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Who are your work friends? Connection and Employee Engagement

Amanda Sollman


This post is the fourth in a series about Tony Robbins' 6 Human Needs. The concept of the 6 Human Needs is one of our "4 Cornerstones" and is taught in every training+coaching program, including The Thriving Leader, Millennial Mastermind and Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience. You can learn more about those programs here.

When I graduated from college, I was fortunate enough to have offers from several companies. While all of them had something I valued, I chose a role with a marketing agency in Minneapolis. Now, I had never been to the Twin Cities prior to the job interview and really knew no one in the area. But as I looked at my options, one of the factors I made a decision on is one many people might find odd:

I picked the one where I said, "I could hang out with these people after work."

For years, we've approached work relationships as cold, clinical and purely transactional. You say hello, maybe ask how someone's weekend was, and then you stick to business. As the nature of work continues to evolve, though, we have to pay closer attention to the relationships we build with co-workers. Like my desire to work with people that I could see myself grabbing a drink with, many employees are looking for a way to feel connected to those they share a vast majority of their time with. 

Love/Connection as a basic human need

A refresher if you're new to this blog series: Renowned personal development expert Tony Robbins writes about six human needs that – after reliable access to food, water, warmth and rest – are critical if we are to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment. Those needs include:

  1. Certainty
  2. Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Love and Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

I'm breaking each of these needs down and diving into how you can apply these concepts to the business world. So far, I've talked about CertaintyVariety and Significance, so up next...


Robbins describes Love and Connection as "the need to love and feel loved, and to feel connection with others." And, while it may sound weird to talk about love and connection in a professional context, fulfilling this need is critical to supporting employee engagement.

connection and employee engagement

Polling firm Gallup has asked more than 15 million employees all over the world one simple question to measure their level of connection: Do you have a best friend at work?

Now, that might sound like a silly question to some of you, but Gallup has found that this question – and specifically referring to a "best friend" versus a "good friend" or "friend" – is a powerful predictor of certain workplace behaviors. For example:

  • Employees who say they have a best friend at work are 7x more likely to be engaged with their job
  • Employees with work best friends are also:
    • Better at engaging customers
    • Produce higher quality work
    • Have higher well-being
    • Are less likely to get injured on the job

Sounds great, right? Here's the catch:

Only 30% of employees say they have a best friend at work.

And that means many employees and organizations are missing out on the benefits that come from fulfilling people's need for love and connection. Based on our experience, the benefits of connection also include:

  • Reduced conflict
  • More productive confrontation
  • Clearer communication
  • Better setting of expectations
  • More effective management
  • Greater retention levels
  • Expanded talent pool

So how much connection do your employees have? 

helping employees experience more Connection

Establishing a real connection with another person often happens organically and isn't something that can be forced. That being said, though, if you're a leader in your organization, you CAN create situations that foster connection-building. Here's some ideas:

  • Create opportunities for socializing that are completely unrelated to "the work." Whether that's organizing a monthly happy hour, celebrating birthdays with some cupcakes or doing an office fantasy football league, these are the activities that lead to more genuine relationship building – moreso than a quarterly financial update meeting.

  • Play "matchmaker" – and, no, I don't mean romantically :) If you know someone in your company that has expertise or similar interests to someone else, introduce them to each other! Especially in large organizations, it can be hard to know everyone. Look for a way to be the connector.

  • Have new employees go out to lunch with different people during their first week on the job. Whether that's company leadership, other people on their team, or someone who has had a similar experience as them, help that new employee get to know the people they'll be working with.

  • Start your first meeting on Monday by sharing what you did over the weekend. It's important that we see our coworkers as real, multi-dimensional human beings and sharing our weekend activities is a great way to do that!

Have other suggestions for making your employees feel connected? Leave them in the comments!

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