Reach Out and (Virtually) Touch Someone

How Companies can Create Personal Connections Without Face-to-face Meetings

Building connection using online meeting

If you ask any business owner what the most challenging aspect of running a company is, the answer will almost always be “managing people.”

There will always be complexities around everything, from invoicing to accounting to product development to logistics, but in the end, it always comes back to having the right people in place to do the job. And while hiring is often a difficult process, what is even harder is retaining quality team members.

Salary might get people in the door, but ultimately what keeps them is a sense of belonging and feeling that their work makes a difference. Thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, however, it has been almost impossible to build a sense of team and camaraderie among employees because so many of us are working virtually. How can entrepreneurs link with, and motivate, their employees and make them feel connected when they can’t be in the same room — or even the same country?

There’s no single recipe for motivating and connecting with employees, but a recent Forbes column identified “Demonstrating Genuine Recognition and Appreciation” as the most important element of any effort to build and maintain strong teams during the pandemic. If you think about it, this is actually important at any time, but it has become one of the major management challenges over the last year and a half because more than 80% of knowledge workers in the world have been forced to work remotely for long stretches of time in 2020 and 2021 — and it is likely that this trend is going to continue for at least another year.

So the question becomes how can managers show appreciation for people that they may not even have ever met in person?

This is where corporate gifts can play a huge role in driving a sense of belonging, and ultimately creating a culture that values employees as individuals rather than simply tiles on a Zoom call. At a basic level, all new employees should receive company SWAG, ranging from shirts to coffee mugs to gift baskets.

Businesswoman talks in a Zoom video meeting

Good HR departments already know how to start their onboarding processes — but GREAT HR departments never stop. That’s because they know that while it is awesome to receive a box of treats on day one, it is even more essential to receive acknowledgement at seemingly unimportant times like the three-month or six-month mark, when many employees are beginning to feel that they are being taken for granted.

If you think about it, it’s the equivalent of receiving flowers from your significant other: it’s great to get a bouquet on your anniversary, but it’s just as meaningful to receive a dozen roses on a random Tuesday in November for no apparent reason.

The good news is that it is incredibly easy to set up recurring gifting programs. There are many online platforms that allow companies to schedule gifts at regular intervals so that employees receive a constant reminder that their companies value them as people, rather than simply as cogs in the wheel.

The bigger question, however, is exactly what these gifts should be. While getting a company mug or laptop bag as an onboarding gift is great, this approach can ultimately lack the personal touch if it gets repeated ad infinitum. That’s why companies should consider making branded items that tie to specific seasons or events (as well as employees’ milestone dates such as birthdays).