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4 Strategies to Build Employee Connection for Positive EX and Retention

Providing Support Must Be Continued Throughout the Employee Journey

Stronger employee experience by creating connections

The beginning of the year is always a time for reflection on the successes of the past year and the hopes for the new year. In the employee experience (EX) segment, there will definitely be a New Year’s hangover of problems that became more pronounced during the pandemic, and still have not been solved. While there are more policies and guidelines around return to office issues, expectations are still all over the map across many industries. The hybrid model of sometimes working in the office and other times elsewhere is still proving to be a challenge to companies striving to build a corporate culture and positive employee experience.

This inability to build connections will cause issues in engagement and retention. Companies will need to leverage technologies and strategies to help build connection during an employee’s full journey with an employer. Following are several ways for companies to help forge this connection throughout the employee lifecycle.

Start with Candidate Experience and Onboarding

Everyone who follows EX has heard of “quiet quitting,” a tendency for workers to disengage from work and put in no more effort than what is absolutely necessary. Now there is “quick quitting,” meaning employees are leaving jobs after relatively short periods of time. In recent BCG data, it was found that deskless workers, in particular, fell into this category with 52% of those on the job less than 12 months either actively or passively job hunting.

Companies need to do a better job from the very beginning of the relationship, starting with candidate experience and onboarding. According to data from Aptitude Research, 86% of employers believe that new hires make the decision to stay at a company in their first 90 days. Yet companies are twice as likely to invest in talent acquisition and employee experience than onboarding, and 42% do not have a dedicated onboarding solution at all.

With the quicker employee churn companies may be seeing, this beginning part of an employee’s experience needs attention. Companies need to make sure the process is easy and convenient. Attention must be paid to the digital employee experience for new employees. Do not make new employees perform a time-consuming search for the materials they need. Platforms where the necessary information can be kept in one place and accessed via many devices are optimal.

Additionally, companies need follow up before and after onboarding, gathering feedback for continuous improvement.

Appoint a Mentor/Buddy

Partnering new employees with those who have been with the company for a while can help smooth out some of the rough edges of starting a new job. Many new employees are still starting jobs from home. Aside from the potential career benefits a mentor can bring, a mentor can help newer employees troubleshoot areas of question and concern, learn the ins and outs of a company culture, and help to build social connections.

Communicate Clearly on Company Mission, Purpose, and Successes

Communication on mission and purpose needs to be interwoven along the entire employee journey, not just communicated in a flashy presentation during onboarding. Employees need to see how their role and talents contribute to the success of the company they are working for and be reminded of it as their time with a company evolves.

Another area for improvement is making sure employees receive communications, not just on the mundane day to day, but on efforts companies are making in areas that are important to their employees. Employee feedback is likely generating a list of issues and wishes from employees. Keep employees apprised of progress and point out areas where employees can be part of the solution to build a deeper sense of connection. Some internal bragging and promotion, as long as it is honest and transparent, keeps employees engaged.

Recent research from Simpplr indicate this is a challenging area.  Seventy-nine percent of HR executives feel the post-Covid shift to remote and hybrid work arrangements has made internal communications ‘a little more’ or ‘very’ challenging. Only 28% of HR leaders reported upholding a company’s culture in an anywhere work environment is ‘easy;’ whereas, 34% reported it to be ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult.’ Some respondents even reported they were not sure they were doing it well at all. About 66% of respondents do not have a single effective internal communications channel to share company news, ensure compliance with new policies, or make sure employees have a good understanding of the company’s goals and objectives. 

Be Creative about Frequent Opportunities for Gathering and Interaction

A friend who recently started a new job remotely lamented over the lackluster onboarding and inability to build relationships with people during the busyness of a new role. Subsequently, when a group of employees from that company traveled to a conference, the company’s HR group set up an opportunity for them to do a volunteer project together, spending a half day making lunches at a homeless shelter. When companies make the effort to be a bit creative in a work world where you are not often meeting with your colleagues in person, this can be an important tool to nurture relationships.

Work relationships, especially in this hybrid work world, are important. Research from isolved reported a third (32%) of full-time employees surveyed said what they most like about their current job is their relationship with coworkers. This was the top answer receiving nearly double the responses than benefits (17%) and their daily work (17%).

It could take more effort, but many tools exist to help support the building of peer relationships.

  • Employee communities offer many advantages, not only for companies to tap into the employee feedback, but to be a resource for those with similar work or social interests to gather, in person or remotely. When Dash Research spoke with Sandra Moran, Chief Marketing Officer of WorkForce Software, she shared that the use of the company’s solutions to help build community and provide communications has seen accelerated usage from managers. Says Moran, “We have seen some interesting developments in usage for frontline managers. Managers are being asked to do a lot lately, and the pressure on managers is tremendous as there is no precedent for what businesses have gone through over the past couple of years. One customer created a peer-to-peer group, and the managers communicate with each other and use examples from their own real work life. The group is now self-organized around idea sessions and people can share advice and work on challenges together.” Product introductions such as Microsoft’s recent launch of the Viva Engage module can also support community building as well as communicate with staff more easily, particularly for dispersed workforces or those that are remote or hybrid. It can be used as a place to share news and strategy, model culture, speak with employees, and contribute to conversations.
  • Scheduled, non-work-related check-ins. Virtual “water cooler” chats provide opportunities to get to know colleagues in a more informal, agenda-less setting.
  • Look at recognition programs where colleagues can provide kudos to others, helping to create a collaborative, connected culture. BP modernized its reward and recognition program as workers wanted a way to recognize peers across departments. The company implemented Workhuman technology and just two months after launch, there were 12,000 recognition moments. Additionally, there was 50% less turnover for new hires recognized through the program.
  • Gamification and games. Gamification has been seeing traction in the contact center space where companies have been implementing it to create an opportunity for fun and healthy competition and collaboration. It also has usage in other industry segments such as hospitality and retail. However, the idea of games is branching out. In November 2022, Microsoft introduced a Games for Work app, developed by Microsoft Casual Games and Xbox Games Studio. This allows Teams members to play games with each other as a morale booster and way to build connection and includes such as Solitaire and Mindsweeper. It also includes IceBreakers, described by Microsoft as a way to encourage new teams to communicate and easily learn about each other. According to Jill Braff, General Manager of Integrations and Casual Games, “Over 3 billion people around the world play games, serving a crucial role in bringing people together – especially during these last few years. Games promote creativity, collaboration, and communication in powerful and unique ways, and we can’t wait to see the how the Games for Work app on Microsoft Teams inspires productivity and helps foster connections in the workplace.”

Offering support to help create connections is not a one and done task. Employees’ roles and life circumstances evolve over the course of a work relationship, and companies must have tools in place along each phase of an employee journey.

Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.

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