Purposeful connection is the new focus for leading organisations
I can't help but think that many workplaces are feeling more and more like airport lounges - their fit out is impeccable, important looking people come and go, and lone figures tap away at their computers, getting up from their screens occasionally to grab a coffee or to head to their next commitment. It’s a description that may not apply to all workplaces, yet like the airport lounge, most workplaces have an illusion of activity that masks a lack of real human connection. And even as we work increasingly from home (whether due to lockdown or by choice) we are taking these behaviours online and that is a real problem!
Every year in the US, organisations spend more than $100bn on engagement surveys. Yet more than 40% of the workforce is not fully engaged at work.
Gallup research shows that just a 10% improvement in employees' connection with the mission or purpose of their organisation leads to an 8.1% decrease in turnover and a 4.4% increase in profitability. The research also supports that, of all the steps leaders take to be sure people will perform well in a job, the real magic is purposeful connection to their organisation and colleagues. For that reason, as hybrid and flexible working becomes the norm, leading organisations are shifting their focus to looking at ways technology can be leveraged to ensure employees stay connected and engaged.
In our own work with organisations, we see this challenge showing up at a very individual level - often people don't know who to reach out to for a quick question, where the skills that could help them sit within the organisation or even who might be willing to invest in their development as a mentor. The larger and more complex the organisation is the more likely employees are to identify only with their own team rather than tapping into the vast knowledge, skills and experience that sit within their organisation. How often do people realise that what they were doing has already been done somewhere else? How much faster could innovation be delivered if only employees were connecting and collaborating across markets and business units.
Leading organisations create an environment where more people can bring diverse perspectives, experiences and backgrounds together, and in doing so, the impact on innovation is significant. Creativity thrives, problem solving improves and game changing ideas are given space to change the game.
Professor William Kahn, of Boston University, who first coined the concept of engagement, saw meaningfulness as one of three key drivers of engagement – defined as “Does an employee find their work meaningful enough (to the organisation and to society) to warrant them engaging their full self?” As Kahn highlighted, engagement occurs when a person is able to “harness their full selves” to their work.
We all know the energy that is generated when we have an amazing conversation that leaves us excited, optimistic and inspired to make change. We also know that helping someone or being helped generates a similar response. Seeing the boost people get from a mentor who supports their development, or the breakthrough when a critical project gets done faster by tapping into their colleagues skills – these are the moments of connection which humanise work. And this is backed up by research which demonstrates that the same feeling - common to highly engaged employees - drives innovation, creativity and productivity.
By making purposeful connections, people are able to extend their networks, develop in areas which have meaning to them, and contribute to others. This creates mutual benefits which strengthen and deepen the conditions for collaboration.
This is why leading organisations are focusing more and more on purposeful connections as a key unlock for their organisations potential. What connections are you making today?
Published by Vincent Vuillard
Vincent is the Co-Founder of FutureWork Studio, a global tech and consulting company based in New Zealand, helping organisations adapt to the rapidly changing world. FutureWork Studio's platform Hive is used by leading organisations to solve problems and connect people at scale.