The Importance of Staying Connected With Your Employees

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

It’s that dreaded statement no boss wants to hear from his or her superstar employee: “Do you have a moment? I need to talk to you about something.” Sure it can be as harmless as asking a question about a strategic initiative, but it also could be the time when your employee gives notice.

In 2013, 2 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs every month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. What’s more, a 2013 study of workforce culture by Root Inc. revealed the following harrowing employee satisfaction statistics:

  • More than half of employees have felt frustrated about work
  • Only 38 percent feel their managers have established an effective working relationship with them
  • Forty percent are unclear of the company’s vision—or have never even seen it

As a manager executive, it’s time to pump the brakes and ask yourself a very critical question: Do you have a handle on how your employees feel?

Staying connected with your team is not as difficult as you may think, especially in today’s technologically-rich environment. There are a myriad of tactics you can take to remain plugged in…let’s take a look at a few:

  • One-on-One Meetings: A June study released by LeadershipIQ found that employees that spend more time with a direct supervisor experience higher levels of engagement, motivation and inspiration. So what’s the magic number of hours you should spend with your employees one-on-one? Six. Now six hours a week may seem next to impossible, given all you have to handle, so try starting small. Carve out one hour every week to meet with each of your direct reports and focus on listening to them. In addition to asking them to review current projects, suggest that now is the time to bring up anything else on their mind. Create an atmosphere that fosters open communication so your employees know you value their input.
  • Town Hall Sessions: While one-on-ones are an effective tactic for connecting with your employees on a more personal level, holding corporate-wide town hall sessions is optimal to garner overarching sentiment. Select a few times a year—maybe once a quarter or once a month—to invite the entire organization to participate in an open forum. If you have a fairly communicative bunch, you can lead with an open mic session. But if your employees are more reserved, encourage them to submit comments and concerns anonymously via a drop box before the event. You can use these submittals to craft your agenda.
  • Technology Innovations: Chances are at least some of your workforce operates remotely—meaning one-on-ones and town hall sessions can be challenging. Thankfully, technology has evolved to allow you to simulate in-person gatherings. For instance, you can leverage technologies like video/audio conferencing and instant messaging to bolster communication and collaboration. It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected, so be sure you don’t leave them out of discussions. Invest in the right technologies—or make good use of what you already have—to  bridge the communication gap.

Remaining connected with your employees is critical to keeping your business thriving. When your employees feel engaged, your quality of customer service, portfolio of offerings and strategic investments benefit considerably. Here at InfoCision, for instance, we maintain an open-door policy where any employee can walk into any executive’s office at any time to share ideas or thoughts.

Looking for more tips to augment your company culture? Check out the following resources:

Cincinnati Bengals Build Organizational Unity Doing the Right Thing

We’ve discussed the importance of building a positive, family-like company culture on this blog before. The Cincinnati Bengals, an NFL team in InfoCision’s home state of Ohio, recently provided a wonderful example of how this can be accomplished.

Not long ago, Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still learned that his four-year-old daughter Leah had pediatric cancer that left her with just a 50 percent chance for long-term survival. Understandably shocked upon hearing the news, Still could not fully participate or focus on Bengals training camp and was cut from the club as a result. The 25-year-old understood and agreed with the team’s decision, until medical professionals told him that his daughter’s treatment could cost up to $1 million. Having been cut from the Bengals roster, Still was no longer insured, which made paying for treatments a tall order.

But the Bengals organization found a solution. They brought Still back as part of the club’s 10-man practice squad—a reserve of players every NFL team maintains—which allowed him to stay on the team’s insurance plan. Additionally, the team gave him permission to leave at any time to spend time with his daughter. Eventually, with the support of the team behind him and the comfort of knowing he could leave to see his daughter whenever he needed, Still was able to concentrate more on football and was actually moved to the team’s active roster for its second game of the season.

But the story didn’t end there. The Bengals also announced that proceeds from sales of Still’s jersey—which cost $100 each—would be donated to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and earmarked for pediatric cancer research. As Still’s story went national, his No. 75 jersey broke the team’s record for sales in a single day; to date, more than $500,000 has been raised from these purchases. Even other NFL teams got involved, with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton buying 100 jerseys himself.

Still’s story went viral nationally and the Bengals received quite a bit of well-deserved positive attention, something every organizations enjoys when it happens. More than that, however, the franchise showed its players and other staffers that it views them as more than just replaceable pieces in a giant machine. The NFL can be a cold business where players are unceremoniously cut for underperforming all the time. But Bengals upper management showed that they value their employees as human beings.

So what are the takeaways from this story? First, it’s unlikely your business will be negatively impacted long-term by doing the right thing for your employees. Second, supporting your employees is actually an intelligent business move. Providing extra support—through on-site childcare or workplace wellness programs, for instance—may cost a little extra upfront, but happier employees are more productive, loyal and better able to deliver a high quality of customer service. In other words, when it comes to your employees, doing the right thing and the smart thing are usually one and the same.