Getting your employees to network more with their co-workers, instead of with professionals from outside the workplace, could be the key to keeping them around, new research found.
Internal networking boosts job satisfaction and job embeddedness, according to the new study recently published in the journal Personnel Psychology. The researchers define "embeddedness" as a feeling of wanting to remain in a job, both because of ties to co-workers and concerns about losing real or perceived benefits.
Overall, the research revealed that getting co-workers to network with each other reduces the likelihood of turnover by 140 percent.
Caitlin Porter, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the University of Houston, said that while work used to be a major source of friendships, that's no longer the case.
"That gives people less reason to stay," Porter said in a statement. "So giving people the opportunity to build their relationships could help with retention."
In general, the researchers said that networking is defined as a set of behaviors 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. [See Related Story: The 7 Deadly Sins of Networking ]
In external networking, professionals get together with people from outside their organizations, often facilitated by professional groups or trade associations. Internal networking, by contrast, can be a little more casual.
The study's authors said that internal networking can be as simple as gathering for coffee and doughnuts before a meeting. Porter said both types of networking provide the opportunity to ask for advice, offer support and talk about common issues.
For the study, researchers examined data collected from a group of industrial organizational psychologists who were followed for two years. The study elaborated on earlier work that found a correlation between networking and job turnover, the authors of the new research said. The previous study reached its conclusions by distinguishing between internal and external networking to determine why and how each factor contributes to employee decisions to leave a job.
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 percent. That percentage was even higher if opportunities for internal networking were reduced.
"This study reveals that internal networking behaviors are associated with a reduced likelihood of voluntary turnover, and external networking behaviors are associated with an increased likelihood of voluntary turnover," the study's authors wrote. "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."
Porter said that while employers can't forbid employees from networking outside of 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."
The study was co-authored by Sang Eun Woo, an associate professor at Purdue University, and Michael Campion, a professor at Purdue University.