Posts Tagged ‘Social Network’

Why Does a Better Match Matter?

October 1, 2011

Mentor Resources a leading provider of software for the administration of formal mentoring programs. Many Human Resources professionals refer to the largest provider of this type of software as Match.com for the workplace.  Using that analogy, WisdomShare™ is the eHarmony of the workplace as our match is based on skills, education, job level AND over a dozen personality characteristics.

Based-on the ideas of strength-based learning, WisdomShare™ was developed with the premise that if your Mentor is successful with a personality similar to your own, you will be more motivated to adopt the Mentor’s approach and insights into the workplace. That is, if your Mentor is like you in predominantly thinking in numbers, or also irritates people with their fast, sometimes brusque, speaking style, you can learn how those personality traits have been turned to assets in your organization.

What we find is that people click and like one another.  Mentoring software matches can produce a blind date, although that has not been the experience described by participants in our client’s programs. Many of the pairs matched by WisdomShare™ remain in-touch and describe themselves as friends beyond the duration of the mentoring program.

But does it matter? Companies exist to create products and services and generate a profit – not to create warm-feelings and friendships among co-workers.  Human Resource professionals want to see higher retention (lower hiring and training costs), higher engagement (resulting in greater workplace productivity) and faster transfer of skills among employees. Intuitively, that click should produce better results from the mentoring program.

The book Connected : The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler gave us a new perspective on the question. Everyone seems to be talking about how we, as individuals, connect to others and how newer technologies are changing our networks.

Christakis and Fowler have written a book that is clear and interesting.  The authors explore network contagion in back pain, suicide, politics and emotions.  (We’ve all experienced offices where morale is low and felt it spread from person to person. Neuroscientist can demonstrate the limbic system in our brains mirrors the emotional state of our coworkers.)

It is possible take these ideas of Christakis and Fowler and map social networks within large firms.  Terrance Albrecht, a researcher in the area of communication in large organizations, did this research and found that there are two networks within most companies.  A job-task related communciation network and social-only communication network. (This makes sense, a second network of people with similar outside interests or shared experience who may have met through a BRG/ERG.)

The mentoring match matters because (connecting the ideas of Christakis, Fowler and Albrecht), innovation and sharing new ideas in the workplace appears to only occur when and where the work network overlaps with the social network.  Albrecht found that only 13% of communication included innovative ideas, but the social network appeared to be essential for employees to develop the trust necessary to share new ideas.

We’ll write more on this in future blogs.  In the meantime, please call us to discuss your firm’s mentoring program and how a great match can reduce costs through improved employee retention, or increase profitability through increased employee engagement.

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Job Embeddedness – Employees’ Connections and Workplace Turnover

January 20, 2011

In the last few blogs, we have written about the high level of dissatisfaction in today’s workplace.  The most recent Manpower survey found that 84% of workers hope to find a new job in 2011, more than a doubling from expression of dissatisfaction in late 2008.

This was followed with some contemporary ideas about social networks and how they overlap and potentially enhance the spread of innovation in the workplace.  WisdomShare™, the software for the administration of mentor programs from Mentor Resources, produces great matches for Mentor-Mentee pairing and enhances the development of social networks for the benefit of companies.

This led us directly to Brooks Holtom, the Georgetown Professor who specializes in how organizations acquire, develop and retain human and social capital.  Two of his papers, “Why people stay: Using job embeddedness to predict voluntary turnover,” andHow to keep your best employees: The development of an effective retention policy received a great deal of attention from the Academy of Management and were finalists for awards.

Notes from an interview with Professor Holtom will be posted here in a few days, but we thought we’d start with a quick overview of his research.  Professor Holtom is a key developer of the concept of Job Embeddness, which is a way to describe an employee’s links (to other people, teams and groups), their fit (into the corporate culture and community) and what they would have to sacrifice to leave their job.  Job Embeddedness is much more than a network described in Christakis and Fowler’s Connected, and can be used to predict both intent to leave and voluntary turnover. It offers a key factor in understanding why people stay on their jobs.

Job Embeddedness is a broad constellation of influences in three areas: Links, Fit and Sacrifice.  It is much broader than the older measures of job satisfaction, organizational commitment and job alternatives. It has been known for over a decade that work attitudes alone play a relatively small role in employee retention and leaving.  Even in periods like today, with high unemployment, perceptions of support, justice and burnout will cause breakage in the links which keep employees at their desks. Embedded employees are immersed in their “background” and find it hard to separate.  It is as if they are stuck in a perception of life where many aspects are connected usually in many different ways. 

Links: Their links to their co-workers include outside activities, or shared experiences and values.  They may be connected through a BRG/ERG, or their church.  They may share a passion for the outdoors, or travel, or their children’s sports teams. The links are social, psychological and financial and includes work and non-work friends, groups, hobbies, schools, etc. Since the links are built over time, highly linked employees tend to be older, married, have more tenure and have children.

Fit: An employee’s perceived compatibility or comfort with an organization is described as his or her fit with the corporate culture.  Again, it is well known that companies with a strong corporate culture “spit out” those who don’t fit, usually at about 18 months.  The better the fit, the higher the likelihood the employee will feel professionally and personally tied to the organization.  If they can identify the culture, potential employees will self-select on value congruence.  Job Embeddedness includes a community dimension to fit as well – outdoor activities, cultural opportunities, food and wine, colleges, population density and so on, vary by region and influence the community fit.

Sacrifice: Sacrifice is a label for the material or psychological benefits which may be forfeit in leaving one’s job.  Compensation is included, but this aspect of Job Embeddedness also attempts to capture the intangibles.  Possible non-portable aspects of a job include apparent job stability, anticipated advancement, status among peers, opportunities for interesting projects, sabbaticals and other accrued advantages. There may also be community sacrifices if one has to relocate.

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In our next blog, Brooks Holtom will discuss how Job Embeddedness can help managers think about the specific on-the-job and off-the-job factors that influence employee retention.  It is our hope that these ideas will help you find more effective ways to manage through this challenging employment environment.