Is your team struggling with affiliative disconnect?

What is affiliative disconnect?

Have you ever been in a room, surrounded by people, only to still feel lonely?  According to Cigna research, 61% of the people in that room with you likely felt the same way.  This is because loneliness different from togetherness because it’s irrespective of the physical presence of others, occurring when we lack the feeling of meaningful connection with others.  Affiliative disconnect is a feeling of isolation or loneliness that develops collectively within a team, despite being part of a group.  While affiliative disconnect, like loneliness, may be hard to see, the symptoms are clear and can derail even the strongest of companies if not addressed.

Is your team struggling with affiliative disconnect?

Teams experiencing affiliative disconnect left unaddressed will eventually turn toxic.  The key is detecting signs of team affiliative disconnect early. Some of the most commonly observed warning signs include:

  • Higher than normal turnover (particularly high turnover with new hires – less than 90 days of employment).
  • Increased/high absenteeism.
  • Poor team performance (particularly with customer-facing roles such as sales or customer service).
  • Distrustful behaviors within the team such as passive aggressive comments, finger-pointing, hostility, and/or intentionally withholding information.
  • A lack of interaction or camaraderie among team members. In more extreme situations, team members will often know very little about one another, despite having worked together for a significant period of time.

How to (re)ignite connection within your team.

As social creatures, we as humans take to high connection interactions like fish to water.  Even individuals and teams that have survived for extended periods of time without meaningful connection are highly resilient.  Here are three basic ways every leader can take to help restore connections within their team:

#1 – Make individual wellbeing the priority, for the team.

It’s an unfortunate truth that hurt people, hurt people.  Although not quite as catchy, the same concept works conversely.  Individuals with a healthier sense of wellbeing when working together, tend to make better teams, associated with higher job satisfaction, better company stock performance, improved productivity and customer loyalty, and reduced turnover.  Research shows lonely workers are less productive and more frequently sick which can wreak havoc on any business.  More importantly however, people with poor mental health and wellbeing were three to six times more likely to report frequent loneliness.  Because research has also found a lonely person can transmit loneliness to others, wellbeing offers a solution to prevent the harm caused by loneliness in our workplaces and communities.

#2 – Encourage and recognize supportive behaviors within the team.

There is a popular legend of unknown origin, often attributed to the Cherokee or Lenape people, that begins with a grandfather telling his grandson of a battle of two wolves going on inside him.  The grandfather describes one wolf as evil – driven by anger, jealousy, and ego, and the other good – motivated by love, generosity, and compassion.  When asked by his grandson which wolf will win, the grandfather responds, the one you feed.  This same battle happening within each one of us individually is also happening within our teams.  When we recognize the supportive, prosocial, behaviors that are foundational to collaboration and communication within teams, we are feeding the good wolf.  Because recognition has been shown to affect two areas of the brain:  1) our hypothalamus, the part of our body responsible for regulating many of the body’s key processes, such as heart rate and body temperature, and 2) our dopamine receptors which receive dopamine, the chemical that affects mood, sleep, memory, learning, and concentration, recognition has been shown to have tangible benefits on a team and virtuous benefits on individuals.

#3 – Co-create team culture.

Historically, culture was often something defined by a few leaders, perhaps with the help of outside consultants or HR, and distributed in a top-down fashion.  More recently however, with growing appreciation and value for diversity and inclusivity, we’re realizing the previously one-to-many approach is far surpassed by the approach of many-to-many.  It’s only when environments are inclusive, engaging the voices thoughts, and talents of diverse groups, that communities thrive.  A co-creative workplace culture not only embraces but implores feedback and transparency.  With the development of our newest tool, TeamEthos.io, it was the introduction of the team notifications, informing team members of how the team was doing that day and what each person can support one another in the moment, that we saw the biggest shift in team connection and success.  Empowering a team to identify and solve for challenges within a process or system can be a great first step toward building psychological safety and collaboration, the foundation of any co-creative, highly connected culture.

 

Affiliative disconnect isn’t the sickness.  It’s a warning sign that the health of your team is in jeopardy.  The danger comes only from ignoring it.  It’s taken the Covid pandemic to reveal another potentially harmful pandemic we’re all susceptible to, loneliness.  Not everyone comes from a healthy family environment.  Many struggle to create a healthy network of friends.  But most of us, in our lifetimes will need to work.  What if we, as leaders, make work the safe space we intentionally create meaningful connection?

Combat the disconnect plaguing your team and company with TeamEthos.io.  Click here for a two-week free trial!

Employee Experience Basics Every Leader Should Know

Person walking down a hallway

“A mind that is stretched  by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

What experiences have made you who you are today?  Whether good or bad, experiences can change us.  An event may change the way we see a person, or the world entirely.  Being part of or witnessing an incident can trigger intense chemical responses within us of pleasure or pain.  Our perception and response to an occurrence transforms a neutral event to a life-altering experience.  In recent years we’ve applied this understanding to our workplaces, resulting in the term employee experience, often referred to as EX.

What is the definition of employee experience?

Employee experience is an all-encompassing term used to describe an employee’s perception and observations regarding the collective events, interactions, and benefits he/she undergoes as part of the journey in working for a company.  Unlike many definitions that define the experience as simply a person’s journey working for an organization, the word experience implies the personal and emotional response to potentially neutral events.  While workplace events and communications take place in an office or around an employee, it’s an employee’s perception and/or interpretation of these events that make for his/her unique experience.

How is employee experience different from employee engagement?

The term employee engagement has been around for several years.  Engaged employees are defined as physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and indicate alignment with the purpose of the company (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003).  By this definition, employee engagement is a positive state of mind or mindset held by employees.  Research suggests companies with high employee engagement are more profitable, more productive, have higher sales, are safer, have lower turnover, and have lower employee absenteeism.  Whereas the term employee engagement is used to describe how connected an employee feels to his/her work and company, the term employee experience is used to describe an employee’s perception of a collection of events and exchanges related to his/her working for the company.  How much a person feels connected to or disconnected from their work may be a result of a positive or negative employee experience.  So, while a high level of engagement may be the goal, it is achieved by strategically improving different aspects of the employee experience.  Many metrics may be used to assess how positive or negative a company’s employee experience is.  Employee engagement is just one of these metrics used.

How is a company’s employee experience measured?

The ultimate goal of a positive employee experience is a healthy business.  So, when a company fails to perform successfully, it is often a sign of a misaligned or even poor employee experience.  Because of this, metrics used to assess a company’s operational and financial performance such as revenue, shrinkage, customer retention, and productivity also serve as valuable methods of measuring a company’s employee experience.

A company’s workforce data such as employee turnover, retention, absenteeism, and overtime per employee rates are also indicators of an effective or ineffective employee experience as these datapoints are reflective of employee behaviors driven by their experience.  The two most popular methods for evaluating a company’s employee experience are employee engagement, as explained previously, and the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).  The eNPS system was born out of the customer loyalty metric, Net Promoter Score (NPS), first recognized by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company in 2003.  Through research, Reichheld and the Bain team found customers responding positively to the question, “what is the likelihood you would refer Company X to a friend or colleague”, were very likely to demonstrate positive buying behaviors (rebuying, referring new customers, and spend more).  It was later as the concept of the internal customer (employees) grew that industry and leaders began applying the model internally giving way to the eNPS, asking employees the question, “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend the Company as a (good) place to work?”.  Higher eNPS ratings reflect more employee loyalty, higher employee satisfaction, and suggest a more engaged workforce.  While generally this is a metric intended for internal use only, not designed for benchmarking, scores can range from -100 to +100 and generally scores in the 10-30 range are considered good, and 50+ considered excellent.

What can a company do to improve its employee experience?

To improve a company’s employee experience is to improve an employee’s perception of how the company rewards, recognizes, motivates, drives, communicates with, hires, terminates, values, supports, and develops its employees.  While an eNPS score can provide an overview of how an employee feels about and perceives the company, an eNPS rating does not identify why.  To improve the employee experience it is then important to understand both the employee’s overview of the company AND the what led to this perception.  For this reason, it is best to ask employees to rate not only their overall perception of the company (eNPS) but also ask their outlook as it relates to attributes of the employee experience (recognition, communication, safety, brand, management engagement, employee engagement, culture, compensation & benefits, and business viability).  With this data, companies can decipher what employees like and dislike about their interactions with the company as well as how heavily the different aspects of the employee experience impact their unique company culture.   For example, a media company had poor employee ratings around compensation and benefits.  Upon further examination however, compensation & benefit ratings had very little impact on whether an employee felt positively or negatively about the company’s employee experience (no correlation between comp & benefit ratings and eNPS ratings).  Instead, recognition (how employees feel rewarded for outstanding performance) and brand pride (whether employees are proud to work for the company and of the company’s impact to the industry/community) were the most influential attributes to a positive employee experience.  With this realization, the company chose to strategically invest allotted time and budget to people initiatives around recognition and employee-brand alignment, appreciating the value employees place on these aspects of their relationship with the company.  These insights allowed the company to create a much more thoughtful and unique experience for employees that resonates with its culture and helps deliver better business results.

Just as today we each are a culmination of our past individual experiences, our current workplace cultures are a reflection of our collective employee experiences.  Experiences are not based on logic.  We often don’t even realize what historical work-related events led to the perceptions we hold so firmly today.  By asking concise, reflective questions in a strategic way, we shift the employee experience from habitual to intentional.  Every workplace has an employee experience leading somewhere.  Where is your current employee experience leading you?

Learn more about surveys to capture your eNPS score and identify the critical attributes to your employee experience.