Most businesses at least partially rely on excellent benefits, competitive salaries, and other perks to drive employee engagement. While this all certainly helps keep employees on the payroll, it’s not the only factor in creating a connected, involved, and productive workplace. That’s where you come in! Responding promptly and empathetically to your team members’ needs can lead to higher job satisfaction rates that portend better work and less employee turnover. 

The thing is, some managers might struggle to understand their team members’ needs beyond a paycheck. Even if it’s difficult, it’s important. This article will teach you how to connect with employees in more meaningful ways. Trust us – after taking these steps, you’ll be grateful you did.

Why should you make employees feel connected?

Yes, a connected, thoroughly engaged employee does their work and does it well. More than that, though, an employee who stays connected might actually enjoy their work and seek opportunities to do more. It’s kind of the best of both worlds – happy employees, less work for you since someone else is doing it. Conversely, an employee who’s unengaged might do the bare minimum. If the vibe is this dismal throughout the whole office, good luck getting your team to be productive. 

Fostering employee engagement, of course, often encourages excitement and enthusiasm instead. And that’s great! Workers who feel connected with your company and team tend to identify with your shared values, so they’ll likely do great work without excessive guidance. The benefits that arise when you create a connected workplace include:

  • Better team performance. High employee morale goes hand in hand with high motivation. It’s a dazzling combo that typically leads to high-quality work from your team. When a bunch of highly driven individuals collaborate, performance is all but bound to increase. 
  • Increased productivity. When your team is truly invested in your company’s performance, they become invested in the quality of their own work. That means their performance is more than just the key to a paycheck. It’s a conduit to greater personal fulfillment, so excellent work is a natural consequence. 
  • Lower turnover rates. A constantly cycling employee roster can slash employee morale. It can also create knowledge gaps since departing employees inevitably take valuable information about clients, processes, and more when they depart. (This is why onboarding new employees for positions you’ve never personally held can be so tough!) Employees who feel connected, of course, are less likely to leave – and, in the process, leave you with all these unsavory challenges.
  • Less workplace stress. Stress affects employees whether they’re engaged or not. A big part of building connections between you and your team members is supporting them so they don’t feel like they’re handling the strain alone. Show that you care, and you’ll create a connected workspace where your team members know they can reach out for help. And teamwork is a great antidote for stress.
  • Minimal risk of burnout. Lower stress levels yield lower burnout rates, and you certainly don’t want your work to negatively affect your team’s physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Instead, you want your employees to feel safe and happy at your workplace. This way, they show up well enough to do the great work your company expects. 

Talk about it!

Build collaborative meeting agendas with your team so everyone can contribute and participate with a tool like Fellow.

15 Ways to connect with employees

Now that you know the potential benefits that engaged employees can offer your company, the question becomes: How do we foster deep, meaningful connections? Believe it or not — it’s easy! There are several effective techniques you can implement to create a company culture that employees enjoy.

1 Lead by example 

Not many things can invigorate an employee more than when they see management roll up their sleeves during tough times and help out. A company’s leadership and management can significantly influence workplace culture; your employees will respond to the examples you set. 

If you don’t show enthusiasm for your organization’s goals and values, your team won’t have an example of connection to follow. If you instead bring the passion to your work that you want from your employees, they’re more likely to follow suit. 

2 Live by your company mission and values 

When figuring out how to connect with employees, simply stating your company’s values is only the start. You’ll also need to live by them during all work processes. This notion applies both when you’re interacting with your team and potential new hires. Most people research the companies they apply to before accepting a job, and they might accept the employees they meet to reflect the organization’s values. So when you fail to do so, you impact both your current and potential employees.

3 Give employees a voice 

One of the most powerful ways to connect with employees is ensuring their voices are heard and their efforts appreciated. Sure, it’s easy to feel like you’ll be seen as a “tough cookie” since you’re a manager. But the best managers deftly walk the tightrope between heeding leadership and listening to their teams. If you promptly correct valid team complaints and remain open to constructive feedback, you’ll likely notice more input and effort from your team. And your leadership will love that!

4 Act on what employees say 

Your workers are more likely to care about their work environment if they have a direct hand in crafting it. Admittedly, you can’t change every aspect of your workspace and culture to meet employee expectations, but surely, you have some wiggle room. Use this flexibility to your advantage, as your employees will still appreciate the changes you do make. After all, acknowledging employee concerns and taking steps to rectify any issues goes a long way in ensuring that your people feel heard. 

5 Embrace connections 

Many people are naturally social, and you may have observed firsthand, thanks in particular to recent global events, that isolation is just not good for your well-being. So embrace social events and simple human connections in the office. You’ll help keep your team’s spirits up and potentially even foster some genuine team-building. You’ll also assure employees that taking a few minutes to stretch, breathe, and chat during the day is perfectly normal and even good for productivity.

6 Hire the best talent 

In a connected work environment, employees who are talented and passionate about their work can motivate others to do better too. Of course, hiring people who lack this talent and drive can have the opposite effect. So, to maximize employee motivation, seek out new hires who already show enthusiasm for your company’s values and work. There might be a ripple effect in due time. 

7 Maximize employee recognition 

The reasons why you should go out of your way to recognize employees are simple. If you fail to do so, your team might feel like the company is advancing at their expense. Plus, you have no excuse to skimp on recognition: All kinds of software programs allow teams to identify and reward their employees’ achievements. More material, real-life methods such as social events and awards ceremonies are still totally valid here too. 

8 Help employees reach their goals 

Showing a genuine interest in your employees goes a long way toward creating a more engaged workforce. Here’s one idea for doing that: Help your team members identify, define, and reach their work goals. Taking a genuine interest in these goals and keeping your team members on a path toward success shows that you’re invested in your team’s success.

9 Encourage personal and professional growth 

Encouraging personal and professional development goes hand in hand with setting goals. Playing an active role in an employee’s development shows them you want them to succeed. Showing them the skills and tools they’ll need for this success turns your stated wish – help them grow – to action: See them grow. Plus, with these goals achieved, your team members will be absolutely peaking. 

10 Get involved in daily activities

Learning how to connect with employees means learning the day-to-day workings of your business. Head down to the main floor and personally address the issues employees might face or, better yet, recognize even their smallest wins. Get hands-on in their work to show that it’s valuable and not beneath you. Bridge the perceived gap between your team and your leadership to show that all parts of the company are working toward the same goals.

11 Embrace random connections 

Coming down to the main floor and speaking to employees can demonstrate a genuine interest in the team. Plus, speaking face-to-face with your team about their jobs (and more, if you’re tactful!) can build trust while identifying problem areas and potential solutions. Removing these obstacles while respectively what your employees share about their lives at the office and beyond can help your employees feel heard and happy.

12 Train employees to quit

This advice may seem counterproductive, but trust us here: Training employees to quit is, believe it or not, a tried-and-true method to driving engagement. The gist here is that, sometimes, your organizational goals simply won’t align with those of the employees, despite what seemed like a promising initial match. And you can only do so much about that.

Instead of ignoring the clash, employees can transition to other teams in the company, or leave the company, on good terms. Help your employee make this transition, and they’ll more likely feel more seen and heard – and more likely to do great work that benefits you. 

13 Invest in your most important assets 

You guessed it: Your most important assets are your employees. And sure, investing in your team can mean ensuring they have the best equipment available. But it also means investing your time and empathy to ensure they remain happy in their current roles. And if not, it means strategizing a way to make the employee happier. Greater levels of connection should result.

14 Give employees room to try new things and fail 

Employees often understand their positions better than any of their peers, including you. Their hands-on expertise can lead to innovations in how they accomplish their day-to-day tasks, which they can pass on to others performing the same work. However, innovation is always risky, as an employee’s ideas could always fail. But – believe it or not – that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Reframe failure as a positive in your workplace to help employees stay connected to their work when they don’t succeed. When something doesn’t work, it’s a learning opportunity and a chance to try something new. Kindly help the employee learn, and you might just leave them with the motivation to try different ideas that are more likely to succeed.

15 Let your employees give back

An engaged employee will put serious effort into their work. However, if their daily tasks are the only thing they can focus on, burnout might be inevitable. A potential solution might be to expand the employee’s responsibilities and allow them to give back in more ways. Doing so can help them feel connected to the organization. Some examples of extended responsibility include allowing employees to plan out social events, charity drives, and team-wide meetings. Certain tools might help with the latter.

Your connection to success

When you know how to connect with employees, you know how to drive productivity and produce high-quality work. As you identify your most passionate team members, you might find that some of your people are in a position to start leading your meetings. Fellow can help on that front – and for all things related to employee engagement. Whether you use Fellow to write meeting agendas or gather peer feedback, you’ll get a holistic view of your team members – and build deeper connections.