According to a report by Gallup, employee engagement in the United States was at a historic low of 32% in 2022. The report highlighted ‘connection to the workplace’ as one of the key drivers of employee engagement.
Disruptions in workplaces have had serious implications on employee connection. The widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work models have made it harder for workers to forge strong bonds with the organization that employs them. Similarly, employee attitudes in general have evolved a great deal in the last few years.
Workplaces can no longer apply cookie-cutter strategies to engage employees and foster a deep and meaningful connection with them. Instead, businesses need to devise unique and creative strategies that address the genuine concerns of their workforce and make a positive difference.
But before brainstorming such tactics, it’s important for decision makers to understand the true meaning of employee connection.
What is the meaning of employee connection?
Human beings have an innate desire for a sense of belonging and community. This doesn’t change in the context of workplaces. When employees walk into an office or even log into their computers to work from home – they aspire to feel a connection with their peers, the work itself, and the organization. This threefold sense of belonging is called employee connection.
Employees that feel this connection are more likely to be highly engaged, motivated, productive, and satisfied with their jobs and the organization. That is why employers must focus on cultivating employee connections.
Why focus on building employee connections?
Organizations with highly connected teams are bound to have higher retention rates and highly engaged and productive employees. Those who don’t focus on fostering employee connections struggle with work culture in general.
In 2022, a trend called ‘Quiet Quitting’ went viral on TikTok and became extremely popular among Gen Z employees. According to Harvard Business Review, while quiet quitters continued to fulfill their primary responsibilities, they became less willing to do anything more than the bare minimum at the workplace. The publication called this trend even worse than employees actually quitting from the workforce because businesses need their employees to go the extra mile to gain a competitive edge.
Before Quiet Quitting, there was the Great Resignation in 2021 where more than four million Americans quit their jobs for reasons such as low pay, lack of opportunities, and lack of recognition.
In either case, when employees lose interest in the work they do or the organization they do it for, employers struggle to achieve their business goals.
How to effectively foster employee connections
Employers can still create meaningful employee connections by using the following set of strategies.
Give your employees a seat at the decision-making table
The lack of employee connection often stems from their lack of involvement in the decision-making process. Nobody enjoys being a cog in a machine. When you involve the employees in important organizational decisions, they feel valued and acknowledged.
Employees who are involved in goal setting by their managers are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged. When employees feel heard, they develop an extremely strong sense of ownership towards the organization.
It’s also important to remember that sharing ideas is how humans connect with one another. This means that when your employees are in a brainstorming session to make critical decisions, they develop a bond that’s practically unbreakable.
Here’s how you can go about involving employees in decision making:
- Open forums – create regular open discussions where employees can freely share their ideas and opinions.
- Focus groups – form small focus groups to delve deep into specific decisions and generate insights.
- Feedback – Use different methods to get insights from employees on what they would like to change or adjust in the organization.
Create customized strategies instead of one-size-fits-all solutions
Modern workplaces have become extremely diverse with employees coming from different backgrounds and having unique motivations. You cannot forge meaningful connections with a diverse group of people using generic strategies.
While some employees might be in search of learning opportunities, others could be looking for more flexible working hours. It’s important for employers to understand that employee needs have evolved a great deal in recent years.
For example, if you are thinking about switching from a remote or hybrid work culture to a more conventional work setting, it is best to ask your employees their preferences. On one hand, 97% of employees in the US want to work from home in some capacity. On the other hand, even Zoom has asked its employees to return to the office. So online research and third party sources will not help you make the best strategy for your employees.
To find out what your employees want, focus on improving the employee experience with:
- One-on-one conversations – Engage in personalized discussions to understand your employees' career goals and what they believe is their place in the organization.
- Mentoring programs: Pair senior employees with newcomers for insights into diverse motivations.
- Anonymous surveys: Use surveys to gather candid insights for employees who are not expressive about their motivations.
Keep an eye on social media for work-related trends
These days, the attitudes and perspectives of your employees are highly influenced by social media. In many cases, videos on platforms like TikTok can serve as a mirror for employees, reflecting shared feelings of being overworked or frustrated with their workplace. And when these videos go viral, these individual sentiments can transform into a collective narrative.
However, trends like Quiet Quitting and Career Cushioning can offer organizations a window into the collective thoughts and unspoken sentiments of their employees. By tracking such trends and other work culture-related content on social media, employers can proactively address issues, adapt strategies, and foster an environment where establishing employee connections can become incredibly easy.
Monitoring workplace trends on social media is an effective yet low effort strategy. After all,it wouldn’t be much of a chore for members of the HR team to scroll through some short TikTok videos.
Here’s how you can apply this tactic in three steps:
- Video analytics – Use social media monitoring tools to track and analyze workplace-related video trends, and see if they apply to your organization. Some trends may be industry specific.
- Identify common themes – Identify common concerns in popular videos to understand prevailing workplace sentiments. For example, Quiet Quitting was not industry-specific, and employers keeping an eye on those videos could easily tell if their organization was affected by the same phenomenon.
- Develop countermeasures – Once you have identified prevalent themes on social media, address employee concerns and develop future connection strategies.
Treat your employees fairly
All your efforts to create employee connections will go in vain if some of your workers believe they are being treated unfairly.
For example, if you have a hybrid work culture where some employees are onsite while others work from home, embrace the fact that in-office workers and remote employees have different needs. Review and remove any procedures and attitudes that put one set of employees at a disadvantage.
The most successful businesses create an environment where everyone is treated fairly by focusing on the following key areas:
- Comprehensive policies – Develop transparent policies encompassing hiring, promotions, and rewards to ensure consistent, unbiased treatment.
- Open communication – Foster trust through clear, regular communication, keeping employees informed about decisions and opportunities.
- Inclusive environment – Cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion to create a workplace where all employees feel valued and respected.
- Skill enhancement – Provide continuous training, addressing biases and enhancing skills to empower employees and level the playing field.
- Holistic well-being – Prioritize employee health, offering flexible work options and robust well-being initiatives for a balanced and fair work-life equation.
Create strong employee connections with a mentoring program
Mentorships are an incredible way to make powerful employee connections. An employee with the necessary experience can show the ropes to a fresh hire and serve as a guide – connecting the new employee to the people and process of your company. But mentoring isn’t limited to new hires or one model. You need to find the mentoring model that’s right for your organization and bridges the connection gaps you’ve surfaced.
Together’s platform automates the strenuous mentorship process for workplaces, allowing you to seamlessly connect mentors and mentees at scale.