Here’s Why Encouraging Work Friendships Is Good For Business

Traditional human capital management fails to create continuous, engaging experiences for the complex modern workforce, instead putting the focus on HR processes and transactions and missing the most important stakeholder: employees. This is why leading organizations are moving away from the traditional approach and adopting talent activation to make a greater investment in their employees and improve business outcomes.

Activating talent requires going beyond automating HR transactions and siloed functions to treat each stage of employment as part of a single fluid experience that engages modern workers throughout their journey with an organization.

Talent activation is built upon four pillars:

  1. Going beyond traditional talent management to orchestrate personalized talent experiences by creating meaningful touchpoints across the entire employee journey.
  2. Delivering personalized experiences by providing the right app and the right content at the right moment to individuals, where, when and how they want it.
  3. Anticipating what’s next by leveraging actionable analytics and metrics captured throughout the employee journey to spot bottlenecks, patterns and optimization opportunities.
  4. Encouraging meaningful employee relationships. Relationships are a powerful motivator; employees with strong bonds to those they work with are usually the most engaged and have the longest tenure with the organization

While all of these are important, the pillar of meaningful relationships is often the most overlooked or confusing; but it’s a tangible thing and organizations must make it part of the lifecycle. There are a number of benefits to meaningful employee relationships, including better business outcomes. A quick look at the following statistics reveals a lot about the value of relationships in the workplace:

  • Full-time employees (54% vs. 43% of part-time employees) were more likely to say they stay with their current employers because of their co-workers. (American Psychology Association)
  • 60% of employees feel their relationship with their employer positively impacts their focus or productivity at work, and 44% say it positively impacts stress levels. (Virgin Pulse)
  • 3% of millennials consider “friendly coworkers” an important work atmosphere trait. (NSHSS)
  • 88% of millennials want to be friends with their coworkers. (MTV Research)
  • The number one source of hiring for organizations is employee referrals. (SilkRoad)

Knowing this, organizations need to take steps to help employees create those meaningful relationships, or risk employees becoming disengaged, causing their performance to suffer and lessening the likelihood of retention (and associated benefits like recruitment). To do so, organizations should:

  • Create experiences and points of connection, starting one-on-one with peers .
  • Acknowledge that employees have lives outside of work; get to know the whole person by incorporating frequent check-ins so managers and employees can get to know one another beyond just work expectations.
  • Plan social outings/events to build relationships through fun activities outside of the office.
  • Create a team culture by setting a consistent tone/vision across the company backed by team-building sessions providing essential tools for success.
  • Enable an open feedback system for employees to share ideas, open communicate and celebrate success.
  • Replicate the actions of teams that are excelling in the area of relationship-building

Employee referrals

Organizations should also take advantage of relationships employees have established outside the organization with an employee referral program.

Referrals already have a critical relationship established before they even start on day one; their referrer is able to share their personal insight into organizational culture and attributes needed for success. The referrer is someone who the referred employee can trust for guidance and advice throughout their time with the organization, which further helps engagement and retention.

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Relationships are a measure of engagement

Creating meaningful relationships can form a support framework, but effectively evaluating employees’ relationships serves as a way to measure their level of activation. To do so, examine the following metrics:

  • Is an employee a social butterfly or do they stay isolated?
  • Is an employee volunteering for teams? How many?
  • Is an employee providing feedback to others? Coaching others? Seeking out feedback/guidance?
  • Is an employee actively recruiting friends and colleagues to apply for open positions within the organization?

The answers to these and similar questions provide quantifiable data which can be examined in a handful of ways, creating a pulse for risk assessment to determine which employees are disengaged. For example, organizations could use the data to:

  • Create heat maps for employees and teams that illustrate progress towards activation.
  • Analyze relationships within and across teams and compare it to team results on projects.
  • Identify best practices of successful teams and replicate across the organization.

Taking steps to quantify and measure relationships across staff members, departments, etc., helps organizations identify employees who aren’t yet activated, and thus at risk of leaving the organization.

The more organizations invest in efforts to foster peer-to-peer bonds and establish meaningful relationships among employees, the more activated the individual. The more activated individuals within an organization, the more successful the organization can become.

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