- Employee internal networking is essential in increasing employee productivity and engagement.
- Organizations that optimize internal networking have better employee relations, employee motivation and productivity.
- Internal networking initiatives vary from one organization to another based on the organization's tools, goals and budget.
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 a study 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%.
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. [Read related article: 5 Common Networking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them]
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%. 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.
How employers can connect with employees
1. Keep your employees informed.
It is crucial to keep your employees informed of major developments in the organization. Significant changes in profitability and upcoming new projects are some of the details that are relevant to the employees and that will make them feel like they part of the organization.
2. Be transparent.
Be honest with your employees. Honest builds trust, and when employees trust you, they are likely to follow your counsel even if they do not understand the direction you are taking. Fifty-six percent of men and 65% of women report that managerial trust directly impacts their level of job satisfaction.
3. Establish team-building events at your company.
These are some examples of team-building activities you could hold for your company:
- Office mixers: This can be as a simple happy hour involving all departments.
- Online chat groups: Employees can share ideas on these platforms or simply share how their day was and the challenges they experienced.
- Industry events: Colleagues can attend industry events together. Meet for a local get-together and have fun as a team.
- Lunch dates: Schedule a lunch date with your employees either as a group or perhaps you go out with a different employee. Take time to get to know the members of your team.
Benefits of internal networking
Better internal communication
Internal networking builds a culture of improved internal communications in an organization. Poor internal communication often results in employee frustrations, disengagement and lack of employee collaboration. Internal networking improves channels communications between employees by encouraging best practices.
Higher job satisfaction
Improved employee relations result in an enjoyable working atmosphere. Employees are able to build strong connections resulting in improved job satisfaction.
Higher employee retention
High employee turnover results in huge expenses for an organization. It costs a company a significant amount of money to get the right candidate and train them. Internal networking results in lower levels of employee turnover.
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.