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It’s time to put company culture and human connections before your budget

Brent Pearson, founder and CEO of Enboarder
Brent Pearson
Brent Pearson is the founder and CEO of Enboarder.

Faced with economic uncertainty, business leaders are often tempted to cut costs in areas that impact retention and employee morale. But that’s a huge mistake—and here’s why.

An organizational culture that puts people at the center is more critical than ever for maintaining employee happiness, productivity and a competitive edge. Recruiters are still calling, and boosting the employee experience ultimately helps organizations avoid the costs associated with replacing valued workers.

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Prioritizing human connections in the workplace is especially important for organizations with hybrid and remote employees. Hybrid work introduces many benefits to the workforce: a better work-life balance, less time spent commuting and increased flexibility. But it can also make communication, networking and relationship-building a challenge. In fact, according to our research, 73% of employees say collaboration now takes more effort and planning than it did before March 2020.

It goes without saying that now is not the time to neglect the employee experience for the sake of the bottom line. Because when employees form workplace connections, their motivation and productivity increase—82% of employees say they’re more motivated to work on a project or program when they feel close to the team.

So, how do you improve collaboration and create connections in a hybrid workplace? First of all, don’t completely cut costs that benefit your employees’ happiness at work. Pull budget from elsewhere before you consider taking away employee support. For example, travel can be expensive but if it means bringing your people back together so they can network, collaborate and socialize at an in-person event, then it’s money well spent. You might have to dial back travel and meet less frequently in person, but don’t eliminate it.

Employees are the foundation of your organization and you need to invest in them. At Enboarder, we live by this philosophy. For example, in the current economic climate, we’re building our business responsibly and fostering human connection. Instead of cutting costs that could negatively impact our organizational culture, we’re reinforcing our commitment to our people by flying employees from around the world to Australia for an in-person event.

It’s not realistic for every company to fly their employees to an in-person event, but there are other ways you can invest in culture and connections at your organization. How? It might start with educating senior management on the power of human connection and continually reinforcing this across your organization.

Managers play a critical role in cultivating connections for their remote and hybrid team members because hybrid work often limits casual office check-ins and water cooler chats. And without a frequent presence in the office, employees may feel like they’re missing out on important information or team bonding. That’s why it’s essential to remind managers to regularly meet with new hires and reports and keep every employee in the loop.

A buddy system that connects employees across different work models (e.g., hybrid, fully remote or in-person) also gives workers an outlet for informal communication. Facilitating a space for conversations can go a long way toward improving engagement and helping employees feel like valued members of the organization.

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Another way to create connections is through learning and development (L&D) programs. Learning doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Instead, offer L&D programs that group employees together based on interests and career paths. Peer learning is more engaging and can result in more natural connections. When employees learn and grow together, it can often lead to outcomes like improved motivation and productivity.

Engagement and employee satisfaction should be your metrics of success. Demonstrate your willingness to invest in employee wellbeing by offering a perk like “enrichment days.” Once a quarter, give employees a day off to do anything that enriches their lives. We do this at Enboarder and it provides employees with time to focus on what makes them happy so they can bring their best selves to work.

For many employees, it’s not just about being connected to the work they do. It’s about connecting with teammates and having access to opportunities to collaborate, learn, engage and simply talk with co-workers. When recruiters come calling, your organization’s culture and ability to foster relationships will keep employees from jumping ship. Invest in your people, and you’ll likely see an improvement in employee happiness, productivity and retention, which is ultimately good for your bottom line.