Several studies have hit the blogosphere in recent months on the importance of friends at work. It seems a “soft” topic, yet it’s friendships and deep relationships at work that drive key business factors – productivity, retention and wellness.
How do you get your job done? Are you the sole person responsible for all input and output in your work and the final outcome on the projects in which you are engaged? It’s highly unlikely in today’s age of specialization. Nowadays, we get work done with and through other people. We need the contributions, insight and expertise of others to deliver our best work.
Last summer, LinkedIn published the results of their “Relationships @Work” study, commenting:
“Relationships matter because they help us feel connected, making us more motivated and productive. It’s much easier to share feedback with someone if you have built up a solid rapport, or ask someone for advice if you have invested in the relationship.”
Stated simply, we get more done with those we know and trust best.
The cost of replacing workers ranges from 50% to 200% of salary. We work hard to retain our workers for good reason. It’s a direct hit on the bottom line. And lately we’ve been hearing Millennials leave at an exceptionally high rate. (This is true, with many in this demographic leaving between their second and third anniversaries with a company.) China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work(R) Institute, pointed out in her observations on the LinkedIn “Relationships @Work” study:
“While 46% of respondents stated that work friendships play a role in their overall happiness, this data point increased for millennial respondents, age 18-24, up to 57%. Respondents in this age group also felt that work friendships were motivating (50%) and made them more productive (39%). The research also found Millennials to be much more likely to share personal details with friends at work.
“Overall, this data is a good reminder that everyone communicates differently, whether on an individual basis or by the larger personality of an age demographic. Specifically, though, when it comes to retaining Millennial employees, this desire for work friendships and casual communication could be an overlooked point of value for employees. As workplaces become increasing more generationally diverse, it becomes important (even vital) to recognize the different, and evolving, communication styles of employees.”
HRZone published a UK survey highlighting the more concerning end of the spectrum on relationships”
- Four in 10 report having no close friends at work at all, yet most workers also have much more contact with their boss and colleagues than with their own friends or close family.
- Outside of the workplace, one in 10 reported having no close friendships at all - equal to 4.7 million people if taken as a proportion of the adult population.
This study’s findings are more worrying as close relationships provide balance to our lives. One of the top causes of illness is the lack of close relationships. It is not the responsibility of the workforce to provide friends for employees. I would argue, however, it is our responsibility as leaders to create work environments and situations in which everyone can thrive, including opportunities for us to get to know each other better on a more personal level – the basis for friendships.
How does all of this tie into a blog on compensation strategy? Friendships at work isn’t something you can drive or influence through compensation, after all. But recognition, as a key component of Total Rewards, is a powerful, positive way of strengthening ties between employees. The Globoforce Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey found 91% of us spend more than 30 hours a week with colleagues (vs. 52% who spend that much time with family). With that in mind, it’s no surprise 94% of employees say they like getting recognized by their peers for accomplishments at work. Few know what we do well better than those with whom we work most closely.
How does your organization support friendships at work? With whom do you have the closest relationships? Do those friendships help you achieve more?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.