Creating Competitive Advantage Through Connection

How creating a “connection culture” can drive business results & the bottom-line

We are all living and working in an increasingly volatile environment where accelerating change is the norm. This, with the fact that most people like to live and work within their comfort zone, can cause problems for leaders and their businesses as people strive to cope with change whilst keeping some semblance of control.

As result of the rapid change people experience they often feel disconnected and disengaged in what they do. Unfortunately, since 2000 nearly 75 percent of people working in the United States have been disengaged with their jobs (Gallup 2013b). As leaders, to deal with this, we have to create an environment of connection where people can feel reconnected and they can choose to connect and engage themselves with those people around them, and in what they do.

Connection in the workplace is an emotional bond. It is based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves primarily self-centered individuals towards becoming group-centred members. As the connection is an emotional bond it is intangible, but we can sense it in our relationships.  When it is present, we feel the energy, empathy, and affirmation, and are more open; when it is absent, we experience neutral or even negative feelings.

When people look for connection, and they always do, they do so in a variety of ways including how they connect to other people (relational); to their work (task mastery); and to a sense of purpose (existential). These can be summarized below:

6 Connection Needs of People

Connection Needs Needs Type Description
  • Respect
Relational Needs Being around people who recognize us and who are courteous and considerate.
  • Recognition
Relational Needs Where we are recognized by other people for what we do, achieve and contribute; and the strengths and skills we use in doing so.
  • Belonging
Relational Needs Being part of a group or team helps us to be more resilient and better able to cope with unexpected or adverse events.
  • Autonomy
Task Mastery Needs The freedom to do your work in your own way, to be free of being told what and how to do the work.
  • Personal Growth
Task Mastery Needs Where you have the necessary level of skills to deal with the challenges we face and to achieve a state of ‘flow’ where you are fully involved and immersed in an energized way, in the process of the activity of the work,
  • Meaning
Existential Needs When you are engaged in work that is important to you in some way, you are energized and put additional effort into it. You feel a sense of significance from doing this work.


The Benefits of Connection

Benefits accrue to both the individual as well as the business. Research has found that businesses which create a strong connection culture, by fostering an environment where each of the six connection needs can be met, realize significant benefits over their competitors. Compared to business units with engagement and connection scores in the bottom 25 percent, the top 25 percent’s median averages were:

  • 21 percent higher in productivity
  • 22 percent higher in profitability
  • 41 percent lower in quality defects
  • 37 percent lower in absenteeism
  • 10 percent higher in customer metrics (Gallup 2013)

Employees who feel engaged and connected are

  • 20 percent more productive than the average employee
  • 87 percent less likely to leave the organization (Corporate Leadership Council 2004)

Connected employees are not only happier but are high performers. Again research has shown that:

1. Employees who feel connected perform at the top of their game.

2. Employees who feel connected give their best effort and persevere.

3. Employees who feel connected align their behavior with organizational goals, so their business has more people pulling in the same direction

4. Employees who feel connected help improve the quality of decisions as they are prepared to speak up and share information.

5. Employees who feel connected actively contribute to innovation as they actively look for ways to improve the organization.  As a result, new products, services, processes, and businesses will arise

So the question is not can you afford to create and sustain a culture of connection, but rather can you afford not to. Your people drive your competitive advantage, so help them to help themselves to do so.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. 

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

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