Ah, love—that warm, fuzzy feeling you have when you’ve found someone you belong with. Wouldn’t it be great if your employees felt like this about working for you?
Before I go any further, let me be clear: I’m not advocating anything creepy or inappropriate that would raise alarms within HR. This isn’t about romantic love—it’s about helping your employees feel inspired and connected to what they do. If you’re a manager, then for better or worse, a lot of this rests on your shoulders. In other words, if you want employees who charge through the door every day ready to give you their best, you have some work do.
Here are a few tips to help you build long-term and meaningful relationships with your team.
Start Off on the Right Foot
Whether it’s a date, meeting a significant other’s parents, or a job interview, we all know the importance of first impressions. In the context of work, we often think of this in terms of the hiring process and our experiences as a prospective employee, but as a manager, it’s your job to think about the employee experience you’re creating, too. Those first impressions will either attract or turn off top talent, and can also have an effect on long-term engagement.
For example, research conducted by my company, Brilliant Ink, found that up to a quarter of prospective employees felt misled by the initial interview process, and thus were less likely to be engaged with their work down the road. What’s more, nearly half of all new employees describe their first day on the job as disorganized, dull, or confusing. Did this have an impact on their overall satisfaction and engagement? You bet.
To avoid starting off on the wrong foot, put some thought and preparation into the hiring experience and those first days on the job. And don’t forget that it takes more than simply welcoming new employees. You also want to clearly communicate the responsibilities of the job and make yourself available for questions and coaching.
Make it Mean Something
The best relationships are often guided by a shared set of values. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships or friendships. Your employees also want to feel like they’re part of something meaningful and larger than themselves. As a manager, you’re in an excellent position to help connect their work to the mission of your team and overall business. The more you can point out how their contributions fit into the bigger picture of your company’s mission and purpose, the more likely your employees are to be engaged in and committed to their work.
Engage in a Little PDA
Am I taking this metaphor too far? Too late to turn back now! Before you stop reading, let’s think about public displays of affection in a different way. When it comes to recognizing your employees for great work, there’s no better place to do this than in public. Everyone loves to be recognized for their efforts. Providing praise in front of colleagues lets your employees know that you want others to know they did a great job, too. This can be powerful stuff in terms of driving loyalty and performance.
I’ve found that informal praise and recognition is just as meaningful as using more formal channels, such as company awards. What does this look like? It could be a simple as stopping by an employee’s workspace to compliment her on a recent project or dedicating time during your next staff meeting to publicly call out your rock star employees. And remember that advice about making it meaningful? Recognizing great performance also gives you the perfect opportunity to explain how their efforts connect to the bigger picture.
Have Fun Together
When we were first dating, I used to tell my husband jokingly (and much to his annoyance), “the couple that plays together stays together.” Corny words, but in our case, true. In our nearly 11 years together, we’ve been camping and backpacking, have run marathons and half-marathons across the country, and have traveled to some amazing places around the world. This sense of fun and adventure has certainly kept us busy and given us many great experiences to share and reflect on when times aren’t so fun (such as changing diapers at 3 AM).
Maybe we won’t all be traveling around the world with our teams, but there are all kinds of ways to inject a little fun into the work experience. Lunches and happy hours are an easy way to bring your team together. If you have a group that’s into fitness, consider competing in a race or joining an exercise class together. My team does weekly yoga and SoulCycle classes together, and we honor birthdays with cupcakes and champagne. The options are limitless. Just make sure you choose activities that all of your team feels comfortable participating in.
Are you ready to crank up the affection at work? By investing in productive relationships with your employees now, you can create long-lasting ties that lead to better performance and happy employees.