Already I suspect I lost readers when they saw the word ‘feeling’ in the title. What do feelings have to do with business? Your bottom line, apparently. Feeling connected at work leads to higher engagement levels. Companies with high engagement levels bring in 2.5x more revenue than their counterparts with low engagement levels. And it’s not just about money.
Engagement leads to improved employee safety, a higher chance of success, and a lower turnover rate.
But your employees seem pretty plugged-in, right? For your sake and theirs, I hope so. But it’s likely that they actually aren’t. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace poll, 70% of employees are not engaged at work, and 18% are actively disengaged. On top of that, working remotely also has its own unique challenges. The good news is that improving connectedness is a reachable goal for any business. It takes some planning and effort, but it is worth the investment.
Start with Why
The first and arguably most important step in creating connectedness in your business is defining your purpose and values. A shared vision is key to encouraging a group of people to get behind company goals and collaborate with one another. Maybe you have defined your company values, yet you’re getting crickets from your employees. If so, you probably need to work on implementing these values.
It’s difficult for people to connect to something they don’t know or understand. Take a look at ‘Purpose – Why it Matters in Business and Why you Should Care’ for a thorough rundown of how to build a strong foundation for your company based on your Why.
Create a safe and empowered space
The next most important factor in cultivating connectedness is trust. In The Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work, Charles Feltman describes trust as “Choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.”
Remote communication can be tricky. If done well, it’s effective and efficient. There are many opportunities for miscommunication though. Every team has its own needs, so specifying what kinds of conversations happen over which channels, as well as the timing, is important. Red Thread has been remote since the beginning. Over time we have developed general processes when it comes to how we use Slack, Asana, and everyone’s favorite app of the past two years, Zoom.
Asana is our golden chamber where All Things Get Done. If it’s not in Asana, does it even exist? But for real, we keep copious and detailed notes about projects in Asana, copying over details from Slack discussions and recording status updates. Our fantastic account managers make sure there’s a place for it, there are tasks with due dates, and everyone knows their responsibilities.
We do have policies in place, but we also have ever-evolving conversations around how we prefer to be communicated with. Recognizing everyone’s unique set of needs is a way to create genuine connections throughout the team.
And then there’s the sneaky issue of misinterpretation. We all know too well how the tone of a message can seem negative because of its brevity or punctuation placement. Communication goes both ways. It’s the sender’s responsibility to be clear in what they are communicating. It’s also important for the recipient to check in with themselves if they are feeling some type of way about what is being said. I read The Four Agreements in my early 20s, and it was the first time I became really aware of trying not to take things personally.
It’s not easy. It’s human nature to feel like things are happening TO us. The way to shift our mindset can also be the hardest part to grasp. Once we realize we have a decision about how we feel, it gets a little easier. Of course it’s easy to assume the short Slack message had a snippy tone to it. It takes practice and effort to reframe and think, “They might be multitasking, or maybe their child has said ‘MOM’ for the 1,000th time that day. It’s not about me.”
That being said, this generosity and grace can only exist if a culture of respect and awareness of systematic imbalances has been established. Microaggressions are never acceptable, and they happen every day. If a culture of care exists, a team can bring these perhaps unintentional yet damaging perspectives to the surface and grow past them. True engagement and trust come from this kind of deep listening.
Time for Sparkle
Ok, you’ve established your Why and have developed processes for listening and communication. The heavy hitters are in place; now it’s time to have fun! Play can seem frivolous in the face of quarterly reports, but researchers are finding it to be the source of creativity. It can also be a great way to find some common ground among team members.
In addition to playing games as a team, we are encouraged at Red Thread to make time to do the things we love. Hustle culture tells us we need to be productive 24/7, but you can’t be fully present and productive if you’re running on empty. So go do something that doesn’t achieve a goal, that makes your heart sparkle. You’ll come back refreshed and in a much better position to collaborate.
Gallup estimates that “disengaged employees cost the US $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity” in 2012. Cultivating connection needs to be a top 2022 goal for your organization. If you would like help in making your company more connected and profitable, reach out to us! We really live for these kinds of conversations, so go ahead and schedule your free 30-minute consultation.