While people often blame remote and hybrid work for the lack of real human connection in the office, research shows that in fact, the most common culprit is company culture.

Many organizations claim that their people are their greatest assets, yet not everyone knows how to really utilize them. According to a new study by BetterUp Labs, 43% of workers think their company should be doing more to promote workplace connections and 53% would actually trade some compensation for more meaningful relationships with colleagues. Why does this matter? Well, this same research revealed that individuals with few connections in the workplace are 73% less engaged than their highly-connected peers, and those experiencing lower levels of belonging reported 109% more burnout and have a 313% stronger intention to quit than their more connected counterparts. So, while many people seem to value human connection at work, not enough is being done by leaders to support that sense of belonging.

How can managers support employee connectedness?

Though ultimately it’s up to each individual to invest in their workplace friendships, managers are responsible for creating a culture in which employees can connect and feel they belong.

Employees who feel a strong sense of belonging said they had 24% greater resilience, 36% healthier wellbeing, and 92% more professional growth.

That’s why it’s important for managers to:

Prioritize cultural fit in the hiring process

When hiring new candidates to join your team, be sure to take their people skills into account and consider how they would fit in your team dynamics. Hard skills are important, but in many cases, these can be taught. In contrast, innate social skills are much harder to impart to employees. So, during the hiring interview, try to gauge the candidate’s energy and enthusiasm about collaborating with others. Also, rather than just focusing on whether their skills are what you’re looking for, really think to yourself, “could I picture this person on my team?”

For help on what questions to ask, check out this piece on project manager interview questions that sheds light on what questions Kim Landau, our very own Project Manager Team Lead, asks in her interviews.

Loop other team members into onboarding

Set your new hires up for success by helping them build connections from the get-go. Designate a relevant team member to be your new hire’s peer mentor or buddy to make the transition smoother and ensure they have a contact they can go to for guidance.

Additionally, before a new hire’s first day, send an announcement to the whole team to let them know about the upcoming addition to the group, and encourage them to set up time during the new hire’s first few weeks for non-work related intros. In those announcements, it can be helpful to include a few personal details about the new joiner coming on board. A welcome lunch or coffee with the team on the new employee’s first day is also a great way to start making them feel comfortable and help new joiners build familiarity with their colleagues.

Encourage collaboration and team feedback

It’s important to build a culture in which team members feel safe acknowledging that they don’t know everything. This means, encouraging individuals to ask questions in meetings, share feedback, and make suggestions, without feeling like they’re being judged or tested. As a manager, you can set the tone for this by designating time during your weekly meetings for team members to present what they are working on and get feedback from others.

Organize non-work related time together

Create opportunities for smaller, less formal time for your team members to get to know each other in a non-work setting. Social activities like happy hours, team dinners, and even team-building activities are great ways to promote a healthy corporate culture and give your team members the opportunity to have organic and open conversations with others in their organization. Even in remote work settings, it’s still possible and beneficial to schedule non-work-related meetings with the team to create space for more casual and light-hearted communication.