How to Promote a Culture of Connection in the Ever-Changing Workplace

Feb 21, 2023

The importance of fostering connections in the workforce has never been more prevalent than this past year. 

From the recent trends of quiet quitting to flexible work environments after COVID to mental health care incentives, employees have demanded more from their workplace and human resource offices. And rightfully so.

One thing that drives me and probably other HR managers crazy is the belief that there is an easy way to implement and foster the human connection our employees deserve. The reality is, there’s not.

In the yoga business, connection is vital. It’s important that we hone in on this connection internally as well. 

Our company, Yoga Joint, employs 162 people in eight studios across South Florida. Recruiting, managing, and retaining that staff requires specialization. To be successful, we have to hire right, keep employees engaged and ensure that we are reinforcing a culture of teamwork, harmony, respect, and overall wellness. 

It’s true that those priorities are important at most service businesses, but we have a special responsibility because we are in the balance business. Whether they’re coming to us for our Vinyasa-inspired heat flow classes or our high-intensity HIIT workouts, our clientele relies on us to help relieve the stress from their lives. So why should it be any different for our teachers and all our employees who continuously show up to work?

This type of connection is important for our size. We don’t want to lose that small business feel and personal touch as we continue to grow and scale, but also want to ensure that implementing human connection is strategic, cost-effective, and ultimately grows alongside us.

So how do we work to retain and recognize staff to foster the human connection?

Hire Smart

In this business, the experience makes or breaks a class. The teachers and studio staff aren’t just our employees — they’re representatives of our brand. That means they have a direct impact on our business.

There’s no shortage of certified teachers or qualified studio staff, but not everyone is a good fit for us. We spend a lot of time and care reinforcing our interview and hiring process. How does that help with employee recognition and retention? When you take the time during the hiring process, you find the gem among the dull rocks — the kind of employee who deserves praise and recognition. That allows us to ensure that we can spread out our employee recognition among the widest set of teammates possible.

We don’t wait to recognize employees. We celebrate them on their first day of work.

We are big on sending e-cards here. We use a company called CardSnacks, which allows us to easily send electronic greeting cards to employees. We began sending CardSnacks to employees on their work anniversaries and included a gift card. When we began hearing the positive praise and appreciation for sending the cards, we figured we should send them out more frequently.

It also creates a sense of tradition. CardSnacks have become “our thing” to our employees. They see we send them an e-card through a text or email, and they open them immediately. Ultimately, we are letting them know that we are thinking of them and demonstrating their value to our organization.

While this specific tool worked for us, there are many tools available that have been paving the way for companies and their people to connect — whether they are sitting next to each other in the office or working remotely states away. Take the time to do your research and test what kind of tool works best for your employees.

Pile on the Benefits

It’s common in the fitness community to have transient team members who work only part-time. As a member-focused business, the familiarity with our staff is vital and we should reward those employees with the kinds of benefits expected for full-time work. We are one of the few yoga companies to offer health benefits for eligible employees, paid time off, and a 401(k).

Not to mention, having robust options for benefits shows you care for your employees and their dedication to the company — without making them feel like another number.

Now that younger employees are beginning to enter into the workforce, we need to begin shifting our resources in order to hire and retain them. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 40% of today’s young workers have been with their employers 12 months or less — a staggering number causing a high rate in employee turnover.

While it may not be easy to offer additional benefits to your employees, it’s key to ensuring tenure is strong within your people and your company. 

Keep Inactive Employees Engaged

One of the quirks of our business is that many of our studio employees attend college. This means that they are only available during the summer and college breaks, and those who attend colleges nearby are only available during the school year before heading back home for summer break. Either way, we make sure that they stay engaged with us as if they are here every day.

We keep them engaged through regular emails and outreach — they get a CardSnack from us on milestone dates, no matter how far away they are from their studios. The advantage for us is that we know we can retain them, which eliminates the need to onboard new employees and train fresh staff.

Given the current labor environment, we know a lot of companies are focusing on their employees. Yet, we rely on creating a work environment that is good for mind, body, and spirit. Focusing on employee recognition, culture, and benefits allows us to provide the kind of harmony our members and our team need for their daily work and their overall connection.

By Michele Harbaugh