Over the last year, 93% of employees feel connected to their coworkers and over half (56%) feel very connected, according to new research from Enboarder, an employee communication and workflow platform. Contrast that to when Enboarder surveyed employees in August 2021, and only 83% felt connected to their coworkers and just 31% felt very connected, the company said.
However, organizations cannot lose sight of what could hinder this progress, the firm cautioned. The research found that an unsupportive or passive manager (29%), lack of transparency (26%) and working remotely (19%) are top factors generating disconnectedness among employees.
From the manager perspective, half of the people managers surveyed confirmed they are struggling to provide enough human connection for their direct reports. That number jumps to 60% for millennial managers and 65% for Gen Z managers, compared to Gen X (42%) and baby boomers (32%).
Relationships are very important to our sense of connection 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 connected employees are twice as likely to believe their workplace is innovative and feel motivated to go above and beyond.
“In a time when there is low unemployment and high employee turnover, it’s crucial that organizations create better human connections across their team, inviting engagement and building alignment along every step of the employee experience — from onboarding to learning and development, performance management, career growth, organizational change, and every moment and milestone along the way,” Pearson said.
Other key findings from Enboarder’s new report
The office is now a means to build stronger relationships with coworkers.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the office was mostly a place to go to do work; today, employees see the office primarily as a community hub – completing work comes second. Over half (57%) of hybrid workers and full-time in-office respondents cited the ability to form stronger relationships as the No. 1 benefit of going into the office.
SEE: Checklist: Return to work (TechRepublic Premium)
That ranked higher than other impactful in-office benefits like better separation of work and personal life (44%), improved productivity (38%) and improved motivation (14%). Only 3% of respondents said they don’t find any value in going into the office.
“With the rise in popularity of remote work, it surprised me just how much employees want to go into the office to connect with their coworkers,’’ Pearson observed. “The vast majority of employees now view the office as a social hub … That’s a significant finding to consider at a time when employers are navigating RTO [return to work] policies and balancing the need for in-person connection with flexible work arrangements.”
Connection drives down employee turnover.
Enboarder’s report found connection has the power to move the needle on key business outcomes. Employees who feel connected are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs (96%) versus employees who feel disconnected (60%). Only 13% of connected employees expect to leave their current role within 12 months, and this nearly doubles for disconnected employees (24%).
In addition to improved job satisfaction and retention rates, connection contributes to stronger work outputs and motivation, the Enboarder report said. Connected employees were twice as likely to agree their workplace motivates them to go above and beyond their job responsibilities, according to the report.
Virtual bonding events aren’t enough to build a sense of connection for remote employees.
While 19% of all disconnected employees said they feel disconnected because they work remotely at least in some capacity – this statistic jumps when looking exclusively at full-time remote employees (63%). Organizations can’t rely on virtual bonding events to forge lasting connections, especially for remote and hybrid workers.
The survey revealed that the top three activities employees want for building 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 are craving in-person experiences with their teams, and it can be as simple as holding a regularly scheduled team meeting or a 1:1 in person instead of virtually,’’ Pearson said.
How tech can help employees and managers form connections
Connections at work cannot be left up 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 that technology creates a more connected employee experience, all the way from onboarding to offboarding. Employee communication platforms also enhance efforts to engage individuals and support them no matter their working arrangement and where they’re at in the employee journey.”
Additionally, investing in manager training will have an immediate impact on building a more connected workplace, according to Pearson. “It’s critical that managers have the tools they need to support their teams’ needs for engagement, both in office and virtually … Platforms that automate nudges and reminders for managers to proactively schedule team meetings or check up on remote employees will help ensure this training is put into practice.”
How managers can foster “connectedness” with employees
Enboarder’s data shows that connection ultimately comes from peers, followed closely by managers. “As a manager, you should be meeting with your teams regularly, including 1:1 [meetings] with direct reports once a week, to build a solid foundation for connection,’’ Pearson said.
Managers should then identify and facilitate opportunities for their teams to build stronger relationships, he said. It’s also critical that remote employees do not feel left behind, he added.
Pearson said, “Managers should regularly check in with fully remote employees to ensure they are receiving the support and connection they need as every remote work situation is different. While lack of connection needs to be individually addressed for all employees, it’s especially important for managers to give personal 1:1 time to remote employees to ensure their specific needs are met.”
For more leadership advice, download TechRepublic Premium’s 250+ tips for telecommuting and managing remote workers.
Details about this Enboarder study
Enboarder surveyed 1,000 U.S.-based employees in August 2022 to understand employees’ connections in the workplace, how employers facilitate or hinder these interactions, and notable workplace outcomes that come from connectedness.