- When harnessed properly in business, strong social/human connections provide a powerful foundation to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
- People are social beings; they want to engage, interact, and build strong relationships. Technology is great, and necessary but can only take relationships so far — connection is optimal when it’s face-to-face and person-to-person.
- Employees who find connection feel good, are more productive, and they stay. The qualitative impact of the feel-good ripple effect pays off in dividends.
Human connections matter. When harnessed properly in business, strong social/human connections provide a powerful foundation to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Social exclusion, on the other hand, has proven to have a detrimental impact on individuals and organizations. Given the importance of social connections, how can a company use human connections as a competitive advantage?
Social Exclusion at Work Hurts, Literally
Social pain is not just a metaphorical concept. We now know that social pain hurts both psychologically and physically. A report in Science Daily shows that the stress caused by social exclusion or negative social experiences can activate brain circuits associated with physical pain. So, the next time you physically ache after experiencing an injustice or a social bond is threatened, know that this pain is real.
While the reality of life must allow for social pain on a personal level, employees are not tolerating the pain in the workplace. Instead, they are leaving when they feel excluded. In its Great Attrition survey, McKinsey identified that 51% of employees who left their job in the last six months did so because they lacked a sense of belonging. 46% of this group cited their desire to quit as wanting to work with people who trust and care for each other. I’m confident anyone reading this has had experience a friend or employee leave for these very reasons.
The McKinsey study summarizes that, “Employees want stronger relationships, a sense of connection and to be seen.” However, given the fact that 66% of people are working remotely during the work week, geographic barriers have made solving for this problem challenging. Research from Forbes finds that 72% of workers state how working remotely restricts their ability to socialize, and 33% expressed feelings of loneliness, signifying the lack of human connection that commonly results from remote work.
This churn is costly. In addition to lost productivity, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that employee replacement costs can be as high as 50-60%.
Driving Human Connections is Good for Business
On the flip side, a recent study by Enboarder found that 94% of employees are more productive when they feel connected to their colleagues. Plus, employees who feel connected are half as likely to leave within the next year. That’s good news for productivity enhancement and cost savings!
So, what do we do about this?
My focus has long been on driving human connections with prospects and customers, with an eye on efficient revenue generation. I have a little mantra that often serves as the foundation for my strategies — and it’s all about “capturing hearts and minds one at a time.” I’m excited to provide tips on consumer-focused human-to-human (H2H) marketing in future articles.
Since I’m not an expert in drawing upon human connections to recruit and retain talent, for this article, I reached out to two business leaders who are: Paul Marchand a leading edge CHRO supporting 101,000 employees, and business leader and entrepreneur Jodi Amendola. While their approach to capturing hearts and minds of the people they employ is different, the net result is the same — connected employees.
Bring Individuals Together
Paul Marchand is Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Charter Communications, a leading broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 32 million customers in 41 states through its Spectrum brand.
Paul joined Charter Communications in 2015, and is responsible for all human resources strategies, policies, and practices for more than 101,000 employees. He oversees all aspects of HR, including recruitment, training and development, and HR operations, as well as compensation and benefits.
In practice, Paul’s approach to fostering human connections in the workplace is rooted in the belief that people are social beings; they want to engage, interact, and build strong relationships. Technology is great, and necessary but can only take relationships so far — connection is optimal when it’s face-to-face and person-to-person. He says the Charter team finds they are more efficient, more effective, and more creative when people work together within the same building; their in-person interactions facilitate collaboration, coaching, and problem solving.
Paul says that, as a company, Charter Communication thinks it’s critically important to bring people together to meet in person for strategic planning, training, and team building. To achieve this, their business units have a regular cadence of regional meetings, operational site visits and annual meetings to bring team members from across the country together. They incorporate this same philosophy in their summer internship program. Charter hosts a large group orientation to introduce the interns to the company, how they operate and their leadership team, and then interns are based out of one of the corporate office locations — giving them the opportunity to network and collaborate with team members.
Begin With Awesome People, No Matter Where They Are
Jodi Amendola is the CEO of Amendola Communications, an award-winning full-service public relations agency, specializing in the world of healthcare and health IT organizations.
Early on in running her business, Jodi came to the realization that, as nice as it is to have your entire staff in one location, it may not be the best strategy for bringing on the right mix of talent in a niche focus area. So, rather than limiting the talent search to the Scottsdale, Ariz., vicinity where her headquarters are, she made the decision to look for the most talented, experienced team members and hire them no matter where they are. That was pretty revolutionary at the time, but it has worked out well. Her company now has employees in every time zone in the continental U.S.
Jodi says there is a multi-layer approach to fostering human connections. The first layer is the most critical and does not require significant cost or time investment. Here are three things she does to bridge the geography gap to drive human connections.
- Zoom staff meetings every two weeks; weekly Zoom calls with team training and daily communication among account teams — all with video on.
- Daily team emails — sharing PR, speaking/award opportunities, ideas, and feedback as well as info learned on social media, at trade shows, through blogs, clients, etc.
- Monthly Kudos program, where employees submit kudos to deserving team members. These are shared with the team on our staff call in a PowerPoint presentation. They have a drawing for one lucky winner, who gets a gift card.
The Impact of Capturing Hearts and Minds One at a Time
At the end of the day, fostering human connections at work is simply good for business. Employees who find connection feel good, are more productive, and they stay. Just as with the examples Paul and Jodi shared, the benefit of connecting humans must be recognized at every level of the organization. How those connections are fostered will be unique to each company culture, but no matter how it’s done, the qualitative impact of the feel-good ripple effect pays off in dividends.