How do workplace relationships impact employee experience?

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When you consider that we spend one-third of our life at work, the importance of our professional relationships becomes clear. Having meaningful connections builds respect for others and helps create an environment where people are confident to express their options, which in turn can promote innovation and the courage to pursue new ideas.

According to a study from Gallup, people who consider their colleagues as close friends are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. This not only helps improve their wellbeing, but these positive relationships are linked to better customer engagement and increased profits. That said, cultivating meaningful interactions at work is dependent on many aspects; from the organisational culture and leadership model to the tools used to communicate and collaborate.

Working in a virtual world

The post pandemic digital transformation of the modern workplace has not been an easy transition. Remote and hybrid working is taking precedence over the usual office-bound 9-5 and while this flexibility has in many cases provided a better work/life balance for most people, it has also caused relationships between managers and staff to come under the spotlight.

Nurturing positive connections with work colleagues, managers and the leadership is challenging when your primary means of communication has switched from face-to-face meetings to virtual interactions. However, rather than removing the human touch, technology can be used as a tool that facilitates communication and helps build stronger relationships. This involves putting the right training and support in place so employees can work just as efficiently using these new digital channels. And when employees feel that the impact of the digital switch and remote working on their wellbeing is being considered, it shows them that the employee experience is important to their leaders – and that in turn can improve engagement.

The humanising of management

Employee engagement remains an essential driver of employee performance, both on-site and remotely and cultivating the manager and employee relationship is paramount to maintaining a positive experience. Figures from XCD’s Employee Experience Survey 2022 bear this out with a fifth of respondents saying that they would be more likely to go above and beyond more often if they had a better relationship with their manager. What’s more, employees who said they were invested in their employer’s success were three times more likely to say their relationship with their manager was good and twice as likely to report a good relationship with leaders. These employees were also three times more likely to often go above and beyond for their employer.

“The pandemic has altered everyone’s view of their colleagues,” says HR consultant and director at ReThink, Phillipa Barnes. “Online meetings have given us a window into people’s homes, their families, their children. For some leaders, this has meant appreciating that their people have real lives outside of work, and the perks of being a leader don’t extend to everyone.

“Many I’ve spoken to have started to think differently about the people who work for them. They’ve realised that there are more things they can do to make their lives easier, at very little cost to the organisation.”

This humanising of the workforce, particularly for line managers and leaders, can only be helpful in strengthening the employee experience by building awareness and empathy. But what can HR do to help ensure these relationships remain healthy?

Using tech to connect individuals

The report provides an indication of where HR and reward teams can focus their efforts in 2022 to boost engagement and keep the employee experience positive – with the end goal of boosting retention and helping consolidate recruitment efforts. One of the tools at HR’s disposal is the technology that enables communication, recognition, benefits, and rewards. Implementing a platform that brings all these threads together can keep line managers accountable for their role in employee experience – and their employee relationships. And while the survey revealed that over three quarters, (77%) admitted that poor workplace technology impacts their experience, we know that HR leaders are listening, and are turning their focus to improving all aspects of their employees’ working lives.

To learn more about employee experience, download our report here.