Why Organizations Should Focus on Employee Relationships in 2023

In 2022, a growing number of organizations focused on the employee experience as it looks today and beyond, and for good reason. 

A recent study from Gartner revealed that turnover is expected to increase by 20% compared to the annual average before the pandemic. The research firm anticipates that more than 37 million employees will voluntarily leave their jobs in 2022. The Great Resignation and, more recently, the Quiet Quitting trend have left companies struggling to attract and retain talent. 

As the nature of work and the role of the physical workplace continue evolving, so do the workforce’s needs. As CORT’s Head of Human Resources, Lisa Denny explained, “There’s been a significant change, obviously, since COVID in what people’s expectation for work looks like.  I think that transition has happened over the last 10 to 15 years. The increased flexibility and what the employees want and need have evolved. As well as their [employees’] loyalty to the company and what the HR department needs to bring to our employees has changed.   

It’s a different population. The generations, you know, we have a lot of employees who’ve been with the company for a long time, but a lot of the millennials and then the group after millennials, it’s different. What they’re looking for out of their employer is different in how they value what work gives them. So, I think they need to evolve to meet our employees where they’re at.” 

Part of that evolution involves prioritizing not only the employee experience in general but also employees’ opportunities to build meaningful relationships, which can be more challenging given the mix of today’s hybrid, remote, and in-office work schedules. Data from Deloitte showed that 56% of employees in the United States struggle to build camaraderie, human connection, and collaboration with the increase in virtual work. 

Those meaningful relationships are among the factors that drive a positive employee experience, which also directly affects engagement, performance, and retention. After all, work isn’t just about the individual. It’s also about groups and teams, shared conversations, and collaborations, which can be difficult to build in virtual spaces.  

As new employees join an organization, building connections within the workplace can be challenging. In today’s workplace, it’s arguably more important than ever to focus on fostering relationships as a vehicle to create the types of workplace experiences that will help retain talent and encourage new employees to stay for the long haul.  

How can leaders prioritize relationship building, both at the beginning of an employee’s journey with the organization and on an ongoing basis?

The Power of One-on-One Meetings 

Engagement is a critical factor in the employee experience and well-being. Meeting each employee’s basic psychological needs can help increase engagement. But how can leaders know those needs without getting to know each employee? 

That’s the power of one-on-one meetings. They’re a valuable tool in understanding what drives and motivates employees and their goals while also helping to build trust between leadership and employees. The relationship between managers and employees is vital at every stage of the employee experience. Leaders must be willing to not only get to know each individual but also to help them feel valued and envision their futures within the organization. 

During one-on-ones, leaders also have an excellent opportunity to ensure that workers understand their expectations. Although it may seem like a given, research from Gallup showed that only 41% of employees strongly agree that the work they’re asked to do matches their job description. Additionally, research from Microsoft revealed employees who have clarity about their workplace priorities are 4 1/2 times more likely to express feelings of happiness about their current company.  

Schedule time regularly to build relationships, even in informal one-on-one interactions. Quick, 10-minute conversations about the weekend or brief check-ins throughout the day to see how things are going can go a long way to building stronger relationships and increased clarity.  

The Support of a Workplace Mentor 

Learning and growth are the number one drivers of company culture. When researchers from Microsoft assessed the state of the modern workplace in the wake of the massive changes and shifts that have transpired over the past few years, they discovered one of the key elements necessary to establish a strong culture employees want to be part of is the opportunity to learn and grow. They found that it was the number one driver of company culture, but approximately 55% of employees believe the best way to learn and grow is to leave their current company.  

That statistic underscores the importance of providing employees with chances for enrichment, including online classes or training, on-the-job training, and upward or lateral movement within the company.  

Assigning new hires to a mentor is also an effective strategy. It allows employees on both sides of the relationship to learn and grow. It empowers employees and gives them a sense of autonomy over their professional development. It also improves productivity by giving the mentee someone to turn to with questions or challenges and helps mentors develop leadership skills and a deeper sense of purpose.  

Additionally, mentorship can be successful no matter the organization’s work model. Mentors and mentees can communicate face-to-face in the workplace or virtually if one or both work remotely or on a hybrid work schedule.  

The Dynamics of Teamwork 

Collaboration and teamwork are essential not only for an organization’s success but also for each individual employee. Teamwork – both in-person and virtual – has various benefits, including an increase in growth opportunities. Additionally, research from The Atlassian showed that people who work as part of a team are 80% more likely to be happy, with improved emotional well-being that often correlates to increased productivity. Being part of a team can help individuals discover skills they want to nurture and even reduce burnout as team members provide emotional support for each other. 

Despite the many benefits, numerous barriers can inhibit functionality. leadership that fails to engage team members, poor decision-making, ineffective communication, and the lack of well-defined roles can all pose a barrier to performance. These same factors can strain the bonds and relationships between team members and create a negative atmosphere.  

Leaders must be intentional about team-building. HR professionals must be intentional about taking leadership to task when needed.  

As CORT’s Corporate Vice President of Human Resources, Jeff Seidman explained, “HR culture tends to be an area that people view as ‘HR space.’ I view it more from the standpoint of it’s really our ‘senior executive leadership space.’” They drive culture, and our job in HR is to have the wherewithal to tell them when we think the culture is veering off from where their expectations are. It’s our job to kind of be a ‘voice of the organization’ back to senior leadership. So that when we see things that don’t fit, we can at least let them know and provide the right level of feedback to make adjustments.” 

Everyone should be on board with creating high-functioning teams. With the introduction of each new employee, there’s a fresh opportunity to establish or reestablish the group dynamics and norms to ensure every voice is heard, opportunities are available for building critical bonds, and collaborative efforts are on track to meet their goals.  

The Role of the Physical Workspace in Creating Better Employee Relationships

After the pandemic forced what many refer to as “The Great Remote Work Experiment,” many people wondered what it meant for the future of the physical workspace. Although the office’s role is still evolving, it has proven to be a vital factor in the employee experience. Teamwork and building strong relationships are often best done in person. Some workers may need to come to the physical workplace not only for camaraderie and collaboration but also for quiet, focused work.  

Creating a workplace that is Permanently Flexible™ is an essential strategy to support the changing physical space and adapt as new employees join the organization. Supportive work environments must address a diverse (and often changing) list of employee needs, providing employees freedom and flexibility to work in ways that are best for them.  

As new employees join the workplace, the dynamics of the group change and evolve, requiring flexibility between teams and team members — whether they work full-time in the office or on a hybrid schedule. With CORT’s Furniture-as-a-Service (FaaS), organizations can seamlessly ensure that spaces are prepared to welcome and accommodate new team members, changing dynamics, and evolving work schedules. What that looks like differs for every organization but often includes having spaces for teamwork and collaboration, areas for quiet, individual work, and places that offer some privacy for one-on-one meetings.  

Creating a Positive Experience for All Employees 

The employee experience is critical, which is why it’s among the top priorities for organizations moving into 2023. For new hires, particularly with the rise of remote and hybrid work schedules, fostering the necessary connections with management and team members can be challenging. Through one-on-one meetings, team dynamics, mentorship, and a supportive workplace design, companies can create a positive experience not only for new hires but all employees.   

Introducing new employees requires shifts in the dynamics and the physical workspace. With CORT Permanently Flexible and FaaS, organizations can quickly adapt and pivot to meet the changing needs of their employees.