Research has found that encouraging your employees to network more with their co-workers than with professionals from outside their workplace could provide a key to keeping them around. The study, published in the journal Personnel Psychology, revealed that getting co-workers to network with each other reduces the likelihood of employee turnover by 140 percent.
Internal networking boosts job satisfaction and job “embeddedness,” or the feeling of wanting to remain in a job because of ties to co-workers and concerns about losing real or perceived benefits, according to the study.
We’ll provide some easy ways to create networking opportunities within your organization and, in turn, encourage employees to stay with your company.
What are the different types of networking?
In general, networking is defined as a set of activities with professional contacts, including the exchange of beneficial resources, such as news about job openings or job-performance advice. It can also take on a more social flavor, with employees sharing their personal experiences or aspects of their lives outside the office.
In external networking, professionals gather with people from outside their organizations, often facilitated by professional groups or trade associations. In-house or internal networking, by contrast, can be more casual. It can be as simple as gathering for coffee and doughnuts before a meeting, setting up internal online chat networks, or treating small groups of employees to lunch each month. Both types of networking provide the opportunity to ask for advice, offer support and talk about common issues.
The researchers discovered that while internal networking dramatically lowers the likelihood of turnover, external networking significantly increases the chances of an employee leaving. Specifically, external networking increased the likelihood of turnover by 114%, or higher if opportunities for internal networking were reduced.
Although employers can’t forbid employees from networking outside the office, bosses can increase the opportunities for internal networking. “Everything can’t just be work all the time,” Porter said. “People need to interact with each other.”
How to create networking opportunities for employees
Team-building activities function best when they are informal and when employees do not feel pressured to engage in off-the-clock activities. You can gently encourage participation, or offer a small amount of paid time for them, which can benefit your company in the long run. Here are some examples of team-building activities you could hold for your company:
- Office mixers: These can be as simple as happy-hour events involving all departments.
- Online chat groups: Employees can share ideas on these platforms or simply discuss how their day was and the challenges they experienced.
- Industry events: Colleagues can attend industry events together and meet locally to have a little fun as a team.
- In-house events: Host your own industry event, and enlist employees in the planning, which leads to feelings of trust and engagement.
- Lunch dates: Schedule a workplace lunch, even in-house, with your employees in large or small groups. Take time to get to know your team members, and let them get to know you a little better, too.
- Shared interests: Organize a means for employees with similar outside interests to get together, in person or on a digital platform, to discuss or engage in those interests together. This can build trust and promote collaboration or informal mentorship.
Structure a plan to create these events and platforms, and then invest in getting the word out and keeping the plan going. Be flexible as you learn what works and what doesn’t, and make sure to actively get feedback to ensure lasting, mutual benefits.
Be creative about finding ways to get your employees together in less-formal ways. Listen to employee feedback to promote trust and increase job satisfaction across the organization.
Benefits of employee networking for employers
Internal networking can lead to a variety of benefits:
- Better internal communication: Internal networking builds a culture of improved communication in an organization. Poor internal communication can result in employee frustration, disengagement and loss of collaboration. Internal networking improves communication and connection among employees, which can encourage adherence to best practices, employee development, and interdependence in overcoming challenges.
- Higher job satisfaction and employee retention: Improved employee relations result in a happier work atmosphere. Employees build stronger connections that can lead to improved job satisfaction. High employee turnover is a huge expense. It costs a company a significant amount of money to hire and train the right candidate. Internal networking results in lower levels of employee turnover.
- Greater innovation: Employees are more willing to express their ideas in an environment where they feel appreciated. Internal networking encourages employees to be innovative, as they have less fear of criticism.
How internal networking can improve employer/employee relationships
Internal networking opportunities are not only beneficial for employees’ relationships with one another, they can also strengthen the way employers and employees interact with one another. The following are some benefits to employer/employee relationships thanks to internal networking:
- Improved communication: In some companies, team members are hesitant to communicate with supervisors. Even when managers have given no indication that employees will be penalized for making mistakes or raising concerns, many still feel intimidated openly communicating with their bosses. Internal networking opens up communication channels and helps build a more comfortable relationship, giving managers another opportunity to establish a collaborative atmosphere.
- Clarified career paths: When employers or managers are looking to fill a role, they may not realize there are team members with precisely the right skill sets for it. Getting to know one another better through internal networking increases the odds that employees who are ideal candidates for a particular career path are recognized and eventually promoted accordingly. This can help improve morale and retention, while reducing the need to recruit externally and onboard new hires.
- Shared insight: Each team member has a unique perspective. For example, the staff member who is handling day-to-day tasks will have a very different vantage point than the C-Suite executive. And yet, both these perspectives are vital to the continued success of the business. Getting together and having even casual conversations about one another’s experiences can help everyone view their own role in a new light — one that improves the way the business functions.
- Stronger culture: If you know and trust someone personally, you’re likely to work together more effectively. You’re also more likely to support one another emotionally and tap into empathy more readily. These sorts of cultural benefits should not be understated, as they can reinforce employee engagement and satisfaction with their job.
The benefits of internal networking between employees and employers can ultimately lead to a more effective workplace in which team members at all levels are comfortable collaborating with one another.
Get serious about internal networking
At a time when both hiring and maintaining high morale can be difficult, internal networking is a simple strategy to reduce turnover and keep employees engaged. In comparison, external networking can contribute to employee turnover. By following the tips outlined above, employers and managers can create simple, low-cost opportunities for internal networking.
Ross Mudrick also contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.