How Entrepreneurs Create Connection in the Age of Isolation
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We as entrepreneurs sometimes get stuck in our own head and don't realize that we haven't engaged enough with our team. We think everything is running smoothly, yet our employees might feel disengaged due to overuse of technology and a lack of human connection. In today's business world, employees want to bring their full selves into the workplace. We have to accept this reality and empathize with them where they already are so they feel appreciated and supported as a person, not just as an employee. As entrepreneurs, sometimes we use technology as a crutch when communicating and collaborating with our employees. We think technology is the solution, yet it can never replace real human interactions.
In a new global study, my company Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse found that half an employee's day is spent using technology over in-person communication and email is our biggest addiction. While we may think that we are getting our message across through email, a study in the Harvard Business Review found that one face-to-face meeting is more successful than 34 emails back and forth. Just blasting out an email to your organization, or trying to accomplish big goals through email, can be highly ineffective. Without your voice, and body language, you can easily be misunderstood and that can create frustration, stress and distrust, all of which are unintended but happen regardless.
Great entrepreneurs prioritize the relationships they have with their teammates. This is especially true if you have a startup with only a handful of employees. You can't afford to have disengagement and turnover because you have few resources and have to have everyone's combined effort to move the needle forward. Here are three ways to create connection in the age of isolation:
1. Get to know your team on a personal level.
Go for a walk with employees, or have coffee with them, and learn more about who they are outside of work. Ask them about their life goals, passions and any obstacles they are facing. Our study found that only 20 percent of employees are fulfilled at their job. Help your employees be fulfilled and they will work harder and be more loyal to you when you need them most.
Simon Bouchez, CEO of Multiposting, an SAP company, told me, "When people are comfortable, they are much more creative and productive. Having good and strong relationships is critical to feel comfortable at work." When you create a safe and supportive work environment, your employees will be more comfortable bringing important issues to your attention, and have a deeper connection with you.
2. Create multiple touch points to increase engagement.
Whether you have a physical office, or a remote team, make sure that your team is both seen and heard. For example, if you manage a remote team, I recommend scheduling at least one video conference each week to ensure you're connecting. Another touch point is creating a culture of learning, where the team is sharing resources and teaching each other new skills. Look for new ways to share, connect and further your teammates relationship with each other and yourself.
Philip Krim, the CEO of Casper, told me, "We always take time to applaud each other's contributions to those victories and then immediately get back to work and stay focused on the broader mission at hand." Your team has no patience to wait for annual performance reviews; they want feedback and recognition regularly. Each piece of feedback or compliment is another way to engage with them, and make them feel like you're invested in their careers.
3. Have social events to bring the team together.
Our study found that the best ways leaders can facilitate stronger relationships with their employees are team-building activities, social events and "workations." It's easy for us entrepreneurs to constantly focus on the work because there's so much pressure to perform and scale, but our teams need to be taken care of, too. This is especially true of startups where everyone is working long hours. Take time to celebrate victories, give recognition and get to know each other by organizing office parties or off-site team-building events or work in a completely new location. By doing this, you give your employees a break; they feel more connected to your company and are happier. I recommend having at least one off-site each year where you take your employees outside of the office and into an environment where they can be more human and connect with others on a personal level.