Making the Business Case for Employee Connection

Posted in Research Thoughts & Culture

By now, it’s no surprise that we’re in a recession, and business leaders everywhere are faced with a tough choice – they need to reduce costs, but what, exactly, should they cut?

Most leaders are hunting for expenditures that they perceive to have little-to-no impact on day-to-day operations. But if we’re not careful, some of our HR programs may end up on the chopping block.

As HR leaders, we need to stand up for our people and emphasize the importance of our HR programs in maximizing our current workforce and keeping our workplaces resilient.

Here’s how to make that case.

Connection is vital to maximizing our current workforce.

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Since contractors are typically one of the first expenditures to go, teams are often expected to shoulder the additional workload without the extra help. But how can employees keep up the pace without burning out?

The answer is connection. Connection is the key to helping employees stay at their peak performance while fighting off workplace stress.

Ninety-four percent of employees agree that they’re more productive when they feel connected to their colleagues, and companies that cultivate a strong sense of belonging see a 56% increase in employee performance and are six times more likely to have engaged and highly-motivated employees.

In addition to the more immediate benefits that a feeling of connection provides, connection also helps reduce the negative effects that are often associated with times of uncertainty.

BetterUp found that employees with low social connection were 77% more likely to be stressed, 109% more likely to report feeling burned out, and 158% more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

These effects become more tangible when compared to the fact that companies who rank high in connection experience 75% fewer sick days than their disconnected peers.

Connection keeps your workplace resilient.

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While short-term performance is important for today’s profitability, not maintaining a sense of connection can lead to long-term damage in the months and years that follow.

Studies have shown that without adequate connection and social interaction, companies are less likely to experience the knowledge and skills transfer between senior and junior workers, something important for maintaining vital business intelligence. Employees who engage in positive social interactions, however, have been found to exhibit more altruistic behaviors, providing co-workers with help, guidance, advice, and feedback on various work-related matters.

Strong interpersonal ties were also positively correlated to innovative thinking, which is imperative for long-term business survival.

In addition to the benefits that interpersonal connection and collaboration can provide, a sense of connection to the workplace itself leads to greater retention and increased workplace desirability.

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As we’ve found, employees who feel connected at work are 24% more likely to see their workplace as inclusive, 33% more likely to perceive it as collaborative, and 200% as likely to agree that their workplace is innovative and keeps them engaged.

Not only do employees report that these emotions help them feel over two times more motivated to go above and beyond at work, but this increased feeling of workplace connection is also positively correlated with retention. Connected employees report being half as likely to leave their current role within the next 12 months and one-third more likely to see themselves staying in their current role for longer than 5 years.

Connected workers are 54% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work and four times more likely to award their company a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS) than their disconnected peers.

BetterUp found that this combination of benefits (decreased turnover risk, increase in job performance, reduction in sick days, and an increase in NPS) results in an annual savings of $52 million for the average 10,000-person company.

Connection doesn’t require significant investment.

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The upside of increased connection is clear, and, thankfully, our research found that fostering such connection doesn’t cost as much as you’d think.

Employees aren’t calling for elaborate programs and offsite events; they just want the ability to connect and relate to each other in a natural way.

Sixty-three percent of employees said that their co-workers and peers had the biggest impact on helping them feel connected (25% of employees attributed this to their managers, 10% to their company leadership, and 2% to HR).

When asked which specific activities helped them feel most connected, employees primarily cited team meetings (49% of respondents), followed by 1:1 meetings with managers (30%), skills sharing with co-workers and peers (29%), and spontaneous interactions with colleagues in the office (28%).

Gallup found that having a best friend at work is one of the biggest factors influencing employees to be more engaging with customers, produce better work, have higher well-being, and be less likely to experience workplace injuries. Additionally, a study by The Institute of Leadership and Management found that 77% of respondents reported that building close relationships with colleagues was the most important factor determining job satisfaction – feelings of connection ranked a full seven positions above salary.

Despite economic headwinds, your business can’t afford to sacrifice connection.

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Connection isn’t just a buzzword. In fact, it can be the very thing that makes the difference between your business pushing through the uncertainty ahead or succumbing to burnout, turnover, and a poor reputation in the hiring market.

Focusing on connection helps your business thrive across several key areas you’ll need to come out of the other side of this recession, including productivity, performance, engagement, retention, perception, and hiring.

It’s time to realize that connection isn’t a cost. In fact, it might just be the best investment you can make.