In the past year, 93% of employees felt connected to their colleagues and more than half (56%) felt very connected, according to new research from Enboarder, a communication and workflow platform for employees. Compare that to when Enboarder surveyed employees in August 2021and only 83% felt connected to their peers and only 31% felt very connected, the company said.
However, organizations should not lose sight of what could hinder this progress, the company warned. The survey found that a non-supportive or passive manager (29%), lack of transparency (26%) and working remotely (19%) are the main factors driving employee bonding.
From the manager’s perspective, half of the people managers surveyed confirmed that they struggle to provide enough human connections for their direct reports. That number jumps to 60% for millennial executives and 65% for Gen Z executives, compared to Gen X (42%) and baby boomers (32%).
Relationships are very important to our sense of belonging at work, said Brent Pearson, founder and CEO at Enboarder. “The work you do to foster relationships and connection drives business results.”
The survey found that connected employees are twice as likely to believe their workplace is innovative and motivated to go beyond that.
“At a time of low unemployment and high employee turnover, it is critical that organizations create better human connections within their teams, invite engagement and build alignment at every step of the employee experience – from onboarding to learning and development, performance management, career growth, organizational change and every moment and every milestone you encounter along the way,” said Pearson.
Other key findings from Enboarder’s new report
The office is now a means of building stronger relationships with colleagues.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the office was primarily a place to work; today, employees see the office primarily as a community center – getting the job done comes second. More than half (57%) of hybrid employees and full-time office respondents cited the ability to build stronger relationships as the most important benefit of going to the office.
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That outranked other key benefits in the office, such as better work-life separation (44%), improved productivity (38%) and improved motivation (14%). Only 3% of respondents said they don’t value going to the office.
“With the increasing popularity of remote working, I was surprised how many employees want to go to the office to connect with their colleagues,” Pearson noted. “The vast majority of employees now view the office as a social hub… That’s an important finding to consider at a time when employers are navigating RTO [return to work] policies and balancing the need for personal connection with flexible work arrangements.”
Connection ensures less staff turnover.
Enboarder’s report found that connection has the power to move the needle to important business outcomes. Employees who feel connected are more likely to be satisfied with their job (96%) than employees who feel disconnected (60%). Only 13% of connected employees expect to leave their current position within 12 months, and this almost doubles for unconnected employees (24%).
In addition to improved job satisfaction and retention rates, connection contributes to stronger work output and motivation, according to the Enboarder report. Connected employees were twice if they are likely to agree that their workplace motivates them to go beyond their job responsibilities, the report said.
Virtual bonding events are not enough to build a sense of belonging for remote workers.
While 19% of all disconnected workers said they don’t feel connected because they work at least in some capacity remotely, this stat jumps when looking exclusively at full-time remote workers (63%). Organizations cannot rely on virtual bonding events to create lasting connections, especially for remote and hybrid workers.
The survey found that the top three activities that employees want to create connections are 1:1 meetings (49%), 1:1 meetings with managers (30%) and skills sharing (29%) .
Only 6% said they want virtual team events. “This shows how much employees desire in-person experiences with their teams, and it could be as simple as having a regularly scheduled team meeting or a 1:1 face-to-face rather than virtual one,” Pearson said.
How technology can help employees and managers connect
Connections at work can’t be left to chance, especially with the rise of hybrid and remote workplaces, Pearson said. “Using a platform that helps standardize and scale employee journeys is an important way technology creates a more connected employee experience from onboarding to offboarding. Employee communication platforms are also increasing efforts to engage and support individuals regardless of their work schedule and where they are in the employee journey.”
In addition, investing in manager training will have an immediate impact on building a more connected workplace, Pearson said. “It’s critical that managers have the tools they need to support their teams’ engagement, whether in the office or virtually… Platforms that automate nudges and reminders for managers to proactively schedule team meetings or monitor remote employees , will ensure that this training is put into practice.”
How managers can promote ‘connection’ with employees
Enboarder’s data shows that connection ultimately comes from peers, closely followed by managers. “As a manager you should have regular meetings with your teams, including 1:1″ [meetings] with direct reports once a week, to build a solid foundation for connection,” Pearson said.
Managers then need to identify and facilitate opportunities for their teams to build stronger relationships, he said. It’s also critical that remote workers don’t feel left behind, he added.
Pearson said: “Managers should regularly contact employees who work completely remotely to ensure they are getting the support and connection they need, as every remote work situation is different. While the lack of connection needs to be addressed individually for all employees, it is especially important for managers to provide personal 1:1 time to remote employees to ensure their specific needs are met.”
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Details about this Enboarder study
Enboarder surveyed 1,000 U.S. workers in August 2022 to understand employee connections in the workplace, how employers facilitate or hinder these interactions, and notable workplace outcomes that come from being connected.