Why People Need Connection at Work: An Interview with Wisq CEO Jim Barnett

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The following was condensed from an interview on InevitableFutureofWork.com with host Jeff Lesher. Listen to the full episode here.

On the hundredth episode of Inevitable: The Future of Work podcast, host Jeff Lesher interviewed Wisq CEO Jim Barnett about Belonging at work – how to overcome the social wellbeing pandemic and foster a happier, more successful workplace.

“People are feeling isolated,” Jim said. “They’re feeling burnt out, and this has been exacerbated by remote work. And with the continuation of hybrid work likely to be the most common work model in the future, these issues aren’t going away.”

Now is the time for companies to think about a mechanism for employees to feel a greater sense of Belonging and Connection at work. The data supports it – research from Harvard Business Review shows that increasing belonging at work is responsible for a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. Analyst Josh Bersin recently wrote that companies can “benefit from a ‘new and different place’ for personal interactions, separate from projects, meetings, and work activities.”

“Unlike platforms like Slack or Teams, Wisq is fundamentally about nonwork things,” Jim said. “It’s a social connection platform. It’s a mobile-first platform… It’s designed to be for nonwork, social things.”

Learn what Jim has to say about Wisq and the benefits of Connection at work in the highlights below, and listen to the full episode of the Inevitable: The Future of Work podcast here.

Jeff: I’m fascinated by the phrasing of “A Space for Life at Work.” What does it mean and what can I take from that, in terms of Wisq and its technology?

Jim: When we talk about “A Space for Life at Work,” it’s shorthand for a place where employees can discover, connect, share and build relationships at work. It’s all about Connection and Belonging so people can be happier at work.

Jeff: How do you help people understand that this is an investment that makes sense? What will they get out of the time, infrastructure and cost investments needed to implement a platform like Wisq?

Jim: There are decades of data showing that happier employees perform better. MIT Sloan recently released a report showing that happy employees do everything better – they have lower absenteeism rates, they’re more highly motivated, they’re more creative, they have better relationships with their peers, and they’re more likely to stay at your company.

There’s so much data around this now, showing that happy employees perform better. It is fundamentally about business outcomes. When my cofounders and I were at Glint, we could see the correlation of how happy people were at work and business outcomes like patient satisfaction, hospital readmission rates, safety in factories and in mining companies, and the ability of airlines to land planes on time. Almost every business metric performs better when your employees are happier.

Jeff: What have you learned along the way that would be helpful for listeners trying to effectively connect teams?

Jim: The first thing is to create an organization that’s inclusive. In today’s world, it’s really hard to create a culture of Belonging if you don’t create a culture of inclusivity and diversity. For me, it starts with that. And then, investing in all the ways that you enable your people to connect and share. It’s not just through a digital platform; it’s in-person. It’s other types of platforms. It’s modeling that relationships matter and that relationships and people are valued. Equity and fairness are super important. It’s hard to create a culture of Belonging and Inclusion if you don’t treat people equitably and fairly.

We saw the value of leaders who are authentic. When you look across organizations, managers and high-performing teams, you see that authentic managers and leaders and good managers and leaders are much more likely to lead to high performing teams.

We saw the importance of investing in culture. You’ll see articles that say, “Culture isn't foosballs and bringing in lunch,” and that's sort of true, but it's also sort of wrong. Culture is created every day and all the things that you do. It’s sort of like parenting. There's not one thing you do to be a good parent, it sort of gets created in your interactions with your kids over decades. Culture is the same concept – it's investing in all the little things and big things that make people feel a sense of worth and a sense of belonging and inclusion at work.

Jeff: If there’s one thing you really want people to understand about the importance of connection and Belonging, what would that be?

Jim: Creating a culture of Belonging is vital to the long-term success of your company. We now have decades of data to show that happier employees perform better and that Belonging is a really critical component of being a happy employee.

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