Maximize employee engagement with relationship building
By: Allie Carson
Workplace culture has such a profound impact on an organization. Employee retention and engagement are two key factors in the success of a company, and culture makes a direct impact on these metrics. One way that culture is influenced is through the relationships between employees.
As an employer, you want to encourage genuine connections, both peer-to-peer and between employees and management. Employees want to feel included as if they’re a part of something important and know they are valuable assets. Here are some ways to take the time to recognize your people and create real lasting relationships within the workplace.
See employees for who they are outside of work
When it comes to creating meaningful relationships in a workplace, you have to look beyond the space you’re in. Getting to know someone in the workplace typically means learning about a person’s habits, what motivates them, how they learn best, and when they are most productive. Among other things like career goals and educational background, these traits can give employers an idea of how an employee may operate and progress through their careers. However, creating truly meaningful connections comes from learning about a person outside of work.
People are more than just the work they do from 9-5. They have hobbies, interests, families, and experiences that make them who they are. Rather than solely paying attention to how they work, you’ll want to learn more about how they live outside of work. Taking an interest in people as a whole helps them feel a part of something greater, and to feel valued for everything they can bring to the table, which is more than just the work they do.
That genuine interaction can lead to better conversations where a person feels comfortable opening up and connecting with others; this is especially true when one can talk about things they are passionate about or share their expertise in an area.
Prioritize employee mental health
Actions speak louder than words, and employees need the right tools and support behind them before they can feel safe to open up and create relationships with others.
As an employer, you can demonstrate your support and dedication to your employees’ well-being by offering additional benefits than traditional health or life insurance. Benefits such as the option to work from home or flexible scheduling can help employees to feel their best each day. These benefits are a great way to help your employees’ mental health. The flexibility and convenience of these options can help keep burnout at a distance. The option to work from home is not only convenient but can alleviate a lot of stress for employees in the day-to-day.
At the same time, some employees feel more open in meetings and conversations because they work from the comfort of their own space. Flexible scheduling allows employees the option to pursue the things they love to do most outside of work. Whether it’s a passion project or spending time with family, that time to recharge and fill their cup with things they love can translate to a more empowered and motivated attitude in the workplace. It also helps spark conversation when an employee can share if they have any fun or interesting after-work plans.
These two programs can really help employees lower their overall stress levels and have a positive impact. These types of conversations on mental health in the workplace are important to foster. Employees that feel empowered to care for their mental health can in turn be more productive and active participants in the workplace.
One simple thing you can do to help your employees feel good about their workplace and promote positive mental health is to encourage them to bring pets into the office. Pets in the workplace can have a positive impact on employee stress levels and as a result, they can boost communication, morale, and trust between workers. Whether it’s a regular thing or it’s every once in a while, pets can bring others together and get people to have fun and feel good about themselves and the workplace.
Now, while there are a number of benefits to opening up your office to pets, it’s still important to note the safety concerns this can create for our furry friends and fellow employees. As an employer you’ll want to talk with your workforce to understand the various degrees to which they’re tolerant of animals and if there are any health concerns to be aware of. It’ll also be helpful to give employees plenty of warning to plan ahead for when these pet-friendly days will be happening.
On an individual level, offering pet safety resources to your workforce may be helpful. Assisting them in deciding is it worth it to buy pet insurance can save you some stress down the line if an accident were to occur. In the short term, a safety resource like pet insurance can help everyone to feel more at ease when bringing their pets to the office. In general, pets will have a better chance of being up to date on wellness checks and vaccinations.
Additionally, it’s also beneficial to know that in the event of an accident or emergency, which can happen when animals are around new faces and in a new environment, they are well protected.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to encourage pets in the office, you may still want to offer insurance to employees as part of your benefits program. By doing so, you can demonstrate a commitment to their emotional well-being and that of their families. In turn, employees may feel supported and more open with fellow colleagues.
Arrange for activities aside from everyday work
To have a positive workplace culture, one in which there are real connections between employees, try to organize and participate in activities that aren’t strictly work-related. This can be during the workday or after. It can be as simple as a team-building exercise to kick off a meeting or getting a group together to play a game of baseball after work.
Maybe you can bring a group of employees together to go out to lunch (or virtual meet-up), or even just a quick coffee run. These activities create a space for employees to talk about themselves and their interests outside of work. Otherwise, it can be difficult to initiate these types of conversations during the workday.
Employees may want to make connections with each other but are hesitant to cause a distraction to their coworkers. Dedicating time away from the everyday stress of the job can lead to greater conversations and relationships that can boost collaboration and morale.
Creating opportunities for teamwork and meetings with either an internal team, department-wide, or across departments, can really help open people up over time. It can be hard for teammates to initiate conversations with new people, especially in a remote work setting. Finding time for new groups of people to get together who may not have had the opportunity to otherwise is key in fostering a collaborative culture. This is especially beneficial to new hires who can use that extra push to meet new people and find their place within the company.
Additionally, if you are a manager, it can be helpful to not only voice your encouragement of these collaborations but arrange for meetings to help employees follow through. This could be done by asking a teammate to share their knowledge on a particular subject with their department, or by bringing a group of employees together to innovate a new process.
Ultimately, it’s time spent meeting new people and discussing new ideas that can spark energy and excitement in employees. With these conversations, you can slowly learn more and more about a person as they share their unique perspective.
Employee recognition can also promote cross-collaboration. Having a system that recognizes employees for their contributions and achievements, whether it be department or company-wide, can help people to feel connected and valued as part of a whole. A recognition system can also call out people’s unique skill sets and help inspire team members to reach out and work together in new ways.
Create a safe space for open dialogue
Sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference. To help people create connections and to feel a culture of inclusivity, your organization could offer a channel for advice or to share fun snippets or thoughts throughout the work day.
Team communication tools like Microsoft Teams, or Slack, are a great platform for these types of conversations. The ability to quickly chat with team members can instantly improve feelings of connectivity. Your organization can have a channel dedicated to people chatting about pop culture, sharing funny stories, or asking for advice or recommendations for things that may come up in life.
A great compliment to quick chats within your company is to encourage give coworkers a shout-out for their help or hard work. A little recognition goes a long way! Not only are your employees an asset to your company, but they can be to each other, and creating a space for these open lines of communication can really prove that.
When employees feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to feel good about their day-to-day workflow, participate in discussions, and ultimately stay with the company.
From simple things like a space to chat about life, to greater opportunities like bringing your pet to work, it’s all about opening the lines of communication and letting people know they are welcome, they are accepted, and they are valued. When you see people for the whole of who they are, not just the work they do, when you listen to their ideas and create space for them to meet new people and try new things, your employees can feel supported and engaged day after day.