Organizations of all shapes and sizes continue to invest time, energy and money into policies and practices that they hope will foster a culture of engagement. But increasing levels of engagement can be more complex than it may seem. Each organization is different\u2014markets change and strategies vary, as does the makeup of the workforce. Research at TalentMap, a company that helps organizations in North America understand employee engagement, suggests there is no one \u201cright\u201d or \u201cbest\u201d way to create an engaged workforce. There are some reoccurring best practices that have a significant impact on employee engagement, however. According to Angela Finlay, Director of Human Resources at Geosoft, a software and solutions company that focus on sharing geographic data, \u201cIt\u2019s all about relationships, and in particular the relationship between the employee and his or her manager.\u201d She claims that Geosoft\u2019s executives understand this important dynamic and invest time and money to ensure their managers are properly trained. Three times each year Geosoft managers are put through a variety of skill-building modules that, in the end, enable them to build stronger relationships with their people. Some of the training at Geosoft includes: \tSituational leadership \tRelationship versatility \tCommunicating with purpose In addition to the investment in training, Geosoft executives travel at least once a year to each office, including Australia and South America. On these trips the CEO or vice-president will sit down with each employee over lunch or coffee and have a direct discussion about the employee\u2019s career aspirations, and issues that are important to him or her. It seems to work\u2014Geosoft scored near the top of our employee engagement index again this year and has won a number of workplace awards. Paula Rankin, HR Business Partner at Eloqua, fast-growing marketing automation software firm, also understands the value of strong relationships and its impact in employee engagement. Rankin runs a week-long onboarding boot camp for all new hires that joined within the recent quarter. New employees . y to Toronto from around the world. They are put up in a hotel and then exposed to the \u201cEloqua way\u201d. \u201cIt\u2019s an expensive investment, but it works,\u201d says Rankin. \u201cIt\u2019s a great way for new hires to bond and build relationships over a shared experience.\u201d One highlight of the week includes a \u201cmeet and greet\u201d with the executive team. The team spends time with new employees during a wine and cheese event after the first day at boot camp. This is a chance for new employees to meet and talk directly with the CEO and other executives, and for Eloqua\u2019s leadership team to get to know the new recruits first hand. Another highlight of the week is the MBTI workshop. Rankin says this \u201cgives new employees a chance to build self awareness and to learn about the working style of others. It also reinforces to new hires that \u201chow we work\u201d is just as important as \u201cwhat we do\u201d. Building strong relationships early on in their career makes a big difference to employee engagement at Eloqua, according to Rankin. She seems to be right. Similar to Geosoft, Eloqua ranks near the very top of the TalentMap Employee Engagement Index. It seems these two organizations are striking a cord with their employees by focusing on building stronger personal and working relationships. As humans, we have an undeniable urge to connect with others. It is a primal urge that we need to scratch and when we do, we start to really feel engaged. What policies and practices can your organization foster to encourage stronger relationships across your organization? Listed below are the top five practices organizations can use to build stronger and more productive relationships at work: \tWEEKLY ONE-ON-ONES: Regularly scheduled, never missed, clearly structured, 30-minute meetings between supervisor and the direct report provides the foundation to foster a great relationship. \tSUPERVISOR TRAINING: Invest at least $5,000 in supervisor training each year. A total of 30% of variance in business results can be explained by differences in the work climate created by managers. A small investment in management development goes a long way. \tINVEST IN ONBOARDING: Social ties established early create significantly higher engagement. One of the best ways to establish these ties is through an effective onboarding experience. \tCONSTANTLY COMMUNICATE THE VISION: In turbulent times and in good times employees need to see, meet and hear from the executive team. Outlining the vision and discussing it regularly (such as in monthly or quarterly staff meetings) is one of the best ways to foster employee engagement. \tSURVEY ANNUALLY: Employee surveys have many applications, including improved communications. Effective surveys open a two-way dialog between staff and management. This is one of the best ways to build effective relationships and higher employee engagement.