Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a client about how their move to a new, modern work environment will impact their organizational culture. The emphasis will be on open, fluid spaces, no assigned desks, no private offices and lots of areas to collaborate. While some employees are eagerly embracing this upcoming change, others are anxious, nervous and unsure of the impact it will have on how they work and how engaged they are. As our work environments shift to adapt a more open and collaborative approach, we need to continue to focus on the people side of connecting, through more than just cool office spaces, by emphasizing meaningful dialogue and relationship building activities. Leaders must continue to demonstrate the behaviours that connect with their team members and deepen connections.
Personal Connections and Employee Engagement
When people feel connected to their team and their leaders, organizations reap the benefits. These include greater happiness, personal satisfaction, and stronger mental health as well as increased engagement, higher levels of productivity, and increased business results.
So how can leaders form personal connections with their team and encourage strong relationships between team members? Here are five ways.
To increase engagement, respect, and passion, leaders need to understand what their employees want. The best way to do this is to solicit their thoughts and to truly listen through active listening techniques. Really listening to what employees want, need or are challenged by will help you identify pain points that the team may be experiencing, so that you can act promptly.
Furthermore, listening a more open culture where everyone feels more comfortable sharing, and working together to solve challenges and achieve goals. This strengthens personal connections and makes your team more productive. When we can reduce challenges or stress and increase how quickly problems are solved, team become high performing.
2. Give Employees What They Want
If you’re truly listening to your team, you will know what team members want and desire. This gives you an opportunity to let employees work on projects that matter to them; reward them in ways that are meaningful to them; offer flexibility; invest in their development. Whatever will increase their level of commitment, loyalty, engagement and performance is worth considering if the team members are people you want to retain.
Research has shown that emotions are contagious. When people are disinterested, bored, or uninspired by their work, these feelings affect others in the workplace. Conversely, when people are interested, excited about their work, and encouraged to pursue their passions, they will be happier and these feelings will spread throughout the organization. When people are more engaged, they are much more likely to form positive personal connections with their colleagues, which will strengthen team and organizational performance.
3. Prioritize Passion and Engagement Over “Punching a Clock”
In many cases, leaders still focus on ensuring that employees are at their desks at 9am and that they stay at work until 5pm, or beyond. While this may be an effective way to verify that your team is physically in the office, it doesn’t lend well to engagement, growing personal connections, and fostering passion for one’s work.
Technology has made the work environment more mobile. Prioritizing time at a desk over other aspects of work (such as hitting targets, reaching goals, etc.) often leads to team members “putting in their time” rather than working to accomplish as much as possible and striving for high level results. This is especially true for Millennials; this generation does not consider it necessary to sit at a desk for eight hours to get work done. Giving team members the tools they need to work a more flexible schedule won’t just make them more productive, but it will also foster a positive environment when employees are in the office.
By allowing team members to do work that is meaningful to them and giving them additional flexibility around how and when they work, rather than counting the hours they spend in their cubicle, you cultivate an environment where employees enjoy their jobs more. This not only makes them more productive, but it also creates a culture where people are willing and enthusiastic about working together to accomplish business goals.
Employees who are engaged and enjoy work won’t “clock out” at 5pm. Instead, they will work to accomplish goals and help the organization succeed because they are passionate about what they do and feel connected to the overall success of the business.
4. Create a Culture of Mutual Respect
When team members respect one another, both personally and professionally, relationships improve. When leaders respect the needs and priorities of their team, employees aren’t just happier and more productive; they also demonstrate greater respect for their leaders.
This creates a culture of mutual respect that naturally leads to an increase in job satisfaction and more meaningful personal connections with colleagues and peers. People who respect one another are more mindful of each other’s time, more willing to help out when needed, and more likely to work well with one another.
5. Blur Work Life and Personal Life
It is crucial that leaders understand and respect that each person on a team has a life outside of work. It’s also important to recognize that many people spend at least as much time (or more) with their colleagues as they do with their families.
Given this reality, its easy to understand why blurring the lines between personal and professional lives is important. Team members are happier, enjoy their jobs more, and are more effective when they can utilize a flexible schedule to accommodate the rest of their commitments in their personal lives. Think of an employee who can work more flexible hours so he or she can pick up their kids from school or take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, for example. This employee will be happier, less stressed and more committed to the organization.
Growing personal connections between team members at work also blurs the lines between personal and professional spheres. Organizing social events for your team not only helps them get to know one another better on a personal level, but it also can create genuine friendships which strengthen an organization. In fact 71% of Millennials have cited in a recent survey that they want their coworkers to be their “second family”. These friendships make an organization a place where employees want to be, rather than a place they need to be. This benefits individuals through strong support systems and meaningful connections as well as the organization by improving productivity and organizational success.
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.