Businesses can keep employees happy and engaged by allowing them to mingle online with their co-workers, new research finds.
A Baylor University case study discovered that allowing employees to participate in a work-sponsored internal social networking site can improve morale and reduce turnover.
The study, which looked at a financial institution's efforts to acclimate new employees into the organization, also found that participation led to a greater sense of well-being and organizational commitment and better employee engagement.
Baylor professor and co-author of the study Hope Koch said the research shows that millennials who mix their work life and social life through online social networking created positive emotions.
"These emotions led to more social networking and ultimately helped the employees build personal resources like social capital and organizational learning," Koch said.
The study centered on a financial institution's efforts to reduce IT employee turnover by starting an internal social and work-related online networking site. Since most new hires had moved from long distances to start their new jobs, they initially used the social pages as an introduction to the community. However, as time passed, they eventually began using it to acclimate and mentor incoming new hires.
Koch said the research found that the internal social networking site helped the new hires build social capital in several ways.
"It gave them access to people who could provide useful information and new perspectives and allowed them to meet more senior new hires and executives," she said. "These relationships set the new hires at ease during work meetings, helped them understand where to go for help and increased their commitment to the financial institution’s mission."
The researchers discovered that the social networking also helped new employees maintain relationships with one another, as well as remove the burden from middle managers of having to acclimate new hires.
Ironically, the research shows that middle managers, despite wanting the freedom from mentoring new hires, developed a negative attitude toward online social networking when they realized that the new employees had managed to accrue social capital and experiences with senior executives that they had never had access to.
Despite the overall positive benefits, Koch cautioned businesses to move cautiously when implementing internal social networking sites.
"Before beginning an internal social networking initiative, organizations should consider analyzing how the system may impact both its users and nonusers, paying particular attention to potential isolation of nonusers and the negative stigma associated with (social networking) in the workplace," Koch said.
The study, co-authored by Baylor's Dorothy Leidner and Washington State University's Ester Gonzalez, was recently published in the European Journal of Information Systems.