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Don’t force your employees back to the office. Do this instead

A Gartner survey of over 3,500 knowledge workers offers some interesting insights about what employees see as meaningful work.

Don’t force your employees back to the office. Do this instead
[Source Images: iStock]

Leaders are still trying to crack the code for keeping employees engaged. In a new normal where employees are at working from home, how do you manage to make them feel culturally connected to the organization?

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A new study from Gartner offers some answers. The research firm surveyed over 3,500 knowledge workers whose jobs could mostly be done remotely. Over 75% said that culture is very or extremely important to being effective at their jobs, but only 25% felt connected to their organization’s culture—which was defined as identifying, caring, and belonging with the culture.

However, while yanking everyone back to the office may seem like the solution, the study also found that employees with more flexibility were more connected to their organization’s culture: 53% of employees who had flexibility of location, schedule, and work in terms of what they did and who they worked with felt connected to their organization’s culture, compared with 40% of employees who only had flexibility of location and schedule and 18% who lacked flexibility all together. Over half of employees said they do their best work at home, and alone.

The report offers three solutions.

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  • First, ensure the work itself is meaningful. The researchers recommend understanding that work is the common experience we all have now, and to make the work itself meaningful rather than relying on a pleasant office experience to create an attachment to the job.
  • Second, deliberately create emotional connections rather than relying on watercooler chat to create a social connection. Ensure employees are recognized for the work they do and can see the impact it has on others.
  • Third, make sure personal interactions count, whether they are in person or via Zoom. While work ecosystems might be shrinking, the researchers also found that strong relationships are intensifying because people are having fewer interactions. About 65% of respondents said cultural connection came from their team, and 60% said it was driven by their direct manager.

“Work is the most common cultural experience we have,” said Alexia Cambon, director of human resources practice at Gartner, and the study’s lead author. “If you have employees who are more deeply engaged at home, leaders need to provide more engaging and fulfilling work for them. Socially that’s a good thing: People want to do more meaningful and fulfilling work.”

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