March 2023
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TD Magazine

Strengthen Employee Bonds

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Emotional and intellectual connections are critical across teams and within companies.

A common belief about business culture is that the more connected colleagues are, the more productive they will be. That's because teams that feel connected promote higher levels of collaboration and engage in more knowledge sharing. As businesses embrace hybrid work arrangements for the long term, leaders continue to question how they can nurture employees' connections to each other, their teams, and the broader organization.

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In partnership with RedThread Research, a human capital research and advisory firm, communication and workflow platform Enboarder surveyed more than 700 employees and leaders across North America and Europe to explore the business impact of increased connection at work. Unsurprisingly, the study found that organizations with more connection are 2.3 times more likely to have engaged employees.

The report, Rethinking Connection for a Hybrid Work World, digs deep into the power of connected workers, separating connection into three major categories: within teams, across teams, and within the organization. The report notes that companies that invest in aiding connection are 5.4 times more likely to be agile. For instance, two-thirds of managers at highly agile organizations make the effort to connect with team members on a personal level.

But to effectively enable connection at work, those three categories aren't enough, the report asserts. The research further breaks down connection into intellectual versus emotional connection. It describes the latter as a sense of acceptance and belonging to employees, whereas intellectual connection taps into what workers need to know—people, ideas, and information.

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"Broadly speaking, employees need intellectual connection across teams to get things done and grow their careers. By contrast, emotional connection across teams is more about finding and building community," the report states.

Rethinking Connection suggests strategies for forming and deepening those types of connections. For example, employee resource groups and dedicated Slack and Microsoft Teams channels can help workers form emotional bonds across teams. To deepen emotional connections, the report recommends employers adopt cross-functional coaching and peer-to-peer mentor groups. Similarly, establishing expertise directories and cohorts is a tactic for forming intellectual connections across teams; communities of practice, job rotation programs, job shadowing, and stretch assignments can deepen those connections.

The report concludes that as businesses struggle with readiness in today's economic uncertainty, "strengthening connection in organizations is one way to enable them to weather whatever does come their way."

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

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