This post was originally published by Fast Company
As an employer driven to create engaging remote workplaces, I often consider the list of benefits we offer our people. One thing that isn’t on this list? A workplace best friend. And according to Gallop, we are missing a big opportunity by not actively facilitating coworking confidantes.
“Gallup has repeatedly shown that having best friends at work is key to employee engagement and job success,” Alok Patel and Stephanie Plowman wrote about the company’s poll on workplace friendships. It revealed that the pandemic has strengthened the connection between friendship and “important outcomes such as employees’ likelihood to recommend their workplace, their intent to leave and their overall satisfaction with their workplace.”
So, if you’re an employer that values employee satisfaction, get those friendship bracelets ready for your next town hall. At my agency, our “one metric that matters” (OMTM) is the Employee Net Promoter Score, which asks the essential question, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend [your workplace] to a family member or friend?”
Research shows friendships make people more invested in their work, drive them to perform better, and incentivize them to be stand-up team players.
The reason that close friendships are good for business is because having a friend at work can make work more engaging. Workplace engagement is the secret sauce that every founder and CEO should prioritize, especially now that flexible work options have made the organic friendships that blossom around a water cooler harder to come by.
Transcends Marketing is 100% remote-first because I believe it empowers our team and allows us to, well, transcend geographical boundaries. As we put it in our company values: “Freedom is our default.”
That does not mean we let employee engagement fall by the wayside. Instead, it has become an even more important strategic priority, because it requires more intention. As a founder, I know that success depends on whether our work culture brings out the best in each teammate.
Employee engagement needs to be at the heart of every business. Thankfully, technology is a great enabler of engagement in the modern workplace.
TECHNOLOGY IS YOUR EMPLOYEE-ENGAGEMENT FRIEND
If you’re wondering how to tell whether your employees are engaged, measure what matters. As employee engagement expert and Microsoft MVP Jeff Willinger puts it, it’s all about how involved an employee is at work.
“So when I think about what engagement is… it’s one who’s fully involved and enthusiastic about his or her work,” he explains.
Although social bonds are an important aspect of workplace engagement, that’s not all that matters.
“[T]alking to end users and clients… the number one pain point is not that they want to socialize or collaborate with other employees, but it’s really more that they need to find the information to help do their jobs,” Willinger says.
He offers the example of how Microsoft Viva, an employee experience platform, creates a digital workplace where teams can go beyond simply communicating with one another and collaborating on projects to serving as a centralized hub for information access and employee engagement.
Giving employees seamlessly integrated technology that makes teamwork and interaction easy helps bridge the distance among a remote workforce. When I can easily hop on a video call with a quick question for a coworker, it’s akin to popping my head into their office for a chat. When we co-edit a document live, it’s similar to sitting side by side in a conference room.
TOOLS TO ENHANCE SERENDIPITOUS REMOTE WORK CONNECTIONS
Make engagement actionable with these three hot takes for tools that recreate water cooler chatter in the virtual work world:
1. Humantelligence: A personality test for the world of modern and remote work. Pop-up collaboration tips appear in the flow of work to help improve human connection, team performance, and meeting effectiveness. Every new team member at Transcends Marketing completes a Humantelligence profile and shares it with colleagues sparking deep, authentic communication.
2. Karma bot: Gamify karma with an “in the flow of work” experience for Teams or Slack with KarmaBot. Employees award each other celebratory points based on company values for perks like a day off work, a new remote work set-up, or an AirBnB stay anywhere in the world. Celebrate the small things—it’s fun!
3. Viva Goals: Our home for objectives and key results at Transcends Marketing, whether at a global company level or right down to the individual. And one item we always include in our OKRs to foster connection? A personal objective like a fitness goal or book club target.
Modern work isn’t just about bringing teams together across physical distance, it’s about facilitating a conscious connection that can spark lifelong friendships. Employees have shifting ideas of what work should mean to them, and engagement can only be realized when employees feel a sense of empowerment and connection with one another. Top-down decision-making is out, and collaboration is in.
Ashleigh Vogstad is the Founder & CEO of Transcends Marketing.