How can you establish connections within teams so that each employee feels included and valued?
As we will review in this blog, relationships at work, or lack thereof can have a significant impact on employee retention and productivity.
Employers may benefit from creating a workplace that prioritizes employee collaboration and engagement.
Why employees want connections
People want to feel a sense of belonging. Although they may have relationships outside of work, employees may be spending more time with their colleagues on a daily basis.
Some experts suggest it comes down to self-determination theory which suggests that humans have three main psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
There are studies demonstrating that connection is important for individuals at work. One study from the NIH National Library of Medicine notes that exclusion can lead to decreased loyalty, reduced commitment, and higher turnover.
In these studies, the authors found that participants worked less hard for the team that excluded them even if it meant losing their own earnings.
There are many unknowns about establishing connections in a hybrid work environment and the impacts it will have on workplace relationships and team engagement.
The NIH study suggests that virtual teams may experience obstacles with communication and trust-building, marking task progression, and coordinating consistent learning within the team.
How companies can help employees feel connected
Employees understand the impact that workplace relationships, or lack thereof, can have on their wellbeing.
According to a survey by JobSage, 92% of employees reported that friendships at work impact their willingness to stay at a company. A notable 74% reported being more productive.
Relationships at work can impact a company’s turnover rate as well as their bottom line. As such, initiatives to connect employees is a topic that deserves executive priority.
Creating connections at the workplace can help improve team engagement and productivity.
There are several tools HR and People teams can utilize to connect remote and hybrid teams. We will expand upon the current environment leaders are facing and the resources available to them in this blog.
Building employee engagement to combat quiet quitting
Quiet quitting is a recent trend of no longer going above and beyond for work. It is an ideal that many people are popularizing to keep a separation between self and work.
From this perspective, it does seem like an attempt at creating work-life balance and stating autonomy. From another point of view, it may also seem like giving up, or slacking off.
However, not all the blame can be put on the employees. Have you created a path where employees feel they can grow? Do the employees at your organization feel supported? Without a line of sight to advancement employees may feel continued effort is not worthwhile.
Employers are left with two options: accept that they have unengaged employees or create opportunities for them to connect and grow.
Quiet Quitting has gained popularity, and does demonstrate that there is potentially a decline in engagement with many employees.
According to Gallup, younger employees are far less engaged. In fact, the percentage of these employees who strongly agree “that someone cares about them, someone encourages their development, and they have opportunities to learn and grow.” has dropped 10 or more points.
When that’s the case, where’s the motivation? If it’s not there how can you create it? How can you give employees support so they feel cared for, connected, and able to expand?
As the Harvard Business Review notes, there are benefits to workplace relationships and several ways to create connected teams.
How to build engaged teams
For many companies, meeting in person is important, even if it’s not on a weekly basis. For example, Airbnb still has regular gatherings as part of their new policy.
Some employees may not want to return to the office at all but the in-person gatherings are more about accommodating those who do, occasionally.
Just as some folks may prefer to be behind a zoom camera, others may thrive at in-person meetings. Creating a few occasions for teams to meet in-person accommodates the diverse needs of employees.
5 ways to keep employees engaged
There are several ways to be intentional about creating an engaged workforce. Here are 5 ways to facilitate engagement.1. Coordinate All Hands meetups regularly
All Hands, or meetings with all employees from an organization can be very helpful to maintain connections.
These meetings serve several purposes.
One is to keep all team members updated on the work of other teams and management. Another is to find opportunities for collaboration across teams or report on such.
For example, you may find out Sales had tremendous success this past year. A member of Communications may want to connect with Sales and Finance to then report on that growth. The outcome may be identifying the impact this collaboration had on getting the attention of prospects and investors.
These opportunities may seem small, but sometimes they fill the gap on what information is missed from conversation at an office. Additionally, they reinforce the connection between all employees and the company itself.2. Be intentional about employees getting to know each other
This is important, and a potentially new concept for employers to consider. Not all employees feel a natural connection to their team.
Additionally, not everyone is able, is motivated to, or has the bandwidth to get to know their colleagues.
Given these circumstances, it benefits employers and employees to create a connected environment. Why?
Would you leave a company if you know your colleagues well and you like them? If you feel engaged with the work your team is doing?
I’d like to think the answer is no. Because relationships matter and going back to self-determination theory, people want to feel competence as well as relatedness.3. Utilize digital tools to bridge the gap between in office and virtual employees
Digital tools can be very helpful when managing remote and hybrid teams. Not only do these tools lessen the burden on HR, they can also empower employees.
As opposed to creating a buddy system by creating random pairs, the best outcomes may come by letting employees take the initiative but making it easy.
How can you make it easy for employees to take action? Digital tools can help motivate employees to connect with their colleagues at the office.
The fact is there may be many people in your organization who want to spend time with other employees. However, they may not want to deal with the logistics and planning to do so.
Additionally, it can be intimidating for people to be social with others.
Our digital tools allow for autonomy. Employees can choose their own work arrangements, choose when they want to socialize, and choose to be a mentor or a mentee.
These simple actions can erase the awkwardness of socializing some may feel and eliminate some of the administrative burden.4. Create groups that connect employees based on shared interests
Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) are not a new concept, however not all companies may have them in place. Additionally, these companies and groups may struggle to understand how to operate in remote and hybrid environments.
However, the small connections employees make, even if it’s just about the books they love or their pets’ favorite toy, can be meaningful.
After all, our work and our life are a part of us, and the person we bring to the office.5. Encourage collaboration within your teams, and create opportunities for people to work together and connect
Encouraging people to work together on projects is a great way to get people connected on a professional level. Employees may even learn new things about each other.
Cross department projects are also a great way to provide employees with perspective on other teams.
When possible, we host virtual and in-person events that allow employees to have fun as well as collaborate. There are several new virtual meeting platforms including Gather, which our team is currently utilizing.
How else can you create connections between employees? As Harvard Business Review notes, a buddy onboarding program can help employees. These simple programs can help employees feel included in their workplace while helping them learn the ropes.
How will you organize this program? Well there are plenty of online mentoring tools to choose from. However, for informal, internal mentoring sessions, which could be great for employees who want to feel connected at work, we recommend a simple tool.
Embrace the digital employee experience
As a company, we have been on our own journey navigating the employee experience throughout COVID-19. We’ve been examining ways to keep our teams connected remotely.
WorkEQ’s hybrid work dashboard helps employers understand who is reporting to the office. This can be very helpful for HR or events committees to coordinate virtual or in-person meetups.
Through the app employees can see opportunities they have to socialize and meet up with their coworkers.
In addition our mentorship tools will match interested mentees with available mentors according to interest.
Even on an individual level these tools can help employees see who is available at the office for a brief chat. As mentioned, some employees may prefer a text chain or a quick slack but there are still a few who may feel more comfortable with an in person chat.
Finding ways to engage and connect employees for work and fun is important to evolving and adapting your culture to this new hybrid working environment. These efforts can help optimize productivity, combat turnover, and attract top talent. Interested in learning how our tools can help connect employees at your office? Visit workeq.com to explore our solutions.