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What does it mean to Promote Connection?

A critical aspect of a thriving organisation relates to the meaning employees derive from their work, through the quality of their connections and relationships at work.

Relationships with others at work provide key contributions to how employees make sense of the meaning of their work, the job itself, and themselves in the job.1 The relationships and connections can be internal and external to the organisation, including co-workers, leaders, teams and communities.2 Positive interpersonal connections occur when trust, inclusiveness and fairness characterise the relationships individuals have with others.3

Key Strategies

There are four strategies highlighted in the research:

  • Foster work connections and linkages;
  • Value and enable diversity and inclusion;
  • Harness diversity; and
  • Support community engagement.

Why is it important to Promote Connection?

Greater connections and meaning at work has been shown to influence a number of important outcomes for individuals and organisations.

Research has found improvements in outcomes such as:

  • Motivation;4
  • Absenteeism;5
  • Engagement;6
  • Individual performance;7
  • Personal fulfilment;8 and
  • Well-being.9

In contrast, a lack of connection and meaning in work can lead to poor motivation and ‘disengagement’ from work, which can negatively affect organisational outcomes. These include turnover, safety performance, productivity and customer service.10 Organisations that help employees connect and find greater meaning in their work, are more likely to reap the benefits of a more engaged workforce.


A recent survey in Australia found only 22% of people are motivated to work hard because their job is interesting and important to them personally, and only 13% indicated that there are efforts made to help individuals find meaning and purpose in their work.11

Research-backed strategies to Promote Connection in your workplace

Enable employees to engage in meaningful work through diverse and high quality connections and relationships at work and with the community.

Build high quality work connections

Building high quality connections (HQC) are essential in promoting positive mental health and well-being12 HQC move beyond co-worker/ and supervisory support, to the existence of relationships that are open, trustworthy, fair and encourage generativity.13 Employees who experience HQC feel safer to:

  • Generate new ideas;
  • Take risks;
  • Experiment and try new things; and
  • Take into account the needs of coworkers when doing their own work.

On an individual level, HQC can support personal development and growth and enhance meaningfulness through positive interpersonal interactions with co-workers and clients.14,15 At an organisational level, HQC are associated with increased interpersonal trust and coordination between employees.16

Despite the importance of quality relationships, Superfriend’s Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Report17 reported that only 20% of relationships in the workplace are based on trust.

Possible actions to build high quality work connections include:

  • Facilitate greater information and resource sharing;
  • Encourage more feedback seeking behaviour;
  • Develop a culture of trust that supports vulnerability, openness and authenticity; and
  • Provide opportunities for social interactions with colleagues, e.g. include time on meeting agendas to check in with the team and offer space for sharing experiences/stories.

Foster diversity and inclusion

Australia has a highly diverse workforce. Diversity provides the opportunity for creativity, innovation, and higher quality output in comparison to a team of like-minded individuals.18 However, these positive outcomes can only be achieved when organisations focus on both diversity and inclusion.19

The Diversity Council of Australia states that inclusion occurs when “a diversity of people feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organisation. It is only through inclusion that organisations can make the most out of diversity.”

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2017) survey, the proportion of executives who cite inclusion as a top priority rose 32% between 2014 and 2017. In mid-2017, 150 CEO’s from world leading organisations pledged to launch action for Diversity and Inclusion, committed to developing workplaces that are thriving. Diverse and inclusive workplaces are more likely to attract, hire and retain high performing employees and as a result, improve their bottom line.20 In addition, research shows that inclusion can increase innovation, reduce groupthink and improve performance.

Possible actions to foster diversity and inclusion include:

  • Develop a diversity and inclusion policy;
  • Take initial actions to foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace such as review and aligning HR practices and policies and leadership training to build more inclusive leaders; and
  • Ensure adequate resources are in place to drive the diversity and inclusion function.


The Future of Work Institute has curated a page of information containing available resources on creating diverse and inclusive workplaces.


If you’re interested in learning more about cultural diversity specifically, please visit our resource page.


A study by Deloitte found a direct correlation between diversity, inclusion and business performance. The study found that more diverse and inclusive workplaces saw on average 83% improvement on their ability to innovate, 31% increase in the ability to respond to changing customer needs and a 42% increase in team collaboration. Greater diversity and inclusion was also related to higher levels of employee engagement.21

Enable community engagement

Organisations can shape the meaning of work by enabling workers to build relationships and ties to the community. Research suggests that creating the opportunity for employees to contribute to the community through their work, allows employees to develop an enhanced sense of purpose, agency, and impact, which can lead to work being experienced as more meaningful.22

Possible actions to enable community engagement include:

  • Develop a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy;
  • Partner with a non-for-profit organisation;
  • Link team building days with volunteer activities; and
  • Get involved with corporate volunteering.


The Future of Work Institute has curated a page of information containing available resources on the ways in which your organisation might engage with community organisations and offer corporate volunteering.


    1. Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179-201.
    2. Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior30, 91-127.
    3. Superfriend. (2016). Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Workplace: Guidelines for Organisations.
    4. Roberson, L. (1990). Functions of work meaning in organizations: Work meaning and work motivation. In A. P. Brief & W. N. Nord (Eds.), Meanings of occupational work (pp. 107- 134). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
    5. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21-33.
    6. May, D. R., Gilson, R. L., & Harter, L. M. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77(1), 11-37.
    7. Wrzesniewski, A. (2003). Finding positive meaning in work. In K.S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.). Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 296-308). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
    8. Kahn, W. A. (2007). Meaningful connections: Positive relationships and attachments at work. In J. E. Dutton & B. R. Ragins (Eds.), Exploring positive relationship at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation (pp. 189–206). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
    9. Berg, J. M., Grant, A. M., & Johnson, V. (2010). When callings are calling: Crafting work and leisure in pursuit of unanswered occupational callings. Organization Science, 21, 973–994.
    10. Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., & Hayes, T. L. (2002). Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 268.
    11. Dutton, J.E. & Heaphy, E.D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections at work. In K.S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship (pp. 263-278). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
    12. Stephens, J. P., Heaphy, E., & Dutton, J. E. (2012). High quality connections. The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship, 385-399.
    13. Gittell, J. H. (2003). A theory of relational coordination. In K. Cameron, J. Dutton, and R. E Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 25-27). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
    14. Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 692-724.
    15. Bassett‐Jones, N. (2005). The paradox of diversity management, creativity and innovation. Creativity and Innovation Management, 14(2), 169-175.
    16. The Gallup Organisation. (2018). Three requirements of a diverse and inclusive culture – and why they matter for your organization.
    17. Grant, A. M. (2007). Relational job design and the motivation to make a prosocial difference. Academy of Management Review32(2), 393-417.
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