Topic: Employee Experience


Employee Engagement is Really Just Connection

Insights from

Updated on 

February 12, 2024






Learn how HR Executives at DOW Chemical, Virgin Trains, and Ohio Living connect employees to purpose, accomplishment, and each other.

The modern workplace is disconnected. Although the Internet and social media give us a sense of connectivity, we’re more disconnected than ever before. Employees send emails (or texts) to people that sit a couple of desks away instead of just walking over to chat. Leaders have no idea what people are working on, much less what their individual goals and dreams are. Employees would rather work remotely because they don’t enjoy the office atmosphere. And we’re seeing lower morale and wellbeing in the workplace worldwide than ever before.

Not only does this disconnection lower each individual’s happiness, it can also lower innovation, teamwork, collaboration, passion, enthusiasm and ultimately bottom line business results. So, what’s the answer? It’s simpler than one might think: Create a stronger connection between employees and your company. Make sure you inspire people with a corporate purpose that makes work meaningful. Give employees opportunities to make a difference together at work. Discuss goals they can align with. Create a culture where people feel like they belong. And you can accomplish it all with employee recognition.

“If employees don’t frequently experience a sense of shared accomplishment... they will be disengaged and disconnected.”

Some organizations try to create a feeling of connection by dressing up their culture with ping pong tables, free massages, or catered lunches. There’s nothing wrong with those things. But if employees don’t frequently experience a sense of shared accomplishment, if they don’t understand how their day-to-day work impacts your business, or better yet changes the world, they will be disengaged and disconnected.

Employee recognition has a disproportionate impact on connecting people to their work. Celebrating everyday victories and shared successes has a galvanizing effect on teams and overall workplace culture. When someone gives or receives an e-Card, points, merchandise, a trophy, or is otherwise appreciated for a job well done, they feel a sense of pride, contribution, and belonging. They begin to see how the work they do benefits the organization. They feel needed. Important. Connected.

Curtis Kesler, Human Resources Operations Service Line Leader at Dow Chemical, describes how recognition has improved connection, and benefitted both the culture and business results at Dow. “When employees feel validated and feel a part of the bigger picture, and a part of the strategy, we all work harder. We do more. We put more effort into everything we do and we do better work.” Kesler continues, “that impacts the shareholders. That impacts corporate initiatives. That impacts the bottom line. It’s very good business sense to make sure that we have an engaged workforce.”

“Celebrating everyday victories and shared successes has a galvanizing effect on teams and overall workplace culture.”

Take a moment to think about the companies everyone wants to work for: the Googles, Netflixes and the Apples of the world. These are organizations that attract top talent. Their names look great on resumes. Overall, they just have that ‘cool’ vibe every company (and employee) wants to be associated with. The truth is, what they are doing right, from a culture perspective, can easily be replicated. They are open and inspirational about their goals and mission statements. They clarify how each individual’s role contributes to the overall success of the company. They provide excellent opportunities for career growth. They succeed together. They celebrate. They create a feeling of connection.

Zoe Mills, Recognition and Engagement Manger at Virgin Trains, explains how the organization creates a connected culture by thanking employees for living up to brand values. “We ask a lot of our people. We ask them to create amazing. We ask them to do that with heart. We also want them to be insatiably curious and daringly bold,” Mills Continues, “and we ask for them to do all that as well as delivering the ‘virginness’. It’s a lot. So it’s important that we appreciate our people and let them know that what they do has a huge impact.”

Ultimately, employee engagement is nothing more than a measure of connection. Companies that give their employees a reason to connect become great places to work with exempliary workplace cultures. Think about it this way: people want to do more than just earn a paycheck. It’s deep in our DNA to want to create something amazing, to do work others love, and to contribute to the world around us in a meaningful way. It’s innately human to want to be a valued player on a winning team. Dana Ullom-Vucelich, Chief Human Resources & Ethics Officer at Ohio Living explains how a culture of belonging at Ohio Living made it one of the best health care organizations in her state.

“Our workplace culture is definitely one of our biggest differentiators. People work here because they believe in our mission and culture. It’s up to us to ensure that culture is sustainable. By having effective recognition solutions in place, we are able to encourage people to align with our mission while demonstrating their own unique work ethic and passion.”

When employee recognition provides a better line of sight to how an individual’s work impacts company success, they produce better work. They feel more connected to their team and to the company, and they bring more passion, love, care, and commitment to their work—the very definition of engagement.

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