Sunday, September 17, 2006

Friends at work

Tom Rath, who heads Gallup's Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting, has a new book out called Vital Friends .

The book is about how friendships play a vital role in our productivity and satisfaction. It includes data from thousands of surveys of managers and leaders.

I hear you: "That's great, but what does it have to do with recruitment and selection?"

Here are some of the findings:
. People who have a best friend at work were seven times more likely to be engaged on the job.
. Close friendships at work boosted employee satisfaction nearly 50%.
. People with a best friend at work were significantly more likely to engage customers, get more done in less time, have fun on the job, have fewer accidents, and be more innovative.
. People with at least three close friends at work were 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied at work.
. When asked if people would rather have a best friend at work or a 10% pay raise, having a friend won handily.

Yes, this is survey data. No, we can't draw causal relationships. But what we have here is some pretty compelling descriptive data, and that last point is particularly relevant. Obviously having friends at work is very, very important to many people.

Implications? Help people determine if they would be a good fit with your current employees.
Profile your high performers in your recruitment material. Highlight interests and accomplishments of likely co-workers. If your organization puts resources into helping people with like interests connect, spotlight this (and kudos, BTW). Assess your bench strength, and be creative about it--don't just measure competencies, find out what your people are into. Then think about where you're likely to find similar folks. And when you have people at your workplace, whether it's for a tour or an interview, let them meet their future co-workers.

The other big implication? Think twice about cracking down on office friendships. It may have unintended consequences that dwarf whatever benefit was hoped for.

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