Employee engagement is a popular phrase in today’s business world. It is quite common for employees to expect more than just a paycheck when it comes to their work, and employers are struggling to figure out what they can do to meet these expectations.
I have a simple answer for you: human relationships.
It’s really not that simple – if it was, everyone would do it. When it comes down to employee engagement initiatives, most programs fail because organizations forget to focus on human relationships, which I would argue are the building blocks of engagement.
There are many different definitions of employee engagement, and they all revolve around a common theme: emotional commitment and attachment to one’s workplace and fellow employees. Engaged employees feel a profound connection and commitment to their company; they work with passion, they are loyal, and they are willing to go the extra mile.
What separates those organizations with high levels of employee engagement and those with low levels of employee engagement? Culture.
Employees want to be hired and retained by organizations with exceptional workplace cultures. These cultures have many different aspects to them, but they often involve overall feelings of trust, contribution, inclusion, altruism, achievement, and happiness. These feelings are all derived from one thing: human relationships.
A 2016 survey by the Society of Human Resources Management revealed relationships in the workplace are top drivers of employee engagement. Respondents described how relationships in the workplace were vital to their overall engagement in the workplace. 77% believed their relationships with their co-workers influenced their engagement and almost the same number, 74%, believed their relationship with their immediate supervisor influenced their engagement.
This makes sense – if you enjoy the people you work with, the easier it is to enjoy going to work each day. If you don’t enjoy the people you work work with you likely experience the Monday Morning Blues on more days than Monday.
Do you have a best friend at work?
Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, has conducted employee engagement research for over 30 years and the best friend question, “Do you have a best friend at work?” is one of the most controversial.
Gallup asks this question for one primary reason: performance. The research shows a “concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job.” They give the example of women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work compared to those who don’t strongly agree: those who strongly agree are two times (63%) more likely to be engaged at work.
Holistically though, it’s becoming more acceptable to want and expect more than just a paycheck from work. As social beings, we want sense of accomplishment, value, and altruism from our work. If positive social/human relationships are missing from your workplace, chances are you feel less energized and motivated by the work you do – even if you are good at what you do. This leads to being less invested and possibly less productive.
51% of employees who strongly agree that their organization encourages close friendships at work (who rate this statement a 5 on the 5-point scale) are extremely satisfied with their place of employment, compared to just 19% of employees who disagree with that statement (by choosing a 1 or 2) – Getting Personal in the Workplace, Gallup
If 75% of employees agree relationships in the workplace influence their engagement, how do companies and management prioritize human relationships and make their workplace more relationship-centric?
Bonfyre describes how human relationships in the workplace are a result of how often people connect and communicate (interaction) and how much people have in common (relatedness). Organizations, leadership, and managers are relationship-centric when they set up their work environment for their employees to become best friends. This is done by increasing the ability to interact with other employees, which may lead to a discovery of what the employees have in common. As Bonfyre describes, best friends are a product of high levels of interaction and relatedness.
You typically can’t discover what you have in common with someone (relatedness) without interacting with them first. Companies looking to become more relationship-centric need to focus on giving their employees the opportunity to interact with each other.
1. Step away from the computer.
Instead of sending an email, take the opportunity to go speak to the recipient in person. It’s been said that 93% of communication is nonverbal. If this is the case there is a high chance that a miscommunication may occur if you only communicate via text-based means.
2. Invest in technology that promotes social relationships such as video chat software and/or collaboration software.
If you must communicate in ways that are not in-person, invest in video chat or collaboration software that will enable your employees to interact on a more personal level. Of course emails and phone calls are a popular communication means, but you can make it more personal by providing a different social element.
There is no such thing as too much gratitude. The benefits of gratitude are numerous both in the professional world as well as in your personal life. In my article 3 Ways Gratitude Promotes a Culture of Engagement in the Workplace, I describe how gratitude increases productivity, job satisfaction, and may increase feelings of psychological safety. It’s important to know your people: some may like public displays of gratitude, others may prefer a private thank you in the hallway.
4. Ask for employee input.
Have you heard of the Ikea-effect? This is the idea that if you help build something, you will love or value it more. If your employees feel heard and like their input matters, they will feel valued by the organization and their engagement can increase. Giving employees the opportunity to collaborate and co-create will promote positive relationship building, trust, and belonging.
5. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
When it comes to culture changes employees typically won’t buy-in or join-in until leadership and culture champions show they are dedicated to the change in culture. If you are genuine with your efforts to change the culture your employees will notice.
Connecting the Dots
Employee engagement initiatives fail because organizations forget to focus on the basic building block of engagement: human relationships. Organizations promoting relationship building between employees gives employees opportunities to discover what they have in common with other employees. This discovery can lead to close friendships; possibly even best friendships. If an organization is looking to become more relationship-centric its leadership and culture champions must invest in face-to-face interactions, whether this is in-person or virtually, they must become comfortable expressing genuine gratitude on regular and consistent bases. When employees feel like their input is valued and considered they feel a deeper connection to their work, fellow employees, and organization. All of this is irrelevant if leadership and management don’t create and stick to patterns of behavior that is consistent with building a culture of trust, contribution, inclusion, altruism, achievement, and happiness.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement and improve positive workplace relationships, please review my services here and contact me here.
This was originally posted on LinkedIn on May 18th, 2018. See the full post here.