Changing Our Focus to Value People

Published June 13, 2019

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  – Maya Angelou

As a recognition expert, I’m apt to discuss the finer points of how to say thank you at work or create repeatable peak employee experiences within large organizations. But something else happens—something bigger—when an employee at our organization experiences a personal crisis and we respond with empathy. We are all human.

How we act under intense stress can be more revealing.

Kathy, a vital piece of our small but mighty Chicago team, lost her only brother unexpectedly. The light went out of her eyes. What about her brother’s wife? His kids? Death has a way of redefining things.

Kathy is more than a colleague. She’s a friend. My wife Robynne and I quickly resolved to make the trek to St. Louis. Kathy needed support—our support.

We packed up our toddler and newborn son in the van with enough bags to supply an army regiment. Eight hours, 394 miles and one speeding ticket later, the colossal arch of St. Louis towered ahead—its left support rose high, catching the last of the sunlight, its right support descending into the dark earth. In the arch, I saw the cycle of birth, life and mortality vividly displayed in stainless steel. Death has a way of redefining things.

When we arrived at the funeral home, Kathy’s shock gave way to comfort—a welcome surprise. Lots of emotion. Deep, warm running streams, like friendship. A celebration of despair mingled with hope that only the broken-hearted understand.

Connection builds trust and confidence.

I came to ponder our relationship in a deeper, more understanding way. Today, I was the life preserver. Tomorrow, I could be the drowning man. And Kathy would be there for me. A peace lily now stands guard in our office foyer. An expression of O.C. Tanner’s collective outpouring of sympathy for Kathy and a daily reminder that we work for an organization that values each team member.

A Gallup Study reinforces the importance of having a “best friend” at work. It is one of the strongest predictors of anything from employee satisfaction to company profit.

There is no formula to create these types of friendships at work. Experiences differ widely.

And yet, there are certain environments, like fertile soil, where employees can bring their full selves to work. Leaders who foster a sense of well-being and appreciation have employees who are 38% less likely to leave the organization. Put simply, connection builds trust and confidence.

Here are a few ideas to foster friendships and encourage belonging at work:

1. Embed Core Values

Live your brand values out every day and do whatever it takes to protect them. Talk about them in the hiring process. Mention them during company meetings. Connect success to specific values. Your core values must be a part of your everyday work experience, not simply residing in a manual or on a plaque on your wall.

2. Onboarding

Invite new hires into your organizational story. Assign a peer mentor. Normalize friendship at work. Newbies are the most open to change.

3. Prioritize Connection

Provide opportunities for employees to get together during office hours. Take time on Monday morning to show interest in what happened over the weekend. It’s the personal touches that are the most meaningful.

4. Celebrate

Find natural times to pause and celebrate the valued contributions of those around you. Celebrate great work. Throw a birthday party. Encourage effort. Congratulate someone on their company anniversary. It’s the personal touches that are the most meaningful.

5. Team Building

Volunteer together at a non-profit. Take a class together. Spend a day off site. Find ways to allow for more face-to-face interactions between team members.

For more ideas about workplace BFFs, and how to develop one, check out 5 Ways To Build A Successful Friendship at Work.

About the Author
Denis Beausejour Author Headshot

Denis Beausejour

Managing Director

O.C. Tanner

Denis is a graduate of William and Mary and earned his MBA from Kellogg School of Management. He has lived and worked internationally throughout Asia and the Americas and now resides in a suburb of Chicago where he works for O.C. Tanner—a global provider of workplace culture services. Leveraging O.C. Tanner’s CultureCloud™ suite of offerings, Denis consults with Fortune 1000 companies on how to create peak employee experiences throughout the career cycle that lead to high-performing work cultures.