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Founders, Stop Forcing Your Employees to Socialise With You. Here Are 4 Reasons Why.

Founders, hear us out. We understand the need to get to know your people and connect with your employees. As the company begins to scale, it’s common to feel distant with your team members as you find yourself only working with the same faces time and time again, despite your company tripling in size. Then there’s figuring out how to keep remote employees engaged without completely losing your mind.

Most people think all founders are just after the money, but they also crave connection in this crazy (but fulfilling) startup journey. As much as it is about the numbers, it also has to be about motivating your people and making them feel valued in the workplace. However, there’s a better way to do that beyond lengthy town halls and repetitive weekly one-on-one’s.

We’re not saying they’re completely ineffective. But they’re merely short-term solutions for a long-term issue, which is to develop consistent employee engagement as your company scales beyond your first 10 employees.

4 Things You Could Be Doing Wrong That May Be Sabotaging Employee Relationships

Disclaimer: These are mere suggestions and may not apply to all organisations. Take it with a grain of salt.

1. Weekly town halls, all-hands meetings, and coffee chats

Virtual Townhalls and Coffee Chats.jpg
Virtual town halls and coffee chats. Source: Unsplash

You don’t want to conduct town halls simply for the sake of doing town halls, right? It’s usually the same thing; updating employees on what’s happening in the business, welcoming new hires, and opening the floor for any questions. It’s definitely an effective way to gather all employees, especially for remote teams. However, not all have the luxury to spare 30 minutes to an hour of their time for a group huddle.

Same thing for virtual 1 on 1 coffee chats between Founder and an employee. On paper, the intention is great—bridging the gap between you and the employee, and allowing team members to ask their boss any burning questions they might have. Yet, not everyone may feel completely comfortable with the idea of having a “chill chat” with their CEO.

If it could be summed up in a simple email or company newsletter, do that. But if an all-hands meeting is necessary, keep it short, sweet, and inspiring.

2. Creating People initiatives, without your people in mind

People initiatives for the people, by the people
People initiatives for the people, by the people. Source: Unsplash

Let us guess: your company runs an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) survey every month to measure employee satisfaction and what they’d like to see more of. While this works for certain companies, the results may not always be accurate.

There’s a possibility that your staff may not be sharing their honest opinions, knowing that HR is reading and tracking their responses. Or perhaps, they simply don’t know what to say, thus writing a completely generic and expected answer.

Instead of asking the same questions all over again, tailor them in a way that actually gets your staff talking about what they want to see more of at work. Think People initiatives for the people, by the people. A few examples could be:

  • How do you want to feel more supported at work?
  • How do you want to feel more recognised by your manager?
  • Does your current role challenge you and aid your personal development?
  • Are there specific growth opportunities you wish to explore?
  • What certain practices do you think we need to change within the organisation?

We’re in a global pandemic; we’re way past the need for weekly trivia nights and virtual coffee chats. Dive deeper and really get into the heart of what your employees want and need.

3. Adding your employees on social media

Employee Social Media Channels.jpg
Steer clear from adding employees on their social channels. Source: Pexels

For you, it may seem like an easy and harmless way to connect. But for some of your employees, it’s a whole different story. It could come off as awkward and uncomfortable—no one in the right mind would want that. In hopes of not offending their bosses in any way possible, some employees may feel pressured to hit ‘accept request’ even if they don’t want to.

Social media is a personal space for most people. Some people wouldn’t want the person in charge of their payroll knowing what they're up to on the weekends. If they want to let you in, they will. But don’t force it.

4. Trying too hard to be their best friend

Employer-Employee Friendships
Employees need leaders; not a buddy. Source: Unsplash

While there’s no rule that says bosses and their employees aren’t allowed to be friends, there’s a fine line between opening up and oversharing—be sure not to cross it. Finding a balance between personal and professional is key.

As a boss, you want to make them feel supported but not to the point where you’re trying too hard to buddy up to them. On top of that, this could put you at risk for claims of favouritism as well.

“Your team needs a leader, not a buddy. In the end, they’ll like you more when you focus less on being liked and more on offering guidance and support.” — Carlann Fergusson, Founder of Propel Forward LLC

Actionable Ways to Build Better Employee Connection

1. Create a safe space for your employees

Happy employees are far more engaged in the workplace. Source: Unsplash

We’re not asking you to become besties with your staff. But creating a safe space for them to communicate is the first step towards actually connecting with them authentically.

When people feel heard, they are more likely to feel motivated in the workplace. From anonymous environments to private messages, make your employees feel heard by creating a strategy that facilitates two-way communication, which makes them feel comfortable to share any concerns they might have.

2. Ditch the hierarchy

Rethink hierarchy in the workplace. Source: Pexels

Maybe this explains why younger people are moving towards working for startups than larger corporations. With MNCs, it’s hard to infiltrate the corporate hierarchy. In fact, you could go the entire time working for the company without seeing your CEO. With startups, you may even find yourself working alongside them at one point or another.

The last thing you want is to give your employees the idea that you’re some unapproachable “big boss”. Break down the barriers, rethink hierarchy in the workplace, and consider adopting a horizontal organisational structure for your company.

3. Make recognition a habit

Building a Recognition Culture - Thank You
Build a habit of recognition with a simple ‘thank you’. Source: Pexels

Recognising your employees shouldn’t just be practiced on employee appreciation day. Do you think implementing this once a year is going to cut it? It’s a habit that needs to be cultivated and maintained.

Genuine appreciation for employees is what paves the way for true organisational change. When team members feel motivated and valued for their hard work, it ultimately contributes to the success of the business.

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