Connection: The Secret to Strengthening Employee Engagement Post-Pandemic

Before the pandemic, employee connections happened naturally; while working side-by-side in the office, during company-wide get togethers, team lunches, and spontaneous meetings at the coffee machine. Employees reported having real social connections at work – and considering how many hours they spent in the office together, it is not surprising that many reported that their best friend was someone that they work with.  

Studies show that employees who have strong social bonds with their coworkers are more motivated to perform and people who report having a best friend at work are 7x more likely to exhibit better engagement, customer relations, work quality, and overall well being.

Over the last several years many companies who used to work in one physical space are now working in some form of hybrid, and while the merit of this new working model is the subject of much debate, hybrid is here for the foreseeable future, and is an absolute expectation of employees who are prioritizing flexible work environments and better harmony in their work and life.  

72% of workers say that they aren’t able to socialize enough when they’re remote, and 33% expressed feelings of loneliness… simply feeling disconnected from their coworkers is a top reason employees would quit.

Companies today need to be more intentional about building employee connections to strengthen employee engagement, improve employee mental health and wellness, and increase overall company performance. 

Employee connection can be defined in three ways:

1. Building employee connection to each other

Building ways for employees to connect to each other has the most meaningful impact on employee engagement, overall mental health and drives a strong company culture where everyone feels like they belong. Organizing ways for employees to “find their people” is relatively simple and at a very low cost to employers. Some ideas include:

  • Coffee chats
  • Sponsored employee resource groups
  • Corporate sponsored volunteer opportunities
  • Internal mentorship programs
  • Social events 

Activities like those noted above go a long way in deepening employee connections. However, developing opportunities for employee connection is only half the battle. Providing employees with a psychologically safe work environment where they can bring their full selves to work is the key for building genuine human connections. 

2. Building employee connection to the mission/vision/culture of the company

Research tells us that employees who align to the corporate values are more likely to demonstrate high levels of engagement, longer tenure, and will outperform employees who are less aligned to the corporate values. And that people who live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company. 

Having values written down or hung up on a poster is not enough. Company values are like a social contract internal to the organization. They reflect the personal values of employees, become part of the culture and define the way that work gets done. The values also define ideal behaviors and highlight the behaviors that will not be tolerated. 

When companies commit to living their values everyday (even when it may be costly or inconvenient), and thread their mission and purpose through every aspect of the way that they interact with each other, with customers and with candidates, they will naturally attract and retain employees who thrive in their environment. 

3. Building connection between employee performance and company performance

There is no deeper connection than when an employee connects their success to the success of their company. For decades, compensation programs have been designed to ensure that employees win when the company wins, but what is even more powerful, is when employees understand how their personal performance is contributing to achieving the companies’ overall objectives.  

Employees feel a greater sense of pride and accomplishment – and yes, connection to a company when they are able to link their contributions to their team, department and to the objectives set by the CEO and are able to track progress throughout the year. In a planning and performance process where connection is one of the key objectives, transparency and ongoing communication about company performance throughout the year are critical.  

We can no longer rely on the physical office and spontaneous meetings in communal office spaces to drive employee connection. Today, companies need to be intentional about building employee connections as a key element of their corporate strategy. For a relatively small investment of time, and effort, those who do, will benefit from higher employee engagement, better employee health and wellbeing and greater employee loyalty which translates directly to achieving or exceeding corporate goals.