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01 Feb 2022
by Dan Phipps

How to nurture workplace connections – and reap the benefits

Workplace connections and how people feel about their employee experience are intrinsically linked. When people enjoy strong connections with their team, leader and the organisation, they have the greatest chance of a really positive employee experience.

The weaker these connections are, the more likely the employee experience and overall culture will suffer. It’s in reward professionals’ interests to find ways to nurture workplace connections.




The ‘why’ of workplace connections

The pandemic has undeniably affected connections. Lockdowns, home working and social distancing have taken their toll, leading to social fragmentation – in the community and the workplace. Many organisations have worked hard to keep people emotionally connected via technology, but it’ll never be as effective as in-person interactions. In fact, OC Tanner’s 2022 Global Culture Report reveals that 45% of employees say the number of individuals they regularly interact with at work has decreased significantly over the past year, with one in three employees feeling disconnected from their leader, furthering isolation and loneliness.

Disconnection is a serious threat to the entire employee experience and organisational culture, with employees that have weak connections less likely to feel united in a common goal and more likely to experience burnout. In contrast, employees who have strong connections to their team, leader and the organisation are 71 times’ more likely to have a satisfying employee experience.

The ‘how’ of workplace connections

Reward professionals must find ways to nurture workplace connections both in-person and remotely, so that employees feel deeper ties to their colleagues, leaders and organisational purpose. Key ways to achieve this are through developing a new generation of ‘modern’ leaders who focus on mentoring, supporting and advocating for their people, and by creating a culture of recognition.

Recognition has the incredible ability to connect employees to each other, their leaders and organisational purpose simply through the act of regular and sincere recognition giving. Peer-to-peer recognition is highly effective at strengthening team connections, with an above-average connection between team members 11 times’ more likely when teams celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries. Likewise, when recognition for great work and extra effort is a consistent part of everyday culture, the odds of an above-average connection increases by 15 times.

Showing frequent appreciation also builds a connection between employees and leaders at all levels of the business. In fact, when recognition is an integral part of everyday culture and leaders use it as part of a formal recognition programme to celebrate and reward career anniversaries, everyday effort and above-and-beyond achievements, employees are 25 times’ more likely to have an above-average connection with those leaders.

In addition, by linking every recognition moment to organisational purpose, so that employees understand how their work and behaviour fits into the bigger picture, this strengthens ties between individuals and the organisation. And finding ways to celebrate success together, whether it is a company milestone or team target, demonstrates how employees’ contributions have helped to achieve it. With employees who connect to purpose 20 times’ more likely to have an aspirational connection to their organisation, it’s important to link to purpose in every accomplishment.

Recognition drives connection

It’s the responsibility of all leaders and employees to nurture workplace connections, not just reward professionals’. However, reward leaders must understand why it’s so important to help strengthen connections and find ways to do so. Recognition plays a vital role, with a formal and integrated recognition programme key to meaningfully bringing people together in a hybrid world.

The author is Dan Phipps, culture and engagement strategist at OC Tanner Europe.

The article was supplied by OC Tanner Europe.

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