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Helping Employees Bond as a Turnover Reduction Strategy

Turnover is a productivity killer, so you want to develop strategies to help employees hang in there for the long haul. Surely a couple of dozen tactics exist to help employers achieve this goal, but one frequently mentioned in the literature and in online forums--usually with great puzzlement--is how employees can be encouraged to "bond" with each other.

Indeed, unless employees feel bonded with their coworkers, (and therefore, it is to be hoped, your company and its culture by default), it will be very difficult to have them feel engaged. "Engagement" is that hot HR term describing the condition of having employees who are glad to go the extra mile for the organization, hardly thinking about it, because they love their jobs and the organization.

(For more information on employee engagement, read Gerard H. Seijts "The Ten C's of Employee Engagement." Google surf to find it. It is a classic article on the subject.)

Helping employees bond with each other is not something you can mandate. Like humor in the workplace, you can't start insisting on it. You can't hire a clown to create an environment conducive to humor, and you can't insist that people start slapping "high fives." So the target of action is the environment.

The environment or work culture includes the sum of all things, but do not kid yourself. It is powerfully influenced primarily by top management values and the immediate supervisor's implementation of those values at the line-staff level.

A review of literature on bonding shows a few common themes: line-manager willingness to get to know the workers, creating an atmosphere of positivity, and supervisors modeling engagement.

Metaphorically speaking, instead of having more pizza parties for employees, teach more supervisors how to "make pizza".

Line managers who take the time to know employees personally (this does not mean involving themselves in an employee's personal life) create trust. That is the most valuable by-product or result of building the relationship with an employee. Nothing happens without trust. Trust is the common denominator that allows other positive human behaviors in the workplace to emerge.

Did you take Psychology 101 in college? Remember that section on Erik Erikson's "Eight Ages of Man"? The first was "Trust vs. Mistrust." Not much happens in human existence successfully unless this "crisis" is first conquered.

Essentially, here is Erikson's "Trust vs. Mistrust" restated as best I can do it, but by applying what he wrote to workplace dynamics. If he were alive today, he might pen the following about the workplace:

The degree to which an employee comes to trust the workplace, coworkers, and the boss--as well as himself and his ability to achieve within it--depends to a considerable extent upon the quality of the work environment, which is primarily controlled by management and more directly by the supervisor.

The employee whose needs for communication, feedback, reassurance, opportunity, and recognition are quickly and predictably met; whose workplace discomforts are quickly removed; and who is praised and sought after and feels "wanted" by the supervisor develops a sense of the work world as a safe place to be and of coworkers around him or her as helpful and dependable.

When, however, the communication is inconsistent, inadequate, or rejecting, it fosters a basic mistrust, an attitude of fear and suspicion on the part of the worker (possibly not even within his or her awareness) toward the workplace in general and management in particular. This quickly establishes a long-term pattern into the future for what the relationship will be.

In other words, the window of time is short, and if the needs of the employee as described above are not met and quickly, it can be extremely difficult to return to an earlier period of time and start over with the hope of having employees bond with the workforce and achieve high levels of engagement.

Helping supervisors understand the dynamic as described above is critical. This can help prepare supervisors for making efficient use of time in orienting employees and developing relationships with them in the first crucial months after being hired. (Actually, you about six weeks to do it in my view.)

The goal, of course, is not babying employees but recognizing the psychology of trust and its power to facilitate workers bonding with each other. It is also about learning how trust is nurtured verus how it is undermined at great cost to the employer.

Help employees learn respectful behaviors and become "change agents" who stand up for others and protect your company from financial loss with Mastering the Respectful Workplace

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