• August 2014

Making Connections—It's Not Just a Customer-Service Strategy

By Barbara Mitchell
HR expert and co-author
The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR

I have spent much of my HR career studying why employees either stay or leave organizations, and after a great deal of research and observation, I think it all comes down to one word: CONNECTION!

Just as businesses are learning that making connections with their customers can pay off in increased sales and customer loyalty, savvy organizations are finding out that if they take the time to learn how to connect with their employees, engagement and retention increase.

To simplify a very complex issue facing most organizations today, I believe there are four ways organizations can connect with employees.

All it really takes is one of these and odds are, you will retain that employee longer than if the connection didn’t exist.

  • Connection to the organization: Today’s workers want to work for an organization that either shares their values or at least has values! Employees want to be proud of where they work. That doesn’t mean the organization has to be a “name” business—just that the organization stands for something either through the products and services they provide or through their support of the communities where they live and work.
  • Connection to the work: Today’s workers also want to know where their work fits into the overall strategy of their company. I hear it all the time from applicants and new hires, who say they want to know that what they do really matters. This means managers have to learn how to share both the big picture and the pieces that fit into that picture so that employees know that what they do makes a difference. This holds true in for-profit businesses as well as mission-driven organizations.
  • Connection to the manager: As in past generations, today’s workers want to respect their manager but now, more than ever, they want to have a personal connection to that person. I don’t mean outside the office, but at work, they want a manager who cares about them and their work and their future. They want a manager who knows who they are as an individual and who “gets” what motivates them. We’ve all heard the adage, “people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers,” and I think this holds true now more than ever before.
  • Connection to co-workers: Today’s workers want to work with people they can share a laugh with or something interesting that is happening in their life. Gallup calls this “having a best friend at work.” This is another great way to have employees connect with your organization by providing opportunities for your employees to get to know each other and bond over the work they do.

The Bottom Line

Think about your organization and whether you are encouraging or discouraging connections to be formed. That simple word—connection—can change everything for you and for your employees!


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding The Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook, and The Big Book of HR. Click here to buy the book.

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