Why HR leaders need to cultivate connections

Connection in the workplace affects nearly every facet of the company. In fact, Justin M. Deonarine, organizational psychologist, has found that disconnected companies often experience:

  • high turnover;
  • low morale;
  • lack of productivity;
  • unhappy employees; and
  • potentially dissatisfied clients

On the other side of that spectrum, when a team is connected with the larger mission, the benefits are clear and measurable. Business leaders who promote engagement on their teams notice a 41% decrease in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity and a 24% to 59% decrease in turnover, according to Gallup.

“When people don’t feel connected, they are only coming to work for a paycheck, and it shows in their interactions with customers. Conversely, a connection culture helps employees see how their role impacts the organization and makes them excited to provide a great customer experience,” states Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow’s Business.

If you want to enrich the level of connection in your workplace, the three strategies below are a place to start. Use these ideas to yield better connection and reap the benefits as a business.

Build Core Values into the Culture

While it’s important to define the overarching mission that your business stands for, just writing it down is not enough. The core values should be embodied and ingrained into your culture.

Consider the mission of Southwest Airlines: “Dedication to the highest value of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.” If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, you know they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Their customer service is always responsive, and their operational practices put the customer first. They also have fun on Twitter while being available to all support queries.

This doesn’t just happen. In order for employees to provide the experience their mission statement promises, it needs to be built into the way they operate as a company, first. Carmine Gallo, senior contributor for Forbes, provides a peek inside the Southwest world: “Every week, Gary Kelly [CEO] gives a ‘shout out’–public praise–to employees who have gone above and beyond to show great customer service. Each month, the Southwest Spirit magazine features the story of an employee who has gone above and beyond. Southwest highlights positive behaviors through a variety of recognition programs and awards. Finally, internal corporate videos like this one are filled with real examples and stories to help employees visualize what each step of the purpose looks and feels like.”

Notice the amount of connection, in the form of communication and shared values, you see in this example. Without that piece, you may struggle to provide customers with the experience you promise in your mission statement.

Communicate Through All the Changes

No business can–or should–remain static. Whether you restructure a department, introduce a new process or make a shift in management, however, this is an area where it’s critical for leadership to cultivate communication and connection companywide.

“Change can be scary, but it is inevitable–having continuous, open dialogue to help ease angst in times of change is critical,” says Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets. “Furthermore, make sure everyone is aware of and on board with the end goals, from leadership to individual contributors. When everyone works toward the same goal, that is when success happens.”

Luckily, this is completely within your hands. It’s up to you to facilitate communication during times of change and transition, from start to finish. The good news is, doing so is easy. This is simply a matter of prioritization, putting communication at the top of the list. Here are a few ways that communication can be handled:

  • Kick-off meeting: All-hands, companywide meeting to discuss the changes that are to come, why they’re happening and what employees can expect. This is also a chance to manage any initial concerns head-on.
  • Online platform for questions: If you use an online chat tool, create a channel specific to questions about the current change or transition. This makes it easy for everyone to get answers, even if they don’t ask the question.
  • Monthly team meetings: Have each team leader set aside 30 minutes each month to address changes and how they may be affecting their team. Again, this is another opportunity to answer questions and be available to employees.

Give Employees a Microphone

Employees need to be heard to feel connected. Yet, only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that their opinions matter, according to Gallup. Nate Dvorak and Ryan Pendell of Gallup explain, “Naturally, leaders believe it is their responsibility to lead culture change within their organization. But they often forget that good leaders listen before they act. And the best leaders prioritize listening to their best people.”

To create a connected company, everyone’s voices have to be heard. What’s more, every voice has to matter. That means listening to employees when they speak up and acknowledging what’s said. If leaders can give them the microphone, the company reaps the benefits:

“When you allow your employees to dream with you, you don’t have to work on getting buy-in,” say Dvorak and Pendell. “They already believe in it because they helped create it.”

Cultivate a Connected Company

It’s your job as an HR leader to find ways to maintain a cohesive, bonded, relational workplace. When company culture is built on connection, everyone benefits–from executive leadership and front-line staff members to the customers who are served every day.

Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and FastCompany. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.