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Which Individuals Have the Most Positive Impact on the Employee Experience?

Many factors influence the employee experience, including the compensation and benefits you offer, your organization’s many talent management programs, and all the touchpoints employees have throughout their employment journey. But the one factor that has always mattered—and probably always will—is your employees’ connection to the people they encounter in their everyday work. 

This post will cover a key finding from our recent research about the power of employee connections at work. It will also outline steps you can take to deepen those connections in support of a better employee experience for your workforce.

Employee Connections: Which Are Most Influential?

Earlier this year, we conducted research to determine the drivers of employee connections at work, and the impact of those connections on the employee experience (you can download our full research report here). We asked survey respondents which of the following individuals have the most positive effect on their experience at work:

  • Colleagues in other departments
  • Company leadership
  • Customers
  • Colleagues in my department
  • Direct manager
  • Direct reports
  • HR
  • Senior manager

The two most popular choices among respondents were the individuals closest to most employees: department colleagues (selected by 63% of respondents) and direct manager (selected by 53%). 

Employees build meaningful connections with many individuals in the workplace, but our research reveals that connections with the people in their own department are the most valuable. Whether employees work on-site, remote, or on a hybrid schedule, their interactions with their department peers and manager have a significant positive impact on their employee experience.

Tips for Building Stronger Employee Connections

Given the importance of your employees’ connections with their manager and department colleagues, it’s worthwhile considering what you can do to deepen those connections. Consider the following actions:

Department Coworker Connections

One study found that most people want more friends at work, and 53% would even trade some of their pay for more meaningful relationships with their colleagues. While department colleagues aren’t always going to be close friends, they can build strong work relationships that make the employee experience better for everyone in the department. Here are some ways to make it possible:

  • Assign new hires a buddy: Buddies help employees navigate your culture. At Ingenuity, our new hires get a buddy, so they can build strong peer-to-peer connections starting on day one.
  • Incorporate peer feedback: Feedback from peers, whether as part of a 360-degree feedback program or standalone, can help employees build trust and see their work and behavior through the eyes of someone who knows their work intimately.
  • Balance work and non-work connections: In addition to encouraging collaboration on work projects, you can help employees connect outside of work via activities such as team volunteer activities and virtual events. 

Direct Manager Connections

As we discussed in an earlier post, managers are the ties that bind individuals and teams with the organization and their work. And while company leaders and other senior managers certainly influence the employee experience, direct managers have consistent, every-day impact. Here are some ways you can strengthen the connection between employees and their direct managers:

  • Train managers: Equipping managers with the tools they need to connect with their people takes more than a one-off manager training class. You’ll also need to provide managers with developmental experiences that teach them how to show empathy, build trust, and create an inclusive team environment.
  • Improve one-on-one meetings: Make employee one-on-ones a regular part of your culture, and make them a safe place for employees to give and receive manager feedback. 
  • Routinely conduct stay interviews: By asking employees the right questions, direct managers can understand what it takes to stay connected to them and prevent them from leaving.

Harness the Power of Employee Connections

As our research has found, employee connections can help you cultivate a more robust employee experience. And when you take deliberate action to improve the quality of those connections, you increase the chances of success even more. For more insights about the power of employee connections in your workplace, download our 2022 Employee Connections Study.