A Deloitte University Press study earlier this year cited employee engagement and work culture as the number one challenge facing organizations today. There are a number of reasons HR professionals are focused on work culture, not the least of which is the increasingly competitive job market that impacts recruiters’ ability to find and retain top talent. Add the fact that the more engaged and happier the workplace, the more productive and profitable it will be; it becomes increasingly clear why fostering relationships and focusing on good culture are key parts of the equation.
Why Workplace Relationships are Important
Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employed Americans aged 25–54 spend more time working than doing anything else—a statistic that shouldn’t’t surprise anyone familiar with the American work ethic. This underscores why workplace relationships are so important; if you spend the major part of your day—your life, even—with the same people, the connections you have with them play a big role in overall job satisfaction.
However, it is important to remember that these relationships won’t always just build themselves. Sometimes it takes an engaged manager, with goals of nurturing and teambuilding, to get the ball rolling. When people really understand each other, they have a much easier time working together smoothly. In addition, closer, more connected relationships lead to better teamwork, higher morale, and increased productivity.
How Employers Can Nurture Connected Work Relationships
So, we know that well-connected teams and strong relationships are important, but how can employers (and managers within organizations) foster opportunities for relationship building and nurture them along the way? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Get out of the office. Holding off-site teambuilding events may feel a bit cliché, but they happen all the time, especially with sales teams. Why? Because they work. Taking activities off site where people can relax and show more of their true selves accelerates feelings of connection. Whether you host monthly happy hours, dinners, or celebrations to recognize team achievements, simply stepping off campus can go a long way toward developing employee trust and team cohesion. Being together out of the office allows people to get to know each other as complete, well-rounded human beings.
Build trust between your company and employees. Your employees are a reflection of the work culture you create, and the perception of your brand is founded by the way you treat them. If the environment you build is approachable, recognizes achievements, and offers support, your employees will adopt those same attitudes and it will be reflected in the way they treat and engage with one another and external audiences, including customers and potential employees.
Use technology to help build work culture. Technology is readily available to help you recognize teamwork as well as individual performance, and encouraging your employees to be comfortable with and embrace technology is smart business. In an article for The Huffington Post, I covered various technologies that directly impact and encourage employee engagement. These include Jive, Slacker, and Yammer, for starters. Do not take for granted just how powerful technology can be in connecting and strengthening employee relationships.
Empower senior leaders and managers. When it comes to creating great work environments and good corporate culture, it takes a village. Make sure to empower your senior leaders and managers, teach them how to foster good relationships, and encourage them to nurture and guide their team members. This isn’t something that’s instinctive to everyone, so regular and ongoing training on this issue is a worthwhile investment.
Invite feedback and use it. An inclusive culture leads to employees feeling valued and appreciated. Ask for feedback about what will create and maintain a great corporate culture and build strong relationships among co-workers. It’s one thing to apply principles from a book, but employee feedback will be reflective of what may really work in your particular organization. Don’t stop with asking for their feedback; whenever possible, use it!
Be genuine and sincere. You can’t fake culture. If you’re going down this path, make sure your motives are pure and that you’re genuine and sincere with your team. People are incredibly savvy and if you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, they’ll know it.
Recognize often. People at all levels love — and need — recognition for their efforts and successes. Make sure to create many opportunities for recognition and celebration—for small accomplishments along with the big ones. Your team will love you all the more for it.
Great corporate culture, connected employees, strong teams, happy work environments — all of these are part of what make a great organization. And whether your business is large or small, the formula for success remains the same. Be clear with employees about your overall goals related to culture and internal relationships, enlist their help, invite their ideas and implement them where possible, be sincere and transparent and endeavor to be a great communicator. Empower senior leaders and managers to nurture relationship-building within their own teams, and recognize their efforts when they do so. All these things will set you on the path to that holy grail: amazing culture, employees who support and inspire one another and, invariably, happier clients as a result.
Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech brand strategist, analyst, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture and Founder of #WorkTrends, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent. Meghan has been a guest on numerous radio shows and online forums, and has been a featured speaker at global conferences. She is a regular contributor at Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and several other media outlets. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards for leading HR and technology brands. Meghan has been voted one of the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers in 2015 by StatSocial and Forbes, Top 50 Most Valuable Social Media Influencers by General Sentiment, Top 100 on Twitter Business, Leadership, and Tech by Huffington Post, and Top 25 HR Trendsetters by HR Examiner.
This article was first published on TalentCulture.