Your people need their people.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of social connection in relation to our wellbeing. Connected, the 2009 book by Nicholas Christakis (Harvard) and James Fowler (UCSD) presents startling findings of wide-ranging health impacts, extending to three degrees of separation. Conversely, John Cacioppo (2009) has shown that loneliness has long term negative health impacts which are as significant as obesity, smoking or hypertension.
We are social animals.
It is easy for businesses to assume that an employee’s needs will be addressed by their manager, team, HR, perhaps even ‘buddy’ or mentor programs. The ‘organisation’ will take care of them.
Extensive research by Monica Higgins and Kathy Kram over many years has shown that is not enough; even more so, as people become increasingly mobile in their careers.
I believe businesses have a real and substantial opportunity to consider how they can actively encourage and support staff to assemble carefully considered “Developmental Networks” (Higgins & Kram). These networks consider primarily domains that will support an individual in the context of work-life: Leaders, Mentors, Peers, Direct Reports, Professional Associates and Personal Support System. The potential value of each of these domains is different – as are the likely members - and therefore a considered and informed approach to building and utilising this network delivers great benefits.
How many people do you know who consciously seek to construct such a robust and defined support network?
But I think it goes way further than this … because an informed and proactive person could do this, regardless of the employer.
Now, think about those (same) people in your business who always volunteer to run the work social club or arrange the year-end celebrations. Think about the discretionary effort and pride exhibited by these people – they are intrinsically motivated. To them, the task has meaning. They are drawn to it. It aligns to their personal values and their talents. They generally self-organize and exceed expectations.
It is hard work … but they love it.
How many ways does your business actively and consciously create opportunities for your staff to work with others, fueled by intrinsic motivation?
This approach should not be limited to those ‘nice to do’ or ‘feel good’ activities: it should occur within their roles and in support of organisation wide initiatives.
It should not be left to chance - it is a strategic imperative.
Supporting a culture which fuels the formation of complex and diverse employee networks pays dividends in terms of retention, engagement and performance.
It strengthens the DNA of your business.