5 Ways to Form a Real Human Connection at Work
Human connection is more important than ever before. Here are five ways to form authentic human connections in the workplace.
Do people take human connection for granted? Thanks to technology, the world is arguably more connected than ever before, but it can be tough to connect to others authentically and to form genuine human connections.
Doing so in the workplace can feel particularly challenging. Whether a company’s employees are in the same office or separated by thousands of miles, making a human connection can be tough, especially when juggling project deadlines, conducting meetings, and doing everything in between.
Research has shown that social connections improve mental and physical health. In fact, individuals with stronger social relationships saw a 50 percent increase in lifespan. A UCLA study on loneliness found that social connection is a more significant determinant of health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
This social connection can be achieved whether an individual is working from home or is in the office. But how does one create meaningful connections at work? How do people connect with others through the interview process, while onboarding at a new company, or when working from home indefinitely?
Experts at Spectrum—one of the leading broadband connectivity companies in the US with more than 96,000 employees serving over 31 million customers—offered several suggestions for how to authentically connect in the workplace, both remotely and in-person. The key for Spectrum, says Marti Moore, the company’s Group Vice President for Technology Implementation, is to focus everyday workplace interactions around the company’s core values.
“Spectrum employees are expected to be experts in their field, to work with integrity and actively promote teamwork, to earn their co-workers’ respect and customers’ trust, and to continuously pursue growth and learning in their roles,” Moore explains. “Having open discussions around these values can open doors with individuals or teams that may share similar goals, which in turn can open doors and lead to great future collaborations.”
Moore and her colleagues at Spectrum offered the following five tips for creating authentic connection at work:
1. Create and Nurture a Community-First Work Environment
A community-first work environment means to ensure that there is a healthy human connection between team members and the team’s clients, such as customers or members of other teams. Creating this environment requires people to step outside of their job description and volunteer their time and talents to build relationships and get to really know people.
Community-first means checking in regularly with individuals beyond their day-to-day duties to see how people are faring, to find areas to lend support and to identify areas needing improvement. Team leaders also need to create space for everyone to provide input and provide support for each other, so the team is operating as a singular entity headed toward a common goal.
Creating these community-first connections is more than sending a weekly check-in email. It’s diving into the inner workings, understanding the challenges customers face first-hand, and working to improve products and services.
“We are active in local chambers and other groups and we work hard to keep the small business customers within our communities working effectively and efficiently to build strong local economies,” says Jo-Anne Sweredoski, Senior Director of Small and Medium-sized Business (SMB) Sales at Spectrum. “We do this by serving and interacting with those in our community every day.”
2. Find Your Mentor (+ Find Your Mentees)
Mentorship is crucial to a successful workplace. Seventy-one percent of Fortune 500 companies have a formal mentorship program.
Workplace mentorship has enormous benefits when it comes to employee creativity, collaboration, retention, happiness and productivity. Mentorships are often mutually beneficial and the benefits of workplace mentorship can be far reaching. According to a recent study:
- Eighty-seven percent of mentors and mentees have reported a sense of empowerment from their mentoring relationship;
- Eighty-nine percent of mentees contribute to an ongoing culture of learning by going on to become mentors themselves;
- Mentees are five times more likely to be promoted;
- Mentoring programs have also been proven to boost minority representation in management.
Spectrum recognizes and supports the importance of mentorship, for example, through their Spectrum Women Business Resource Group. Through this voluntary program, employees have the opportunity to engage in activities that provide the opportunity of mentorship, enabling women to create and achieve their goals for success in both their professional and personal growth.
“Mentorships provide an invaluable opportunity for participants to connect and develop a relationship that is based on a mutual desire to learn new things and grow professionally,” says Kate Belfiglio, Director of Marketing & Creative Strategy. “Mentees are able to truly ‘pick the brains’ of their mentors, and to learn from their experiences and how to apply that to their own career paths.”
Danielle Gaston, Spectrum’s Vice President of HR Communications, recommends seeking out peers, managers or colleagues to serve as mentors. “When looking for a mentor, be sure to clearly articulate your intentions,” she says. “What are you looking for from a mentor? Is it guidance while determining your career path, navigating through a particular industry, or overall growth in your professional life? Be sure you can clearly articulate that intention when asking someone to be a mentor.”
Employees seeking mentors should also leverage their network at work to identify those professionals who have the experience, career goals, skills and interests they are wishing to develop.
“We are absolutely encouraged to learn more from one another, seek out leadership, and pursue one-to-one relationships that help drive success,” says Diana Monk, Vice President of Learning Solutions for Spectrum. “Some of my most memorable conversations have been born out of mentoring relationships, on both sides of the mentorship coin.”
- Build Bridges When and Where They’re Needed
When the pandemic hit, workplace teams everywhere discovered they suddenly needed to develop relationships they hadn’t known they needed. The same was true at Spectrum.
“On my team, we had to very quickly determine how to continue our recruitment operation safely and effectively,” recalls Deanna Zimmerman, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition. “We had to learn from each other how to evolve our process and we relied on other teams to effectively build the bridges that would take us there. It was a nice moment to watch and be a part of as we worked through an unprecedented time.”
There also needs to be an open-door policy, where every person can feel secure to ask a question—and receive a thoughtful answer from the very top.
“It’s not unheard of for a new person to reach out to a top performer in another market with a quick question, and it is always answered,” Sweredoski says. “We build bridges of connection.”
After all, what’s the point of being connected if people are not talking with those who have the tools to help out?
- Create Real Psychological Safety
Psychological safety is essential in the workplace. It allows every team member to feel safe and empowered to ask questions, offer insight and opinions, and disagree without facing repercussions.
Psychological safety means individuals in the workplace never feel the need to preface a statement with, “This may sound stupid, but…”
“The bedrock of psychological safety is an understanding that you are free to show up as your authentic self, and in doing so, you know your team will have your back,” says Aithyni Rucker, Director Diversity & Inclusion at Spectrum. “Leveraging an inclusive mindset and behaviors are imperative to show your co-workers that you care and support them.”
Rucker works to ensure that psychological safety thrives by:
- Showing up for our teammates through courage and collaboration;
- Maintaining cognizance of differing work needs and cultural backgrounds during these challenging times;
- Taking steps, large and small, to show that commitment to each other in order to build and maintain trust.
Spectrum makes it a top priority to create an inclusive work environment and ensure all employees are treated fairly and respectfully. As workplaces continue to evolve, so, too, does the importance of combining diversity, which focuses on people’s differences, with inclusion, which is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all people can thrive and succeed.
“I believe that when people feel seen and heard, every aspect of life is improved,” Sweredoski says.
- Base Everything on Your Values
This gets back to Moore’s original point: Who employees are and how they connect with each other is greatly influenced by a company’s core values. Successful companies bring their core values to the forefront, not only to their customers but also to their employees. Spectrum consistently reinforces the company’s core values – be an expert in your field, work with integrity and promote teamwork, earn the respect of co-workers and the trust of customers, and pursue growth and learning – for employees on various internal platforms.
“At the start of an employee’s journey with us and throughout their career, we communicate the importance of core values that are essential to emulate, not only for our customers but for each other,” says Anabel Chavez, Vice President of Customer Service. “Living by these values every day, for each other and for our customers is essential for our success and wellbeing.”
Granted, core values change as people navigate life. This is true for companies, too, as they are constantly required to shift their values to navigate through a rapidly changing and growing world. An important piece for someone seeking to make the proper connection with a company is to ensure alignment of values.
Most companies' values outlined in their mission statement or employee value proposition.
Identifying Core Values
So how does one begin to identify their core values? It may be helpful to start by asking a few questions:
- What is important to me?
- What makes me feel accomplished?
- Where are my priorities in life and my work?
- What are my wants, needs, and non-negotiables in my life and my career?
When a person can honestly answer these questions, they are likely to notice a theme in what they want their career to look like, how they need it to support their personal life, and how they want to be treated and treat others in the process.
Here are some examples of what you may find your core values to be: (list in link)
We created a fill-in-the-blanks mantra that allows you to continuously honor (and alter!) your core values as you navigate your career.
My life’s work prioritizes _______________ over _______________.
My best efforts will earn me _______________, _______________, and _______________.
My priorities will definitely not include _______________, _______________, and _______________.
Finally, and typically this is a big one. Be open to change in your core values as they tend to grow as you do.
If you find a culture of human connection is at the core of your work values, consider exploring Spectrum’s Career Page for opportunities, events, and more information on a company dedicated to connecting humans—from personal needs to small businesses and beyond.
This article was originally posted on Career Contessa.
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