Friendships at workplace: Let employees network if you want them to stay
Giving employees the opportunity to network with fellow colleagues makes them stay at the organisation for longer, claim researchers.
Lead author of the paper Caitlin Porter said, “Work used to be a major source of friendships, and that’s declining.”
“That gives people less reason to stay. So giving people the opportunity to build their relationships could help with retention,” he added.
Researchers looked at various types of networking — internal networking vs. external — to determine what networking behaviours predicted an employee would leave their company within two years, as well as the impact of four other factors: job satisfaction, job embeddedness, perceived employment opportunities and actual job offers.
In general, he said, scholars define “networking” as a set of behaviours performed with professional contacts, including the mutually beneficial exchange of resources, such as news about job openings and advice on how to better perform a job.
External networking, with people from outside an employee’s workplace, is often facilitated by professional groups or trade associations.
Internal networking can be more casual, even gathering for coffee and donuts before a meeting.
Both offer the opportunity to talk about common issues, ask for advice and offer support.
Using data collected from a group of industrial organisational psychologists followed for two years, the researchers elaborated on earlier work that had found a correlation between networking and job turnover by distinguishing between internal and external networking to determine why and how each contributes to employee decisions to leave a job.
Internal networking promoted job satisfaction and job embeddedness, a feeling that the worker should remain in the job, both because of ties to co-workers and concerns about losing real or perceived benefits and reduced turnover.
External networking, meanwhile, increased the likelihood of turnover by 114%, a figure that was even higher if opportunities for internal networking were reduced.
“This study reveals that internal networking behaviours are associated with a reduced likelihood of voluntary turnover, and external networking behaviours are associated with an increased likelihood of voluntary turnover,” the researchers wrote.
Added, “Employee networking, in general, functions as a double-edged sword by simultaneously exerting opposing influences upon one’s desire and ability to leave the organization.”
Employers can’t forbid external networking, which also offers benefits as employees return to the office with new ideas.
But they can increase opportunities for people to network with their co-workers, Porter said.
The study was published in the current edition of the journal Personnel Psychology.
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