Every business is, to some degree, a social business. Employees connect in various ways with each other, with leaders, and with customers and other important stakeholders. When it comes to connecting with employees, your ability to develop a strong bond with them will affect how they approach their work and, therefore, how they perform.
People spend a lot of time at work and, understandably, want to build meaningful connections there. In fact, in a survey of employee job satisfaction and engagement conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 74 percent of respondents said their relationship with their supervisor was one of the top five factors affecting how engaged they feel at work. Their relationship with their coworkers was also in the top five, with 77 percent of respondents listing it as a key driver of engagement.
There are many ways to foster deeper connections with and among your team. Here are the six key ingredients that go into the “special sauce” of connecting with your employees:
When employees have the opportunity to share their ideas, ask questions, and solicit opinions, they’re better able to form relationships and make connections throughout the workplace. In this digital age, a variety of means are available for engaging your employees. For example, you can leverage internal social networks, such as intranets and virtual chat rooms, to make connections with employees. Try posting work-related questions on the company intranet and asking employees for their input, or use a chat room as a space where teams can brainstorm to solve problems.
Here are other examples of how communication can support connections with and among your employees:
Schedule one-on-one check-ins with all your employees so you can connect with them in person
Hold team-based forums where employees can voice their opinions
Provide written communications to help employees understand key initiatives that the company or team is involved in
Create an org chart to help people find key information and collaboration partners within and across teams
Show your human side to the people who work for you and offer a kind word when they’re having a tough time or are going through a personal crisis. A show of support helps your employees see you as someone who genuinely cares.
A few simple ways to show empathy and compassion include sending a handwritten note of sympathy when an employee experiences a personal loss, offering support to someone who seems overwhelmed by their workload, and providing “air cover” and backup if an employee is working with a difficult client.
One of the easiest ways to connect with your employees is to spend time with them. Chances are, they will appreciate the time spent with you individually or as part of a group. One study found that 70 percent of employees would like to spend more time with their manager.
By conducting regularly scheduled team meetings and holding periodic off-site gatherings and team-building sessions, you can foster an environment where employees get to know you, your work style, and how to communicate with you. Unstructured activities, such as team dinners, summer outings, or holiday parties, can also encourage personal connections among your employees.
Another way to develop deeper connections with employees is to help them develop and pursue their career aspirations. When employees see that you’re not only interested in the work they do today, but also want to support them in building their skill set for tomorrow, they’ll see you as a champion for their career growth and someone they want to connect with more deeply.
You can support employee development by offering training opportunities to help employees build new skills and providing assignments to prepare them for lateral or promotional career moves.
A verbal or written thank-you can go a long way in showing employees that their work is appreciated. Most people like knowing that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, so a quick email, verbal pat on the back, or recognition in a team meeting can help send the message that you see and acknowledge their efforts and results.
Positive feedback and recognition for a job well done can benefit everyone. By publicly celebrating individual and team successes, you’re also helping team members understand what is expected of them, thus reinforcing positive behavior. Recognition of an employee’s work can also contribute to a relationship of respect and honesty, as employees gain ongoing reassurance that great work will be recognized.
People who don’t trust each other have a hard time connecting on any level. Conversely, when individuals behave with integrity and honesty, an environment of trust is developed, making it easier for employees to connect with one another and collaborate on important team initiatives.
As with other areas of life, the workplace provides many opportunities for individuals to share ideas, help each other, and develop meaningful relationships based on trust and collaboration. While there’s no single magic ingredient that will guarantee strong interpersonal connections, these six key ingredients combined comprise a recipe that will bring everyone to the table and foster healthy connections, at both the individual and team levels.