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Even in this age of increased telecommuting and rising self-employment, most Americans still spend a significant slice of our lives at the workplace. So it’s no surprise that we want to feel good about the company we’re giving that time to… and the people we’re spending that time with.

When we don’t, the impact is significant. Google’s Project Aristotle, for example, studied the dynamics and outcomes of the company’s internal teams, and found that the difference between those that gelled and thrived, and ones that fractured and failed, came down to what’s known as “psychological safety” – a mutual feeling within a group of being accepted and respected.

The research behind a recent Harvard Business Review article found that a company’s emotional culture influences everything from satisfaction, teamwork and burnout to financial performance. Positive cultures directly correlate to higher engagement, greater creativity, improved teamwork and better decision making, while negative cultures can devastate things like performance and turnover rates. Moreover, “[e]very organization has an emotional culture, even if it’s one of suppression.”

With candidates now solidly in the driver’s seat of today’s job market, just how significantly does emotional satisfaction factor in to the work-related decisions and choices people are making now?

A lot.

We recently conducted our own survey on the role emotion plays on the job, with a specific focus on recruitment and retention. The responses suggest that a positive emotional experience is no longer just a pleasant side benefit of a “good job.” It’s an essential component of it.

Job-seekers today accept offers from companies when they can anticipate building fulfilling relationships, and stay with companies where they have built them — even when other aspects of their job fall short. They’ll also leave a job that’s satisfying on other fronts if they aren’t getting a positive emotional payoff.

This survey served up all kinds of fascinating takeaways about the role emotion plays in attracting and keeping great employees. Here are three of the biggest:

1) First impressions are critical

Interviews, especially in the early stages, can be somewhat transactional, with both parties focused on communicating, receiving and processing a huge amount of information in a short period of time. Trying to develop an emotional connection on top of it can strike a hiring manager as a waste of time. If the candidate doesn’t get an offer, you’ll probably never see them again anyway; if they do, there will be time enough for relationship-building once they come on board.

Yet a candidate inevitably does form emotional impressions of a company during the interview process: about the people, culture, values and more. And those impressions have a huge impact on whether he or she accepts an offer or keeps on looking. 80% of respondents said that it’s important to have a personal connection with a hiring manager, and nearly 80% said they’d take one job over another based on the connections formed during the interview process.

2) Relationships power productivity (especially among Millennials)

A communicative, emotionally-satisfying culture that makes employees feel better also makes them work better. When asked what would make them more productive and satisfied and work, close to 40% of respondents overall cited strong coworker relationships, a mutual understanding of communication and collaboration preferences, and a boss who takes the time to understand how they work best. Among Millennials, that number is closer to 50%.

Personality assessments are one way companies can foster a deeper, more meaningful level of insight and understanding among colleagues, and between managers and reports. Overwhelmingly, employees embrace such efforts. Of the 60% of respondents who report having taken them at work, more than 75% believe the results of personality assessments have helped to create a better workplace experience.

3) The more valuable the employee, the more emotion matters

What’s true for ordinary employees seems to be even more so for top talent. Of the high-performers we surveyed (people who have been promoted twice or more within the past 18 months) 65% said they’ve stayed at a job they weren’t completely satisfied with because of the positive emotional relationships they’d developed there. 67% of that group have left a job because of poor interpersonal connections.

Those two stats are powerful enough on their own. They gain even greater resonance when you consider that 53% of those top performing employees reported current frustration with a lack of personal interactions. High performers want a job that’s as fulfilling emotionally as it is financially. Right now, most of them aren’t getting it.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of emotion in the customer experience. Turns out, it’s just as significant when it comes to the employee experience, and just as urgently worthy of a company’s attention and investment.

Want to know more about what an emotionally-connected workplace looks like – and what your company can do to meet the demand? Check out our full report, Take This Job and Love It: Hiring, Engaging and Retaining Talent in the New Emotional Workplace.


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