April 23, 2019
Some business leaders have expressed the concern that social interactions in an employee community will result in a loss of productivity. Of course, "water cooler" conversations have been occurring for as long as office life has been around. My personal belief is that any interactions between employees have both direct and indirect benefits to the company. These interactions build bonds across individuals and teams that improve overall employee engagement. They can also have immediate benefits to project tasks and create improved company outcomes.
I had such an experience as a user of our employee community when I joined a social group for runners. Through that group, I met local runners from the company and participated in a few events. I recall one where we ran a race as a company team in New York City’s Central Park. Warming up, I met a financial controller from another division. Although we only had a short time together, it was an enjoyable conversation discussing various running-related topics.
A few weeks later, a panicked project manager from my team came into my office with a tight deadline and was unable to find a critical colleague in finance who was away at an offsite. Hearing his story, I realized my new controller contact might be able to help us. I contacted him and reminded him of our meet-up. The bond over a personal activity was enough for him to put a call in for us to find an available person to assist my project manager. The lesson learned is that the more employees get together and network, regardless of the setting, the odds increase that favorable outcomes will result.