Long before the coronavirus, the United States was experiencing a devastating epidemic, that of loneliness. By using the term epidemic may seem insensitive or appear to trivialize the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the lack of connection has had an extraordinary impact on physical and psychological well-being and has only been exacerbated over the past two years in our personal and professional lives.
Social disconnect has physiological implications, affecting blood pressure, immunity and inflammation, and presenting itself through other health risks such as obesity, physical inactivity and likelihood to engage in addictive behaviors such as chain smoking.
On the other hand, social connection paints a hopeful picture. Studies show that social cohesion and relationships improve individual and organizational health. Benefits such as an increased sense of well-being and purpose, higher cognitive functioning and learning, greater resilience, and reduced burnout make a compelling human case for connection.
Equally important are the benefits of social connection in a business context. Employees with social connections show more engagement, stay longer, experience fewer injuries, contribute to knowledge sharing and innovation, produce more, and perform better than those without.
Development is an important tool that managers can use to create greater employee connection and growth within an organization. Applied thoughtfully and in collaboration with employees, career development can restore and strengthen a worker’s bond with their manager, teammates, and the organization as a whole and produce real business results.
Relationships between managers and their employees
The simple act of engaging in a career or development conversation with an employee creates a connection, sending the message that the employee matters and the manager cares. Exploring people’s interests, strengths, priorities and aspirations contributes to intimate social interaction. The time invested and the trust established between a manager and his employees go a long way to forging stronger bonds, which improve engagement, satisfaction and results.
Managers don’t need formal processes or systems for this to happen. All they need is genuine commitment to connect, curiosity, and a few good questions like these to spark thought and genuine engagement in their one-on-one, ad-hoc conversations:
- Which of your skills and superpowers are responsible for your current success? How can you leverage them for your future success?
- What would allow you to take your current contributions to the next level?
- What would you like to know or know more about?
- What would you like to accomplish?
- What kind of work do you want to do?
- How would you describe the brand you are trying to build in our organization?
Such questions allow managers and employees to explore opportunities for growth and co-create next steps toward greater capability and contribution while cultivating connection.
Link of employees with others
Much of what we learn comes from others. Therefore, a development that exploits this 20% of the 70-20-10 model is an obvious way to combat disconnection. Coaching, mentoring, job shadowing and job shadowing, learning and job shadowing: these and other strategies enable learning and growth within the organization with a social touch. Employees meet new people, expand their networks, and generate a sense of community that builds belonging, strengthens the social fabric of the organization, and builds skills, capabilities, and effectiveness.
Link of employees with the organization
Working remotely for two years, employees frequently express a sense of detachment from the organization itself. Bumping into colleagues on the way to coffee, getting informal project updates over lunch, and looking clients in the eye are situations that no longer happen; the absence of these experiences alienated some employees from the mission and culture of the organization.
Growth is a useful reconnection strategy. Managers can use these opportunities to reinforce the mission, vision and values. They can create an unambiguous breadcrumb trail from what someone is learning to what is most important to the organization. If, for example, a manager is helping an employee improve a skill like listening, the manager needs to put it into context. By sharing how critical listening is to honoring the voice of the customer, the manager connects the dots for the employee on how it is that voice that offers the insights needed to improve service and innovate products that improve the life. Connecting employees to the big picture connects them to the organization and everyone in that ecosystem.
Development has long been recognized as a powerful strategy to drive engagement and performance, but it takes on even more importance today as a tool to mitigate feelings of disconnect within the workforce. of today. Improved skills, a greater ability to contribute, and employees who feel connected to their managers, peers, and the organization: these benefits should put development at the top of every manager’s to-do list.