In today's fast-paced world of work, corporate leaders and business owners are constantly striving to achieve success while in the pursuit of profits and growth. Unfortunately, one important factor that often gets overlooked is the value put on relationships and connections within the workplace.

Attractive compensation packages and incentives are not enough to keep people committed and fulfilled in their roles. What I am seeing and know from experience is there needs to be a focus on creating an environment where people feel valued, engaged, and connected.

The Bureau of Statistics shows that in Australia, 13.8 million people were employed in February 2023. Over half had been employed in their current job for less than five years. About 1 in 5 (21%) had been in their job for less than one year. People are moving; they are seeking purpose, appreciation, and connection. 282,700 professionals changed jobs during the year ending February 2023, which was a 24% share of all people who changed jobs. The pain is real, and apart from the cost of rehiring, we are losing great talent and diminishing what could be a great workplace culture.

In this week’s Limitless Leaders blog, I want to explore and expand on why I believe relationships and connection are key to retaining staff who are fulfilled, productive, committed, and happy.

The business of business is relationships;
the business of life is human connection.
-Robin Sharma

Working across a myriad of organisations, I see many putting a high value of forging and sustaining strong connective relationships as part of the culture. On the flip side, there are those organisations that are so focused on the bottom line, profit, and productivity that the human element is put on the back burner.

I say, “Put people before process and progress.” We can have the best strategy, systems, and structure in place, but without the people, nothing can be achieved, and the culture would be soulless.

There are many strategies we can implement to create and foster connection and deeper relationships in the workplace. I’ve expanded on a few that I have seen in practice.

Promote Open Communication: Encourage open, honest, and transparent communication channels between management, employees, and divisions. The pay-off is that this creates a sense of trust and empowers employees to voice their concerns, ideas, challenges and even mistakes without fear of facing consequences. Be sure to diarise and implement regular one-on-one meetings and team gatherings to promote a culture of openness.

Adopt the Gift Mindset Culture: Create regular open forums such as “Win Wednesdays” and “Failure Fridays” where people can share their gifts (lessons) from the challenging and positive experiences they encounter. This is a great way for people to connect through sharing best practices and what they have learnt from challenges or mistakes that could be a survival guide for someone else. These Gift Mindset forums allow people to share the good and the bad without judgement and with support to move beyond their mistakes or challenges.

Create activities to bring people together: A great idea that maximises learning and connection is to invest in initiatives that boost employee engagement. This could include things such as training and development programs, team-building activities, and wellness initiatives. When people learn and grow together, relationships grow deeper, especially if participants are grouped together for accountability check ins and regular catch ups. When people are engaged, they are more likely to stay committed to their roles, knowing their growth and well-being are valued.

Conduct Stay Interviews: This concept was something I bought into organisations many years ago. By simply conducting periodic stay interviews, you get to understand what motivates employees to stay and what aspects might lead them to consider leaving. This proactive approach allows leaders to address potential issues and implement necessary changes to improve retention. If you’d like to know more, please go to an article I wrote on this here.

Promote a Collaborative Environment: Collaboration is key; when people feel like they belong, they feel connected and part of something bigger. Getting teams to brainstorm or co-create together results in collaboration, connection, and buy-in. When employees feel connected to their colleagues, they are more likely to form long-lasting bonds and are less likely to leave for another job opportunity. Encourage cross-functional projects and open spaces for brainstorming and knowledge sharing.

Practice gratitude: Lack of recognition and praise is a key reason many people leave organisations. Take the time to acknowledge and appreciate employee contributions regularly. A simple “thank you” or recognition program can go a long way in making employees feel valued and motivated to continue performing at their best. A great question to ask at team catch up is, “Who and what are you grateful for?” Gratitude is now proven to have wellbeing effects, something much needed now.

Leverage strengths: We all have strengths and certain things we enjoy doing at work. Find out what lights people up and delegate to these strengths. Ensure individuals know each-other’s strengths, then these can be leveraged, and everyone will feel involved and be doing what they love at the same time.

Make work-life balance a priority: Burnout, exhaustion, mental issues and overwhelm are in play more than ever. Recognise the importance of work-life balance and encourage employees to take time off to recharge, set boundaries around work hours and come up with sustainable ways of working. Burnout is a leading cause of employee turnover, so promoting a healthy balance between work and personal life is essential.

Relationships and connection are priority factors in staff retention. I believe as leaders, or as a business owner, we need to nurture these bonds within organisations.

There is no magic pill for retention; sometimes, freeing up an employee’s future is the right thing to do, but in many cases, we lose great people for the wrong reasons.

We need to be proactive, and by fostering some of the above strategies, we can create a workplace where employees feel valued, engaged, and fulfilled. Investing in these key actions will not only lead to improved employee retention but also contribute to a more successful and sustainable business in the long run.

Please remember, your employees are your most valuable asset – nurture those relationships, and your business will thrive.