To gain a comprehensive understanding of how employee engagement affects performance, companies need to move beyond occasional surveys conducted from the top-down approach. Instead, they should prioritize delving into the personal experiences of employees and examining the factors that shape their day-to-day work environment.

While organizations may adopt various methods to foster employee engagement, our independent research has identified five key emotional aspects that are central to every approach : Trust, Altruism, Happiness, Belonging, and Achievement.

Trust

Trust holds significant importance as it encompasses the confidence we have in others. It is a vital element for experiencing love, friendship, and ensuring the proper functioning of economic and governmental systems. In high-performing organizations, trust forms the fundamental basis of their culture.

The level of trust within a workplace can be assessed by observing the extent of organizational transparency, dependability, and accountability. In an environment of high trust, employees tend to be more innovative, productive, and experience lower levels of stress.

Conversely, when trust is lacking or absent in a workplace, negativity prevails. Distrust negatively impacts employee engagement, resulting in a less productive workforce and a lack of confidence in company leadership. Instead of focusing on creative problem-solving and innovation, employees are compelled to engage in defensive behaviors due to pervasive doubt and micromanagement in low-trust organizations.

So, what gives rise to trust? In essence, it stems from commonality. As explained in our white paper “How Relationships Shape Engagement and Culture,” the foundation of all human relationships lies in discovering, exploring, and experiencing this sense of “relatedness.” In-person interactions and digital communication have become integral to how individuals express themselves and establish connections. When employers prioritize relationships as the core of their employee engagement strategy, trust naturally flourishes, strengthening the bonds within the workplace community.

Altruism

One of the key indications of trust is demonstrated through altruism. Although altruism is commonly associated with philanthropy, it is equally relevant in the workplace, where it entails prioritizing the needs of others over oneself. In a professional setting, altruism is often observed when employees assist their colleagues with tasks beyond their own responsibilities or willingly sacrifice resources that could benefit their own projects or departments, for the greater benefit of the organization.

Altruistic individuals serve as the foundation of a supportive workplace environment. Despite their tendency to offer help to colleagues outside their immediate team or department, they remain dedicated to fulfilling their own obligations. Workplace altruists typically exhibit stronger commitment to their jobs, fulfill their assigned duties responsibly, and are less likely to leave the organization.

Moreover, the most significant advantage of altruism lies in its virtuous cycle. Altruistic behavior within the workplace encourages and inspires others to do the same. According to psychologists from Stanford University, our interactions with others, even brief ones, have a more profound influence on altruism than inherent human nature. While certain individuals may naturally possess the inclination to perform altruistic acts, they are more inclined to follow through with their intentions when they witness others engaging in similar behavior. In essence, the strength of relationships within a workplace directly correlates to the level of workplace altruism displayed by employees.

Happiness

Happiness is not a uniform emotion and differs from person to person. According to recent studies, happiness can be categorized into two extremes: hedonism and eudaimonism. While some individuals prioritize realizing their potential over seeking pleasure, others prioritize the opposite. However, there is no combination of these characteristics that universally applies to everyone.

Happiness plays a significant role in various aspects of corporate leadership, such as employee retention, absenteeism, and productivity. Employee happiness contributes to the impact of employee engagement on performance. Content employees are less likely to miss work, more resistant to leaving the company, and capable of increasing productivity without compromising the quality of their work.

Addressing happiness in the workplace can be challenging as it can be influenced by subtle factors. However, happiness can be shaped more broadly by fostering human connections within the work environment. Some researchers consider relatedness as a fundamental human need and the key factor in generating happiness. Leaders who prioritize work relationships indicate to their employees that they value and prioritize the well-being of their workforce.

Belonging

The desire to connect with others is a universal feeling experienced by all individuals. It is our inherent need to belong, which is considered the primary psychological requirement according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Belonging surpasses the importance of achieving success and self-actualization. Similar to how removing the bottom supporting brick in a Jenga game causes the structure to collapse, the absence of belongingness adversely affects our mental health. Those who feel like outsiders not only have lower levels of happiness and struggle with adjustment but also have a higher susceptibility to mental and physical illnesses.

The key to experiencing belongingness lies in human relationships. It is only through frequent and positive interactions with individuals who demonstrate respect and care that a sense of belonging can develop. Without the presence and support of others, it is impossible to feel a sense of belonging.

Scientific evidence supports the conventional wisdom that fostering a sense of belongingness in the workplace is crucial. Human relationships in the workplace not only contribute to the well-being of employees but also shape their overall attitude towards their work. Employees who have close friendships with their colleagues tend to be high performers and are twice as likely to remain with the company throughout their careers.

Achievement

Seeking achievement and craving acknowledgement for our accomplishments are inherent aspects of human nature. The emotions we experience when we attain our goals and when others acknowledge our achievements hold great power. In fact, among various motivators, recognition has the most substantial influence on employee job satisfaction, surpassing both internal and external incentives. Therefore, recognition plays a significant role in fostering employee engagement.

While we do derive some self-validation from our accomplishments, the significance of our achievements becomes even more profound when they are acknowledged by others. In today’s world, this impact is magnified by the widespread use of social communication tools, where likes and shares serve as a form of currency among friends. In the workplace, promoting recognition is synonymous with nurturing relationships. When employees acknowledge and appreciate one another, it strengthens the connection between them. These bonds have a notable impact on employee engagement.

As HR professionals tailor their strategies for engaging employees, they should bear in mind two crucial factors. Firstly, human relationships have a profound and, in many cases, unparalleled effect on the emotions individuals experience at work and on the influence of employee engagement on performance. Secondly, effective solutions for enhancing engagement should address both of these aspects in conjunction with each other.

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