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Forge relationships at scale to build trust and influence across your workforce.

Relationship building

Forge relationships at scale to build trust and influence across your workforce.

The word engagement is everywhere. But what does it really mean? 

Instead of asking: 'How do we improve employee engagement?' 

You should be asking: 'How do we cultivate agile, change-ready organisations whose people are on board to act on big asks?' 

The good news is, we've got the answer. 

Engagement is a relationship-building process. 

The bad news? There are no shortcuts. Workplace relationships need to be built and nurtured consistently to truly get your people on board with your initiatives. 

We know this is easier said than done, though, and we're here to help. 

Why is building relationships at work important?

Why is building relationships at work important?

Building strong relationships at scale provides an essential foundation for improving employee engagement, wellbeing, and productivity.

After all, we wouldn’t expect those we have personal relationships with – partners, friends, or family – to deliver on our requests without the necessary foundation of trust and influence we’ve established with them.

The sum of your interactions with your people – from newsletters to whole company meetings – can make or break trust and define the quality of our relationships.

If you don’t have strong relationships across your workforce, engagement initiatives quickly becomes transactional and lead to reluctance or even outright resistance from your people.

Our eBook ‘Reframing Engagement’ explores this topic in further detail, arming leaders with an actionable framework for nurturing relationships and boosting engagement.

Download the eBook

The six stages of relationship-building

This framework is adapted from an original model by Dr Gordon Neufeld, a well-known Canadian psychologist. 

We took his six stages of relationship-building and applied them to the modern workplace, giving you a simple framework for building and maintaining trusting relationships at scale. 

Stage 1: Connection

Stage 1: Connection

The first and most basic stage is to keep in regular and consistent contact with your people. This fosters familiarity and shows that maintaining conversations and staying in touch matters.

Stage 2: Sharing

Stage 2: Sharing

Sharing and bonding over what you have in common strengthens relationships and encourages people to look to each other for what unites them, building deeper connections.

Stage 3: Belonging

Stage 3: Belonging

When people can be their authentic selves, they feel unconditionally accepted and comfortable. They are intrinsically motivated to participate in community activities, and a sense of belonging improves overall wellbeing.

Stage 4: Significance

Stage 4: Significance

People feel appreciated and valued for the unique person they are, knowing that they matter and their experience matters. As a group, they work hard to grow and progress while supporting others to do the same.

Stage 5: Care

Stage 5: Care

When people feel genuinely cared for as a whole person or community, they feel greater satisfaction about where they live and work. This accounts for 84% of organisational trust and provides a greater sense of wellbeing.

Stage 6: Being Known

Stage 6: Being Known

In this final stage, people feel heard, understood, and safe in their team or community despite any differences, conflict, lack of resources, and separateness. This stage earns influence and trust, building on the connection fostered in the previous five stages.

Harkn for building relationships

The anonymous and transparent nature of our platform encourages interaction across your workforce – both between peers and between leaders and employees.

Continuous listening

Live, unfiltered insights from your people enable leaders to better understand reality inside their organisation and make better-informed decisions.

Equal voice

By preserving anonymity at every turn, our platform encourages marginalised voices to speak up, fostering inclusion and belonging. 

Shared awareness

Giving your people a safe space where they can make sense of complexity and compare their experiences strengthens interpersonal bonds and encourages aligned action. 

Peer-to-peer support

The Harkn Wall and Team Rooms are often home to heart-warming displays of peer-to-peer support. This is an essential element in any effective workplace wellbeing strategy. 


Our real-time sentiment analysis capabilities help leaders to provide meaningful, personalised wellbeing support without revealing anyone's identity. 

Psychological safety

We enable everyone to speak up without fear of direct or indirect consequences. When you remove names and avatars, you remove barriers like unconscious bias and power distance that hinder a safe, speak-up culture. 


"Harkn is a fantastic tool that allows people to share how they're feeling without fear, providing a fantastic instant support network for colleagues. The data behind Harkn also helps leaders to understand the breadth and depth of their people's feelings."

Ian Bass Senior Manager, Schroders Personal Wealth

Further reading

Want to learn more about employee engagement, wellbeing, and workplace culture? Our blog is home to insightful articles on the challenges and opportunities facing the modern workplace today.