessarily means they understand the meaning of their effort. In other words, just because employees know what they’re doing doesn’t mean they know why. Without that second piece, employees can feel distant from their work lives.
To bridge that gap between effort and meaning, managers can highlight the impact their teams are having. Consider these options inspired by DecisionWise:
- Recognition programs: When targets get created and progress has occurred, recognize what employees have done, how, and the outcomes. This recognition might mean financial incentives for outstanding performance or a regular kudos session at scheduled team meetings.
- Externalizing impact: If you work on an automobile assembly line, you might recognize your impact by driving it home at night. For those of us with more abstract work—web developers, nurses, educators—our impact might be in people’s lives. Leaders can still externalize this impact by sharing success stories from clients, customers, students, and patients. The team will grow stronger when they can see the difference they make.
- Creating networks: When an employee expresses an ambition, connect them with someone who has achieved that goal. Create mentorship opportunities so employees can see how work has impacted the lives of people they admire.
- Tying output to outcomes: As leaders, we know that greater effort often leads to bigger results. But employees, as pieces to an overarching puzzle, might struggle to see the big picture. When leaders discuss the organization’s accomplishments, be clear about what each employee did to help achieve those goals.
With employee retention and growth top of mind for so many organizations, it is imperative that your remote workforce feels seen, connected, and embedded into your company culture. Embracing technology and prioritizing inclusion makes the employee experience more equitable and helps your organization deliver a people-centric mindset at all levels.
Looking for more ways to help build connections with your teams? Click here to schedule a consultation with one of Blue Ocean Brain’s learning experts to see how we help organizations build cultures of belonging through our award-winning microlearning content.