By Pete Bombaci, Founder of The GenWell Project
The GenWell Project was launched in 2016 as a Canadian Not-For-Profit looking to educate, empower, and catalyze thirty-eight million Canadians about the importance of social connection for their health, happiness, longevity, and the betterment of society. We built the business model on the belief that Canadian businesses would recognize the value of bringing this incredibly important message to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Six years later, and two years of a global pandemic that ripped our social connections from our daily lives, the proposition is even more important and more valuable to every business in Canada. It’s one that crosses every aspect of business success and the success of each of your key stakeholders. A message and movement that is not only meaningful within the four walls of your business, but can support the roughly 50% of Canadians, across all demographics, who say that they feel lonely through the course of the year and the ten million Canadians who this past holiday seasons, identified that they were lonelier than they had ever been before. It is for these reasons and the many other benefits that come from a more connected Canada, that every Canadian business should be at the forefront of the Human Connection Movement, whether for your own business or the broader community.
Let’s go deeper on how business can lead the Human Connection Movement.
Let’s go deeper on each of these areas of the movement to see why our message is of such value to every business leader.
In the Workplace – Educate, empower, and catalyze human connection!
Business leaders have always been searching for an advantage over their competition or looking for more efficient ways to deliver their products and services. Building a more connected workplace was seldom a strategic part of the conversation, although the occasional BBQ or holiday celebration was usually in the cards. What research is clearly showing is that gathering your people a couple times a year is just not enough to build the human connections that make your employees feel connected, give them a sense of belonging and create the relationships that make people happier, healthier, and more productive.
With 76% of employees finding, it difficult to build relationships in the workplace and 58% finding that their relationships at the office are superficial, the days of leaving human connection to chance are over
As the research comes out about the benefits of a highly connected workplace, to both the business and to the individual employee, it is becoming clear that building healthy connections in the workplace may have a greater impact than anything workplaces have considered before. Check out these stats.
A highly connected and engaged workplace…
When leaders recognize that the cost of a disengaged employee can be up to 34% of their annual salary. The cost to replace an employee can be 6 to 9 months of their annual salary, or that disengaged employees make up to 60% more errors than engaged employees, and have a major impact on the health and well-being of their employees, the question really must be, what are we waiting for?
And here is what it means to your people
In broader terms, social isolation, disconnection, and loneliness are associated with a greater incidence of major psychological, cognitive, and physical morbidities, and lower perceived quality of life.
When employees feel connected, included, and part of the team, they want to show up. They want to contribute to something larger them themselves, and they want to find the work life balance that allows them to thrive, not just as employees, but as human beings. This connection strategy should be part of an ongoing DE&I effort, as well as a prevention-oriented wellness strategy. Employees can also take the insights on the power of human connection and action them in their homes, on their streets, and in their communities.
All this knowledge on the power of human connection to create a more successful workplace and yet it appears that very few businesses are taking action. Maybe it’s because they think it will happen naturally, but with 76% of employees finding it difficult to build relationships in the workplace and 58% finding that their relationships at the office are superficial, the days of leaving human connection and relationships to chance are over.
The opportunity to take a proactive, strategic approach to building a more connected workplace is staring us all in the face. Leverage the information shared by The GenWell Project around workplace connections and start to build your understanding and activities to build a more connected workplace.
How can we incorporate connection into all our communities?
So now that we have your employees more engaged, what about using the power of human connection to build healthier connections with your community? Which community you ask? Great question. How about our physical community to start? How about the communities that surround our employee’s homes next? What about the partners and suppliers that help us get our work done and who building relationships with can only bring good things?
Let us start with your physical community.
Whether you are in an office building, industrial area, or a fully detached building, you have people around you that you walk by each day. Have you ever stood staring at the numbers in an elevator or at the walk light, waiting for the walking image to appear, instead of speaking to the other person standing beside you? Have you ever held a door for someone you see every day, but not introduced yourself or made a connection that would make those casual collisions more meaningful? On a GenWell Weekend or any time of the year, why not host a lunch, a BBQ, a coffee, or end of day social to connect with these neighbours? Someone who is a stranger today could be a client or business partner tomorrow, a new friend, could provide referrals to other business opportunities, or may just make your daily routines more enjoyable by making those casual collisions a little more meaningful.
What about inviting your business partners, your suppliers or anyone who is part of making your business successful?
Everyone we build more regular and heathy relationships with will benefit, as well as you, your team, and your business. Yes, initially, some may ask why you are doing it, or even “What are you trying to sell me?”, but eventually people will see that you are playing the long game. One that brings both organizational and financial success in the long term. Business really is about building relationships.
What about inspiring your employees to connect with their neighbours or community?
What about giving them time, tools or even product (maybe you’re in the CPG space) and encouraging them to connect with someone on their street or in their community? What an amazing excuse for them to reach out with the knowledge that you have empowered them with and what a wonderful way for them to become an ambassador for your product and what you stand for. Now we have taken this one small piece of new knowledge and implemented it in multiple spaces in our live and we all become part of solution to the disconnected world.
As the business world becomes more accountable for their ESGs (Environmental, Social, Governance) impact on the world, recognizing and understanding that the Social Responsibility of the ESGs starts inside your own business, but extends beyond your business to the other communities that you connect with and serve, is a critical opportunity to leverage for a mutual benefit.
The purpose of helping others live happier and healthier lives, is always a great way to lead with when trying to build meaningful relationships.
Build relationships with your Customer or Client Base.
Providing value to your customers before, during, or after the sale of your product or service is a wonderful way to entrench your brand and your customer loyalty. Offering your customers insight to information, no matter what business you are in, that can help them live happier, healthier, and longer lives is a fantastic way to offer a value with no strings attached.
Even better, leverage a GenWell Weekends, which are weekends that have been scientifically identified as times of the year when people may benefit most from creating opportunities for us to connect, as an opportunity to connect with your customer. If you have branches or retail outlets (think banks, telcos, or grocery) why not have a BBQ? If you have agents (think insurance, investment, or real estate) who traditionally work remotely, why not host an event at a location or the head office that you visit on occasion? As well as inviting your existing clients, why not invite potential clients that you would like to get to know and were looking for the perfect excuse to make it happen.
The purpose of helping others live happier and healthier lives, is always a great way to lead with when trying to build meaningful relationships. Of course, some are already doing these types of activities and if so, we hope that this information can help you put more purpose into your efforts. If you are not, this is the excuse and catalyst that you have been waiting for. We all win when we build stronger connections and building stronger connections with your current or future clients can only lead to wonderful things.
Building a connection to all Canadians!
This is the aspect of the campaign the original business model of The GenWell Project was built on. We believed that if businesses were to share information that could make Canadians aware of the power of human connection for their health, happiness, and longevity, and inspire or catalyze it to happen, that Canadians would reward them with their dollars, their endorsement, and their loyalty. What a great win:win and the opportunity to put more purpose into your everyday work.
Research from the Canadian social connection survey even validates this thinking. In 2021, 46% of Canadians (16+) suggested that they would participate in a movement that was related to building greater social connections, and 40% said they would make a purchase decision based on the efforts of a company to get Canadians more socially connected. That suggests that nearly fifteen million people would be interested in supporting the movement and a few less would be willing to make a purchase decision! Don’t forget, that although we don’t include those under 16, they will certainly benefit as well, from any efforts older Canadians make to build a more connected Canada!
Whatever your business product or service is, you can leverage this message and movement to connect with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, with an opportunity to be at the heart of rebuilding the connected Canada that gives everyone the opportunity to thrive.
In 2021, 46% of Canadians (16+) suggested that they would participate in a movement that was related to building greater social connections, and 40% said they would make a purchase decision based on the efforts of a company to get Canadians more socially connected.
The Wrap – Let’s get start re-building a more connected Canada one business at a time.
So, there you have it. Every Canadian business can use the power of human connection to improve their own team and work, all the way through to being part of a movement to educate, empower, and catalyze all Canadians to the facts around their social health.
Human connection is a basic human need. Not far above food and water, but one we have seldom focused any time and attention on in our history. Now that the global pandemic has put a magnifying glass on the need and issue, and we as human beings recognize that we are social animals that crave and desire human connection, the opportunity for businesses to help facilitate these human connections may be the greatest retention strategy, engagement tool, and marketing platform, in decades. The investment can be relatively small or as large as you want to make it, but the time to start the conversations and inspire those social connections is now.
If your organization, workplace, or team is interested in educating, empowering, and catalyzing more human connection for the benefit of your employees and your business, connect with me at Pete@GenWellProject.org.
About the Author
Pete Bombaci is the Founder and Executive Director of The GenWell Project – the Human Connection Movement, a Canadian NFP, that has since 2016 been working to educate, empower, and catalyze Canadians around the importance of human connection for their health, happiness, longevity, and the betterment of society.