What’s the most critical element necessary to keep good employees?
Salary? Well sure, but no. On-the-job flexibility? It’s a good one, but no cigar. Stellar perks, like company credit cards, first-class travel and the like? Maybe.
They’re all key, but those are things good employees can go anywhere to find. And if they’re really talented employees, companies will even fight over them, promising hotter perks and bigger signing bonuses.
But they aren’t THE critical element.
Answer: Quality employee relationships. They are a non-negotiable, especially with your ever-growing Millennial staff.
The Value Of Employee Bonds
Employees with strong bonds to those they work with are usually the most engaged and tend to stay longer at companies they work for, according to a recent report from eremedia.com.
But many managers don’t realize the boost their own departments and businesses get when employees are happy to work with each other.
A look at statistics reveals a lot:
- Full-time employees (54%) were more likely to say they stay with current employers because of their co-workers, according to the American Psychology Association. That was even true for 43% of part-time employees,
- 60% of employees feel their relationship with their co-workers positively impacts their focus or productivity, and 44% say it positively impacts stress levels, says a Virgin Pulse survey, and
- A recent MTV Research poll of Millennials revealed that 88% of these future leaders expect to and want to be friends with their coworkers.
It’s also a boost to your hiring and retention success. In addition to happier (and more productive) employees, studies done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and others show that a company’s number one source of hiring is employee referrals.
Employees who say they love working with their co-workers will pass that along to possible candidates.
You, the manager, set the tone for how employees interact, so if you encourage workplace friendships and camaraderie, it will filter down.
If you feel you should do more to encourage good workplace relationships, here are five easy ideas:
1) Really Get To Know Employees On A Personal Level
Learn a little something about employees’ families, past work experiences, hobbies or interests. It will come in handy when and if you know of other employees with things in common.
Most good managers already do this, but they don’t take the next step to help forge connections among their team members.
For example, if you know a new employee is a wine collector or an avid fly-fisherman or lives in a certain school district, introduce that employee to others who might share that connection.
This shows employees that you understand they have lives outside of the office and can feel free to open up. It also helps break the ice, which makes new employees more relaxed.
2) Create Points Of Connection With Career Experiences
Situate employees with similar professional backgrounds together when possible. It helps employees play to their own strengths and encourages them to use their particular expertise around someone else who “gets it.”
For example, if you know that three of your employees have a marketing background, you can suggest they work together as a team on marketing components of a project.
This helps employees share background experiences and come to appreciate each others’ skills.
3) Be The Social Director Once In A While
You don’t have to go overboard; employees who feel their managers insist on forced socialization can come to dread it.
But make sure your team gets to let their hair down occasionally.
Depending on the size of your group and your line of work, tailor some social events around what suits you the most. For some, it might be an occasional happy-hour gathering, an in-house spirit-building session, a work site picnic or even a monthly birthday celebration. Throw in some fun games (and prizes of course!), and make an effort to pair different people up each time.
Studies show that social interactions with co-workers make them less likely to get into arguments or squabbles later, and can cut down the risk of workplace conflict.
4) Remind Middle Managers To Build Ties, Too
Employee relationship-building can’t just come from you. If you oversee a group of submanagers, encourage them as well to foster relationships with and between their team members.
Otherwise, you could have half of your team not benefitting from positive relationships with their co-workers.
Let your lower-level managers in on the upsides of encouraging workplace camaraderie, and include them in plans for getting employees to socialize and feel more comfortable with each other.
5) Make Sure Your Feedback System Is Working
Many managers like to see an honest back-and-forth among their employees but are reluctant to enter the conversation themselves.
But the underlying tool that’s absolutely necessary for encouraging employee relationships is the manager’s willingness to spark honest communication.
In a work environment that stifles it, employees won’t feel free to be open and honest with each other (or with you, their boss).
So make sure your employees are aware of your open-door policy and don’t be shy about letting your team see you communicate freely with them.
Applaud employees when they put their heads together to come up with ideas and get creative without your prompting.
Knowing you’ll listen makes them more likely to do it, which makes working together that much more pleasant.
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