Social networks key to successful new hires: Study

'Socialization resources theory' prioritizes interactions among employees
||Last Updated: 11/30/2010

To ensure the success of new hires, employers should be focusing on key resources such as social networking, instead of just handing them a policy and procedures manual, according to University of Guelph research.

To boost job performance, companies need to revolutionize how new employees are orientated by offering more resources, said Jamie Gruman, a professor in hospitality and tourism management at the university in Guelph, Ont.

“Typically, during the first few days and weeks on the job, employees are inundated with information about their responsibilities and the company’s values and procedures in an attempt to get them up to speed,” he said. “But companies are failing tremendously when it comes to providing newcomers with the social resources that are vital to making the onboarding process effective and ensuring employees are achieving their full potential.”

In looking at research on organizational socialization and employees’ onboarding experiences, Gruman and University of Toronto professor Alan Saks have developed a new approach to onboarding called “socialization resources theory,” which emphasizes providing numerous resources and prioritizes the interactions among new employees and their co-workers and supervisors.

Employees in the growing knowledge and service sectors need different skill sets than those required in yesterday’s manufacturing economy, said Gruman and Saks in a paper published in the Journal of Administrative Sciences. Companies need to be building “psychological capital” and encouraging qualities such as optimism, hope, self-efficacy and resilience that improve employee performance.

“Social resources can help build these characteristics and improve recruitment and retention,” said Gruman.

Relationships with co-workers are integral for rapid adjustment of new employees because co-workers can act as role models, provide encouragement and positive feedback, and help new hires cope with work demands and stress, said Gruman.

“Companies can facilitate relationship building through social events, planned introductions, networking assignments or even assigning a buddy to newcomers. Employers should also train co-workers and supervisors on how to provide social support to newcomers.”

In addition, employers should take a different approach to job training to build psychological capital among newcomers, he said, by allowing them to try various tasks during their first few days on the job.

“Most companies will only give someone limited functions when they first start a job to cut down on potential mistakes. This idea is short-sighted,” said Gruman. “What they should be doing is allowing new employees to take on a wide range of tasks so they can learn from their mistakes, broaden their skills and build confidence, hope, optimism and resilience.”

Employers should also allow newcomers to practise the job under supervision so they can receive feedback and employers let new hires watch others on the job.

“It’s a more labour-intensive approach, but it will produce more effective employees faster.”

Finally, new employees should be informed about potential disappointments and possible adjustment problems they may encounter as well as coping skills for the major stressors they will experience. Research shows most newcomers find their expectations aren't met, so including realistic information in the onboarding process will help them develop hope and optimism, said Gruman.

“Ultimately, I recommend that companies conduct a socialization resource audit. This might lead to changes in orientation training programs, the tasks and jobs that newcomers are assigned, the amount and type of social support available for newcomers, and the actions and involvement of supervisors.”