Everyone wants to feel connected—it’s part of human nature. Whether it’s building relationships at home, in the community, or with friends, people like to feel bonded to each other. But perhaps it’s nowhere more important than at work. A connection culture in the workplace can impact customer experience and create a place where employees are engaged and excited to be.
Studies have shown that people who aren’t connected can actually get physically ill and fall into poor health, especially during times of stress. However, the opposite is also true, says Michael Lee Stallard, author of “Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work”. When employees feel connected to their supervisors or the people they work with, all the parts of their body work together so they can physically work at a higher level.
As an employer, it makes sense to want employees who are physically and mentally strong and engaged over employees who are dragging and stressed. Who would you rather have interacting with your customers?
Brands want their customers to be engaged and feel connected to the company. But it’s hard for employees to give customers what they themselves don’t have. A company won’t have energetic and enthusiastic employees who connect with customers if those employees don’t feel connected to the company.
According to Stallard, there are five benefits that come from having a connection culture: employees have cognitive clarity, they give their best effort, they align their work with the organization’s goals, they communicate more, and they engage in creativity to fuel innovation. A culture of connectivity impacts everyone, and customers can feel if it is there or not. When employees are engaged and connected, they naturally want to share that with customers.
Stallard tells the story of Admiral Vernon Clark, who was the Chief of Naval Operations just before 9/11. When Admiral Clark took over, the Navy was having a hard time retaining sailors because they weren’t treated well and didn’t feel connected to the organization or to each other. When he first joined the Navy, Admiral Clark had a Master Chief mentor him, which connected him to the organization and set the path for his career, and he wanted other young sailors to have a similar experience. Admiral Clark turned things around by talking to the Master Chiefs and encouraging them to mentor and train the sailors under them. It worked—by mentoring the sailors and building connections, the sailors became more engaged and connected to the Navy’s mission. In just 18 months, re-enlistment jumped from 20% to 70%. Creating a connection culture in the Navy ensured that it was ready for whatever came its way and could do its job to protect American citizens.
Similar principles are found at Costco, which is known for taking care of its employees. Because Costco is focused on doing the right thing, employees feel connected, and the company has a much higher retention rate than other retail stores. The result is employees who are happy to be there and serve customers in any way they can.
A connection culture builds long-term, sustainable performance, which creates a high-quality customer experience. When people don’t feel connected, they are only coming to work to get a paycheck, and it shows in their interactions with customers. Conversely, a connection culture helps every employee see how their role impacts the organization and makes them excited to provide a great customer experience each day.
Resources from Michael Lee Stallard
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new Customer Experience School.