Making the Business Case for Employee Connection

Posted in Employee Experience

As the winds and indicators of recession continue to buffet the global economy, business leaders everywhere are approaching their budgets with a lot of caution. And many have decided that remaining resilient and profitable means reducing costs — but what, exactly, should they cut?

Most leaders are looking for line items that they perceive to have little or no impact on day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, that means they may be making a bee-line for some of your powerful HR employee engagement and employee experience programs! If those programs look discretionary or you can’t show the business value, they just may end up on the chopping block. Ouch. 

Fortunately, we’re here, and we’ve brought receipts! This article is full of stats and advice that can help you advocate for your people and demonstrate the business importance of your HR programs in supporting your current employees and keeping your workplace resilient.

Let’s make that case.

Why Is Employee Connection Important?

three woman walking arm in arm

First off, let’s talk about those employee engagement programs. Are they focused on driving human connection? They should be! Our 2023 research found that when employees consider the benefits of their HR programs, “stronger relationships with co-workers” tops the list, proving that human connection should really be at the heart of any engagement strategy.

Fostering strong connections among employees is a strategic imperative — and that’s even more true when economic times are challenging. Connection is the key to helping employees stay at their peak performance while fighting off workplace stress. Despite uncertainties and evolving workplace dynamics, ensuring that employees feel connected can significantly enhance organizational resilience and operational efficiency. 

In fact, 94% of employees agree that they’re more productive when they feel connected to their colleagues. Gallup has 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. And companies that cultivate a strong sense of belonging see a 56% increase in employee performance and are 6x more likely to have engaged and highly motivated employees. 

All that is to say a sense of connection isn’t simply a “nice to have” for employee well-being. It’s absolutely crucial to nurturing an environment where innovation and productivity thrive. 

Connected Employees as a Business Investment

employees meeting at a desk

Investing in employee connections also pays off in business metrics you already measure. Connected teams show higher productivity levels, fewer sick days, and reduced turnover, leading to substantial cost savings.  

In fact, 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.

Here are a few more outcomes to look at:

Increased Employee Engagement

two employees talking

Employees who feel connected are more engaged. Enboarder’s 2023 employee connection survey revealed that only 42% of employees feel very connected to their co-workers. The upside is there’s a significant opportunity to boost engagement by enhancing human connections!

Luckily, our research has also found that 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! And as you probably know, engaged employees are not only more productive but also more motivated to contribute to their company’s success.

Improved Retention Rates

two employees talking

Connection directly influences an employee’s decision to stay with a company. Fostering a supportive and connected workplace can significantly reduce turnover rates, which is crucial as hiring new staff is often more costly than retaining existing ones. Connected employees report a greater likelihood of staying in their roles for longer periods, enhancing organizational stability.

Not only do employees report that these emotions help them feel over 2x more motivated to go above and beyond at work, but this increased feeling of workplace connection is also positively correlated with employee 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.

Building a Better Company Culture

two employees talking

A culture that prioritizes connection is perceived as more inclusive and innovative. Employees in connected workplaces are more likely to refer other employees to their company, positively affecting employer branding and attracting top talent.

Connected workers are 54% more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work and 4x more likely to award their company a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS) than their disconnected peers.

Resilience Through Connection

During times of change, such as restructuring or mergers, connections can help maintain morale and productivity. Employees who feel supported are more adaptable and resilient, helping the organization navigate through transitions more smoothly.

In fact, a BetterUp study 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 even more tangible when you look at the flip side: Companies that ranked high in connection experienced 75% fewer sick days than their disconnected peers.

Strategies to Improve Employee Connection in the Workplace

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

That said, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got HR programs that can deliver on these promises and results. 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.

In our Enboarder research, 63% of employees say 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). 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  — and feelings of connection ranked a full seven positions above salary.

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%).

Here are a few specific ideas for improving people programs to strengthen employee connections in the workplace:

Implement Team-Building Activities

Team-building activities are essential for fostering connections. These can range from simple group outings to complex problem-solving exercises that encourage collaboration and a deeper understanding among team members. And PS: Make sure that team-building includes connection for hybrid teams — so remote workers aren’t left out.

Create a Collaborative Work Environment

Encourage an environment where teamwork and open communication are the norms — from connected onboarding to everyday interactions. This can be facilitated by designing physical and virtual spaces that promote interactions.

Use Technology to Enhance Connectivity

Leveraging platforms like Enboarder can help maintain and strengthen connections among remote and in-office teams. Technology solutions enable regular communication and seamless collaboration, regardless of geographical barriers. Plus, the employee connection metrics you get from your tech tools can help you assess — and prove — the impact of your program to the higher-ups at budget time!

Encourage Informal Social Interactions

Promote a workplace culture that values informal interactions among employees. These spontaneous connections can lead to increased comfort and a sense of belonging within the team.

Connect Employees for Skills-Sharing and Mentoring

Implement mentoring programs that pair less experienced employees with seasoned professionals. This not only facilitates skills-sharing and connected learning, but also strengthens interdepartmental relationships. (See how Landor & Fitch used Enboarder to easily build a buddy program.)

Make Room for More Spontaneous Fun

Introduce ice-breakers and other light-hearted activities that make daily work more enjoyable and less monotonous. These activities can relieve stress and build a more connected team.

Measuring the Impact of Employee Connections

To truly understand the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at improving employee connection, it’s crucial to measure their impact meticulously. This includes tracking engagement levels, employee satisfaction, and the overall health of the workplace culture. Utilizing technology to gather and analyze data can provide insights that help refine strategies and ensure that efforts to enhance connection are successful.

The ROI of Employee Connection

By recognizing the profound impact of employee connection on organizational success, businesses can make informed decisions that foster a more engaged, productive, and satisfied workforce. With tools like Enboarder, companies have the resources necessary to implement, monitor, and optimize strategies designed to strengthen the connections within their teams, ensuring that every employee feels valued and connected from day one.

We hope we’ve made the strong case that connection isn’t just a buzzword or an easily cut line item. In fact, these people programs can be the difference between your business surviving 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, employer brand, and hiring.

It’s time to stop apologizing for people programs, and instead show your leadership that human connection isn’t a cost but an investment. In fact, it might just be the best investment you can make.

Learn more about how employee connectedness can drive productivity and protect your organization from unwanted turnover in our ebook, The ROI of Human Connection.

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