Diversity and Inclusion

Social Ties: Why Employees Need Strong Connections at Work

It's not surprising that our social ties at work play a huge role in our productivity, feelings of belonging, and overall happiness. In this article, we look at what social ties are, the science behind them, and how they play such an important role in building a thriving organization.

Saheed Hassan

Published on 

March 1, 2022

Updated on 

Time to Read

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The number of social ties your employees have affects their lives, including the quality of these relationships. It could take a toll on their mental health, physical well-being, and mortality rates.

Individuals need to maintain meaningful social circles and interactions. Research has shown the effects can be either positive or negative:

  • Strong social ties are associated with better health and an increased chance of living longer.
  • Loneliness and social isolation are linked to depression and untimely death.

In today's society, where an average employee spends 90,000 hours of their lifetime at the workplace, it's more important than ever for employees to improve their social connections with their coworkers.

Why Learning Isn't a Spectator Sport

What are social ties?

Social ties, also known as interpersonal skills, are the connections that bind us together, providing emotional or practical benefits to everyone involved.

Social relationships are founded on many bases — common interests, shared experiences, shared resources, shared emotions, or shared aspirations.

The benefits for an individual includes:

  • Fostering more creative thinking.
  • Creating a sense of community.
  • Reducing the risk of depression.
  • Promoting greater motivation and performance.

Strong and weak ties theory

According to Social Network Theory (Granovetter 1973), social ties can be classified into strong and weak ties. Here is what each of these ties represents. 

Granovetter (1997) said strong ties occur between close friends while weak ties are between acquaintances or strangers.

Haythornthwaite's research shows that strong ties facilitate information sharing among workers because they can assess it more frequently than weak ties.

Strong ties have been associated with the growth of employees in government institutions, according to Tian and Lin (2016).

Both strong and weak ties are essential to your social contact. What is more important is maintaining and strengthening relationships beyond existing capacity.

Examples of social ties

According to Granovetter, the strength of a relationship is based on how often people interact and how close they feel to one another. The relationship is strengthened by the mutual support both parties provide.

The various types of social bonds you keep have been the foundation of your social capital— the physical and intangible results derived from your networks, coworkers, friends, family etc.

Let's look at the examples of social ties, what they mean, and what benefit they have.

Strong Ties

Strong ties are essential for social support, which is the emotional and practical assistance received from friends and family.

A strong tie is a relationship between two people who are close to each other and rely on each other for support. These relationships are typically characterized by frequent communication, mutual trust, and emotional closeness.

Several factors contribute to the strength of a tie. One crucial factor is how close the two people are to each other. The closer the two people are, the stronger their connection will be. Another factor contributing to the strength of a tie is how often the two people interact with each other. The more often they interact, the stronger the tie will be.

Weak ties

A weak tie is a social connection with someone you know only casually or superficially. It's often between coworkers or a professional network. Weak ties are important to one's social life because they provide access to information and resources unavailable through close friends.

People tend to rely on their close friends for support and advice, leading to a lack of exposure to new ideas and opportunities. Weak ties provide a different perspective than what is available from close friends, which can help make better decisions.

Why are social ties important?

A company's biggest assets are its employees. Organizations compete to recruit only the best hands. However, there is more to a company's success than individual talents. 

The collective strength of the workforce, working together to achieve the company's goals, is key to achieving resounding success. Work relationships matter; social ties are important in creating an effective network of employees. 

Shawn Achor, author of "The Happiness Advantage," stated social connection is one of the most important predictors of job success. He believes being successful is a function of one's happiness. Quality connections give you support and aid in developing self-worth, which contributes to happiness. The importance of social ties in one's happiness can't be overstated.

Our health

Numerous studies have shown what the lack of social ties can do to our health. When B H Brummett and colleagues examined the relationship between isolation and subsequent cardiac death, they found that adults with coronary artery disease are 2.4 times more likely to die than their peers who socialize regularly in person or online.

Companies often claim to prioritize their employees' health, yet they don't care about the social relationships of their workers. In a study by Kiecolt-Glaser, low social ties were associated with inflammation and immune function. The study suggested that close personal relationships can improve one's negative emotions, enhancing one's health.

Social connections offer a sense that we're loved, cared about, and listened to, which studies have shown as essential for emotional well-being.

The office, where individuals spend so much of their time, is a perfect setting for cultivating the positive connections we all require–not only for well-being but also for productivity, retention and health.

Inclusion and belonging at work

In the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, a sense of belonging comes before other needs like food, shelter, and safety. Social psychologists have studied the human need to belong for years. They have discovered that experiencing a sense of belonging is an important intrinsic motivator. As humans, the need for social interaction is one of the most basic human desires.

The human need for social connection is fundamental, hard-wired into our DNA. Yet 40% of employees say they feel isolated at work, and the result has been a decline in organizational commitment rate or engagement and higher employee turnover rates

Organizations in the US spend up to nearly 8 billion dollars per year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) training, with little results, to show their employees' needs to feel included.

Achieving diversity within your workforce doesn't just involve implementing policies; it's about valuing each team member's individual needs, opinions, and capabilities. Ultimately, it leads to an equitable and diverse workplace. One where employees feel comfortable to commit themselves because they trust their environment. They trust everyone will be treated equally without discrimination based on race/class status etc.

Collaboration is critical to team performance

More than half of US employees state that teamwork is essential for getting work done. It's imperative for success in any setting. It has been shown repeatedly that teams who collaborate well are more productive than those without such relationships between them. Team members communicate better not just about what needs doing but also about best practices.

One study has shown that collaborative teams are 5X higher-performing because they feel motivated towards a common goal. Consider these:

  • 7.5 out of every ten employees feel collaboration and teamwork are important (Goremotely)
  • Collaboration boost employees morale, say 33% of HR professional (Teamstage)
  • Women with close pals at work are 63% more engaged than women without close pals, recording a 29% engagement level (Gallup)

Ingredients for Employee Retention

Social ties in the workplace

American Time Use Survey shows employees spend between eight to nine hours daily in their workplace. That is more time than most people spend with their friends and families. People are either commuting to and from work or binge-watching their favourite shows on Netflix from sheer exhaustion. As a result, they have little or no time to fulfil their basic social needs.

Companies can create a more productive workforce by encouraging social connections at work and assisting employees in developing strong bonds with one another. After all, people who bond together are happier and healthier and thus enhance productivity.

The roles of strong ties

Strong ties are the peers and mentors we go to for guidance, support, and encouragement. The relationships are built on trust and mutual commitment. The benefits of having strong ties in the workplace are many. 

The most obvious benefit is that they can help you get ahead. Colleagues with strong ties are more likely to sponsor you for promotions, help you network, and champion your work. They are more likely to be understanding when things go wrong and offer support during tough times.

But strong ties are not just about getting ahead. They also play an important role in our overall well-being and happiness at work. Colleagues with strong ties are happier at work, feel supported, and have a sense of belonging. This can lead to a more positive work environment for everyone.

The roles of weak ties

Studies into weak ties have shown that they help expose people to new information. They're essential for learning and growth because they expand networks. They can help employees connect with new ideas and resources. Developing and maintaining weak ties can be beneficial for both employers and employees.

How to promote strong social ties in the workplace

Social connections between employees don't have to be complicated or expensive. Mentorship programs are simple and effective methods of promoting strong social ties in workplaces.

Employees benefit directly from social support at work because it improves onboarding, develops inclusion, breaks down departmental silos, encourages cooperation, uncovers innovation, enhances happiness, and fosters a sense of belonging. These help people be more engaged at work and aid employee retention. 

Mentorship programs help employees advance their careers and bridge the social capital. Together is one such application you can leverage to create an effective social network using mentoring. 

You can even start a mentoring network for free in minutes. Invite up to 50 colleagues to join your network, create a profile, and find a mentor or peer to learn from. What would your organization look like if everyone had meaningful strong ties?

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