100,000 Conversations Later: The Value of Employee Connection
What’s the power of an hour? Our data from 100,000 conversations on the Imperative platform has resoundingly answered that question: one hour can be transformational for both employees and the business.
This is exactly why Imperative was founded: to fundamentally transform the workplace as we know it, humanizing work while achieving incredible business results. As Imperative’s first customer and co-founder, I experienced firsthand the powerful potential of connecting people for meaningful conversations. People are capable—when you bring them together to form a trusted relationship, they have the power to influence culture, improve collaboration, and increase productivity.
Over the last few years, we’ve partnered with leading companies like Zillow, Microsoft, and Ancestry.com to create space and structure for employees to form meaningful relationships at work. Along the way, we’ve heard direct feedback from employees about what they need from their work relationships and how relationships impact their success.
With over 100,000 hours of conversation on the Imperative platform, we have impactful data from employees and program leaders across a large swath of industries, continents, time zones and backgrounds.
Research is written into our DNA, so naturally, we analyzed the treasure trove of data we’ve seen since work was flipped on its head. Below we’ve captured key takeaways from this unprecedented data set, with the hope that these insights can help innovative leaders looking to transform their workplaces.
Individual Employee Relationships are Key to Organizational Change
Nearly every business leader we meet agrees that they want to better connect their people. In the face of the many shared challenges of today’s workplaces, they understand that supporting a connected organization is what drives resilience, innovation, collaboration and fulfillment. But they usually don’t know where to start, and prioritizing connection at scale during times of uncertainty is… hard. And even once connection is prioritized, it’s hard to measure. We created Imperative in response to this challenge. As HR leaders, we historically haven’t had access to the kind of performance metrics other parts of the business do. This leaves us having to make critical arguments for the investments necessary to support people, without numerical support, which can feel precarious in times of economic uncertainty.
What we’ve seen in our platform data is that it’s actually possible to start measuring the efficacy of creating meaningful relationships at work. Everyday in our platform we see comments from employees and program leaders detailing the value they’re experiencing.
Here are the top three ways we’ve seen meaningful conversations and building new relationships at work have an impact on the business:
#1: Problem-Solving and Innovation
Conversations are how we learn, adapt, connect, and become fulfilled at work. By regularly connecting people inside your company to reflect on shared experiences, organize their thinking and commit to an action, we are inspiring people to feel empowered and support each other to solve real work problems.
Our partner, Equitable, is an example of how organizational change stems from individual relationships. Two employees, Christina from Sales and Mariya from Finance, were matched cross-functionally as conversation partners on Imperative. Over the course of their conversations, they came to recognize a mutual need to improve the sales process for financial advisors. Christina and Mariya utilized their unique perspectives and networks to co-create an application that solved this problem—which is now widely used today within Equitable. The application is a repeatable, scalable solution that can be used to train hundreds of new sales people coming into their organization every year.
Because Christina and Mariya had built a trusted relationship through intentional conversations, they were able to support and advocates for each other. Not only did this impact the work processes of Equitable as an organization, it impacted both Christina and Mariya as individual employees—empowering them to own their career growth while earning promotions and recognition because of it.
One connection can make a difference that impacts an organization. Empowering people to act on their strengths from a place of connection puts organizational goals back in the hands of the people.
“It was really just putting the right people in touch at the right time. And that’s the true power of the network that you can see from connecting on Imperative. It helped create these connections to areas of the company that one person might not have interacted with before.”Equitable Employee
#2: Increased Tenure and Sense of Belonging
People want supportive, trusted relationships in the workplace. Gallup’s 2022 study found that, “having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including profitability, safety, inventory control and retention.” When employees feel connected to their coworkers, they feel more connected to the organization.
Imperative creates a sense of belonging by leaning into the importance of forming relationships that are lasting and built on trust. By offering a way to have frequent and intentional connection, employees are more likely to build relationships that keep them connected with organizational culture and goals. A structured approach creates a safe space for employees to come together for a conversation, that levels the playing field between seniorities and experiences, and allows employees to form supportive relationships that attribute to a sense of belonging as an organization. And what we’ve seen from the platform data is that people value connections built through conversations on Imperative enough to turn them into ongoing relationships.
87% of Siteimprove employees state that they “intend to have an ongoing relationship” with their conversation partner.
Meaningful relationships give employees an outlet to both celebrate success and to provide support in times of hardships and uncertainty. Belonging is formed through strong, individual relationships that remind people why they made the choice to work at the company in the first place. These types of relationships happen through creating space to make friendships at work.
“Being able to have someone to share our challenges and successes with, outside of our immediate teams & reporting structure, is so helpful in maintaining a sense of community at Zillow.”Zillow Group Employee
#3: Employee Career and Development Path
Meaningful conversation gives employees an outlet to reflect on their career growth and benefit from shared accountability.
Imperative’s dynamic conversation content brings each employee’s intrinsic motivators to the surface, encouraging them to celebrate their strengths and look for opportunities to apply them in different settings.
When people feel in touch with what brings them energy and fulfillment, they can start to identify and build excitement for the goals and actions that make up their development path. Conversations give employees a chance to recognize and name their career aspirations and growth goals, and how they can utilize their strengths to move the needle on their development. Our in-conversation data shows that this empowers employees to own their success and development.
During these conversations, employees can set actions for themselves that serve their development and growth in an ongoing way. When people take ownership, feel supported doing it and feel proud of themselves they want to do more. It’s a boost of oxytocin. It’s the fuel that powers people to realize their potential—and doing it in community with others is what helps us feel included.
“It was amazing to have a conversation with someone in a completely different area of the company. It enabled me to be more candidate about my career goals and expectations without the thought of it being shared with others. It was also helpful to have guided conversations to help cultivate career goals. It feels like you can think more broadly on career goals.”Equitable Employee
What Employees Need to Form Relationships
Our 2022 Workforce Purpose Index surfaced that employees want more relationships at work and are willing to spend time on it, on average 2+ hours per week. It’s something HR leaders hear anecdotally all the time. So what do employees need in order to actually form these meaningful relationships?
#1 Employees need permission from company leadership to take the time to form relationships:
“Imperative conversations gave me time, permission and a sounding board to help me build relationships, while brainstorming and problem-solving.”Siteimprove Employee
#2 Employees need to be intentionally connected with peers
“I feel very safe talking about anything with my conversation partner. It’s rare that I build that type of trust this quickly but we are a good match, pushing each other outside of our comfort zones in an impactful way.”Equitable Employee
#3 Employees need a “container” or a place where forming relationships is natural and accessible
“The dedicated time to reflect and focus on development is much needed and appreciated. Having structure and accountability is needed to make sure this happens in this crazy time! Imperative has helped me remember that connecting with people at work in a structured setting feels good, not draining.”Zillow Group
Purpose is Key to Building Relationships
As an HR leader myself, I saw how forming individual relationships through Imperative was an elegantly simple solution to creating organizational change, which dwarfed anything I’d tried in the past or what was available on the market.
Imperative makes investing in your people as simple as a conversation. It’s possible to simultaneously support individual employees AND organizational/business goals. Inspire people, challenge them! Allow them to connect with what motivates them and build bridges with each other. Organizational change starts with investment in people; because organizations don’t change, people do.
The journey of creating a connected workplace has only just begun for us at Imperative. If you’d like to follow along as we continue to make work a more fulfilling place, connect with me on Linkedin.
P.S. RSVP for our live webinar with Travis Mears, our Senior Director of Accounts & Customer Success, for a deep dive into the impact that happens when employees are given the permission to build meaningful, trusted relationships can have in the workplace.