April 06, 2022

Closing the connection gap

Your people are starved for authentic connection. Workplace connection has fallen down the list of priorities, and it’s time to put it back at the top. Building connection within the workplace is key to re-engagement, finding purpose in our work, and the success of our organizations. Our companies are only as strong as our people, and our people are in desperate need of community, connection, and authentic relationships. 

When there’s a strong sense of connection among your team, your organization will see fewer accidents and errors on the job. When there is a strong sense of psychological safety, we forgo the urge to “keep it to ourselves” and instead speak up earlier when there is something that doesn’t look quite right. Bravely and Blueboard recently facilitated a webinar conversation between several HR Pros about closing the connection gap. Below are some of the key takeaways that were shared in the discussion. 

“Adaptation, collaboration, safety, and connection will impact key outcomes like retention and performance.”

Kenneth Matos, Ph.D., Global Director of People Science, Culture Amp

Watch the conversation here: Closing the Connection Gap

Presenteeism: People are here, but are they showing up?

Employees at all levels are generally taking fewer sick days and time off work since the start of the pandemic. Part of this is due to having nowhere to go, given the increase in travel restrictions and the challenges of planning a vacation or family visit. Burnout rates have been on the rise and yet, people are still showing up to work and logging hours. Presenteeism is defined as “the lost productivity that occurs when employees are not fully functioning in the workplace because of an illness, injury, or other condition. Even though the employee may be physically at work, they may not be able to fully perform their duties and are more likely to make mistakes on the job.” 

An unforeseen consequence of this presenteeism is the lack of connection. When people don’t feel like they’re their best selves, whether that’s due to illness, burnout, fatigue, or the monotony of work from home life, they’re less inclined to make time on their calendars for simply connecting with the people on their teams. Without the office, we’re hard-pressed to find spontaneous moments for connecting with our colleagues on the latest episode of The Great British Bakeoff or getting nosy about each other’s lunches. 

But it’s not just connection to each other that’s missing: employees need to feel connected to the work they’re doing and to the mission of their organization. Recent Blueboard research shows that 40 to 41% of people would say that they would stay away from work that they felt less connected to. This research also found that burnout has a dehumanizing effect: when managers burn out, they can often slip into the habit of treating employees like a cog in the machine, which leads to employees falling into more burnout, and before you know it the whole team is having a massive breakdown in communication and therefore connection. 

Stats on disconnection in the workplace

  • 3 in 5 people said they would consider leaving their jobs if they stopped feeling connected to their work.
  • Only 38% say their company culture supports relationship-building between managers and employees.
  • Lonely employees are costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year.
  • Building close relationships with colleagues was the most important factor in determining job satisfaction. Salary ranked 8th.

Create an environment for authentic connection 

Lynda Tarras, Bravely coach, suggests that “strong employee connection or engagement leads to better satisfaction by customers, which leads to more positive outcomes for the organization, in terms of [both] profit and trust.” We know that building an environment where authentic relationships can flourish leads to stronger, more resilient employees, but where do we start? First off, we need to get honest about what we want from our workplaces and what we want from our employees. Setting clear expectations is key, and as Bravely favorite Brené Brown often says, “clarity is kindness.” 

Having strong connections at work increases performance and productivity. Recent Gallup research has “repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).

Allyson Thom, VP of People and Culture at Blueboard, says that to create an environment for connection, we must “make sure that managers are able to retain and nurture the incredible people on our teams. Managers and leaders need to make sure that they’re understanding employees’ evolving needs and their evolving expectations.” 

We’ve all been through a lot.

“Everyone has just had a big mortality experience. You can’t ignore that.”

Kenneth Matos, Ph.D., Global Director of People Science, Culture Amp

The last two years have provided ample time and circumstances to acknowledge our shared humanity and mortality. There’s a bigger reason at play for the Great Resignation: we’ve been surrounded by death for two years straight and it’s pushed us all to reckon with how brief and precious our lives are. Time is finite and with the constant reminders of the facts of life, people are getting real about where and how they spend their time. By prioritizing our relationships and cultivating authentic connections with our colleagues, we’re not just supporting the business outcomes and goals, but we’re supporting each other through recovery from these traumatic events.

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