Employee connection is the unseen (but always felt) glue that holds businesses together. Good ideas can only take you so far—you need a cohesive team of individuals who work together to rally the company forward through good times and bad.
That's easier said than done. We know. However, genuine employee connection is the ideal every business should strive to achieve. When companies nail the employee connection element of their culture, they build an agile, resilient, and innovative team capable of achieving anything.
Below, we'll walk through everything you need to know about employee connection, including what it is, why it matters, and tips for building a more connected workplace.
What Is Employee Connection?
Employee connection refers to your staff's relationships with work, culture, management, and coworkers. It includes many different elements and interactions:
- Meeting experiences
- Instant messaging conversations, like on Slack or Teams
- Lunch groups
- Management discussions
- Work values
- Human resource partners
- Interactions with team members
- Offsite experiences
- Ping pong partners
Employee connection is about more than just engagement. It includes feeling a sense of belonging with peers and leaders. It's a feeling of inclusion and safety—where your employees know their teammates genuinely care about them and their employer has their best interests in mind, too.
While that sounds a bit all-encompassing (because it is), let's simplify the employee connection by boiling it down to four primary elements:
- People connection: Employees need to feel connected with their coworkers and leaders. That doesn't mean they need to all become extroverts—it just means they need to feel comfortable and accepted by the individuals they work with.
- Value connection: Employees need to feel connected to the business's culture and values. They want to know that their values are aligned with the business. This is becoming especially important among Gen Zers.
- Work connection: Employees need to feel connected to the business's mission and purpose. Grinding out long hours doesn't feel quite so burdensome when you believe in the cause. However, motivation will die quickly if your employees have little interest or belief in the final product.
- Career connection: Employees need to feel committed to the career path they're currently taking. If they don't feel connected or aligned with their current position or future growth, they'll be less motivated to show up and do their best work.
Why Is Employee Connection Important?
Don't let employee connection become an afterthought. Leaders should strive to nurture this aspect of company culture from the get-go. However, keep in mind employee connection can ebb and flow. This is especially true with other changes throughout the organization (acquisitions, attrition, economic downturn, etc.).
Here are a few reasons to prioritize employee connection at your business:
- Engagement: Connected employees are more engaged and productive. They feel a sense of belonging and ownership—the business's success is their success (and vice versa).
- Hiring: Potential hires want to join a company they'll be comfortable spending 40+ hours a week. They're looking for friends, connections, and value alignment—and many prioritize these things over pay and benefits.
- Retention: Employees will look for jobs elsewhere if they don't feel a sense of connection with the business and coworkers. It's like with every relationship—if there's not a spark and maintained connection, the flame will go out.
- Creativity: Connected employees will have more confidence and freedom to bring creative ideas to the table. They'll be more willing to step outside the box and find solutions rather than grind through the day-to-day minutiae.
7 Ways to Build a Connected Workplace
Regardless of your current employee connection status, taking steps to improve it will always. Building a connected workplace isn't an overnight process, but there are actions you can take immediately to begin making the desired shift.
Below, we've outlined the top ways to improve employee connection in the workplace.
1. Help Remote Employees Feel Connected
It's easier to improve employee connections when you can host after-work happy hours and offsite teambuilding events—however, it gets a bit tricky when you have a remotely distributed team.
Remote employees (whether that's your entire organization or select individuals) need to feel connected to the company. They need to feel included in meetings, activities, and conversations.
If you're hosting in-person events, make sure to include a virtual attendance option. Get them involved in events by interacting and monitoring chats and giving them an opportunity to present.
2. Train Leaders on Connecting With Employees
You might have the best intentions for employee connection, but those values and best practices need to filter down the line to your leaders. These are the individuals who interact with your employees regularly in team meetings, one-on-ones, and group messaging conversations.
Train your leaders on how to recognize and interact with unengaged employees. Teach them how to ask questions and listen to responses to help discover problems and make coworkers feel heard.
3. Encourage Employees to Connect With Each Other
It's hard for employees to connect and build relationships if your business doesn't provide the opportunities. Especially in a virtual environment, it's harder for these relationships to develop organically. It's your responsibility to encourage these connections proactively:
- Host teambuilding events
- Bring employees together in person
- Empower your employees to recognize coworkers
- Encourage teams to have group messaging channels
- Get management involved in talking with employees at all levels
While you can't force relationships, it is your responsibility to create opportunities where these friendships can nourish and prosper.
4. Recognize Your Employees
Recognition is contagious. It feels good to give and even better to receive. If you can create a culture of recognition, it has a strong chance of snowballing and affecting the entire organization (for the better).
Empower leaders, managers, and colleagues to celebrate achievements in real time with a social recognition platform. Employees can recognize coworkers for big and small accomplishments:
- Hiring new talent
- Scoring a big customer
- Quickly fixing a website bug
- Launching a marketing campaign
- Finishing a weekend marathon
5. Create a Feedback-Friendly Environment
Feedback doesn't happen naturally in most workplaces. People are afraid to tell others what they could be doing better and often forget to tell coworkers what they're already doing right.
Feedback starts from the top down. Begin by encouraging employees to ask candid questions and leave feedback during All-Hands meetings. You might allow some time at the end of each of these meetings for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with executives.
Encourage this style of feedback to trickle down to leaders and their direct reports. People should be comfortable (and encouraged) delivering and receiving feedback. It won't be an overnight shift, but you can create this type of environment with intention and repetition.
6. Focus on Wellness
Wellness programs have grown increasingly popular in corporate America - especially since the Covid pandemic. In fact, 52% of US companies offer wellness programs of some kind. And of those companies, 56% of employees participate. This has resulted in fewer sick days taken and higher job satisfaction.
But wellness programs do more than benefit the employer. These programs also help foster a sense of connection and wellbeing at work. Wellness challenges act as a way for employees to work together on as team outside of sales goals and progress reports. They can introduce employees who otherwise would have never met. And they spark a sense of friendly competition.
7. Celebrate Your Wins
It's easy for organizations to adopt a culture of relentless progression. While avoiding complacency is fine, you need to make room for recognizing, celebrating, and rewarding accomplishments as they happen.
When you set a goal, follow up and make sure you hit it. And when you do, don't move on to the next goal quite yet—take a moment to celebrate your victory. Throw a party, bring cupcakes, or reward employees with an end-of-year bonus.
Show that goals matter. Prove to your employees that the whole is greater than the sum of its part—everyone wins when you work together.
Improve Your Employee Connection With Terryberry
Employee connection starts with relationships, and relationships are built upon trust, respect, and recognition. Want to better recognize and appreciate employees in your workplace? Partner with Terryberry.
Your employees' connections are at the heart of everything we do. We strive to provide solutions that help employees feel a sense of belonging in your workplace. Here are a few of the ways we make it happen:
- Milestone and Performance Awards: Celebrate your employees' years of service milestones or top-performing achievements.
- Social Recognition: Empower your teams to recognize and reward coworkers in real-time with a dedicated social recognition platform.
- Feedback and Communication: Create a feedback environment where employees and customers can provide recognition to employees who make a difference.
- Employee Wellness Programs: Empower and reward employees by designing and implementing programs that encourage healthy behaviors.
Want to see how Terryberry can transform your business's employee connection? Schedule a demo with one of our experts to get an in-depth look at our solutions and receive personalized recommendations for your business.