The steps to creating an organization worth recommending
Last year, we kicked off a 10-part series on the things that most affect your Happiness at Work. Some of the topics we’ve investigated so far include feeling motivated at work, whether you trust your organization’s leaders, and if you find your work interesting.
So what’s left? Well, the three remaining factors we will look at are:
- Having a job that fits your initial expectations
- Feeling you’re doing something worthwhile, and this week…
- Recommending your organization to a friend
Buying someone a book because you know they’ll love it; sharing the perfect Airbnb link on a friend’s Facebook timeline; spreading the word about a hidden gem of a pub: we recommend stuff to friends all the time. It’s easy and it’s natural, it makes us and (hopefully) the recipient feel good.
But are we just as happy to recommend the place we work to a friend?
Well…sometimes. Let’s look at the social aspect of work as an example of this in action. The social environment is one of the key determinants of your Happiness at Work (Pryce-Jones, 2010), and it plays out in a number of ways. The relationships you have with your colleagues, bosses, team-members and even clients can greatly influence how you feel about your work.
As our own research shows, the likelihood of you recommending your organization to friends as an excellent place to work is a main indicator of Happiness at Work (Lutterbie & Pryce-Jones, 2013). And perhaps self-evidently, if you’re feeling unhappy in your current place of work, you’re unlikely to want to heap the same misery on a friend.
On the other hand, those of us who are happy employees may recommend our organization to a friend not only because we feel secure in doing so, but because we want to further strengthen the social environment that makes work so enjoyable in the first place. Which, all being well, should in time further boost Happiness at Work.
So if you’re happy at work, you’ll recommend it to all your friends and they’ll love it too, right?
Unfortunately, as we’ll see below, it’s not quite that straightforward.
The dynamics of recommending your organization to a friend
Naturally, not everyone will feel comfortable recommending their organization to a friend. A 2013 Kelly survey found that just under 30% of employees would strongly recommend their companies to their friends as a very good place to work.
So what about the other 70%? They can’t all be unhappy.
They’re not: just because an employee feels comfortable recommending their organization to a friend, doesn’t mean they feel comfortable recommending their organization to all their friends. Demchenko and Pellizari both found employees hesitant to make recommendations for and on behalf of close friends or relatives, partially because they perceive a greater reputational stake tied to the recommendation. Which makes sense: nobody wants to let down or disappoint their nearest and dearest.
The type of job you’re doing may also influence which, if any, friends are recommended. For a low-status job, a recommendation on behalf of a close friend may carry more weight, given there are likely to be a large number of qualified applicants so a personal recommendation might just swing it. At the other end of the scale, there will be a smaller talent pool and a greater emphasis placed on finding the most qualified candidate. In these circumstances, weak-tie relationships may be more influential in making a recommendation.
How to make your organization more recommendable
There’s no silver bullet here, but if you’re looking to make your organization recommendable, you could do worse than foster a culture that mirrors the values of a good friendship. So let’s offer up some friendly advice. Here are two initial steps we, well, recommend:
- Be fair: you feel greater pride in, and commitment to, your workplace when managers behave fairly and treat people consistently (Piccolo, Greenbaum, den Hartog & Folger, 2010). This is reinforced by the notion that people see their jobs as an aspect of their identify, not just a source of income.
- Build Trust: establishing a culture of trust has been shown to increase a number of positive work outcomes (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002), which in turn may increase the likelihood of generating referrals
Start with these two steps and you might find that over time, when your people are meeting in that hidden gem of a pub, one of the topics of conversation may just be how great their workplace is.
This is just a starter on the subject. If you’d like to find out more about how we can make your organization more recommendable, give us a shout. And if you like what you’ve read, please recommend this blog to a friend!
Photo Credit: iprice.ph