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Learn From Churn

6/7/2012

The right socialization lets you keep your most valued workers

High turnover hurts any company’s bottom line. And the problem can be particularly pervasive in emerging markets, where high growth rates spur increased demand for labor in a geographical area that might have a limited supply of qualified workers. Cultural differences can exacerbate turnover when new employees are expected to fi t into a work culture that is very different for them.

New research by Brad Staats and a research team describes a more effective onboarding process that reduced turnover by 100 percent and increased productivity in a six-month field experiment at Wipro BPO in India.

Bradley Staats

He introduces a new onboarding technique called authentic socialization – applying an employee’s unique personal perspective to work – in the paper “Breaking Them In or Revealing Their Best? Reframing Socialization Around Newcomer Self-Expression.”

“Instead of indoctrinating new employees on ‘how things are done around here’ in hopes that they will internalize organizational values,” Staats said, “authentic socialization enables newcomers to highlight their unique identities at the very beginning of the employment relationship and bring more of their signature strengths to the job.”

Authentic socialization taps into people’s need for self-expression, to have others see them as they see themselves. When they feel valued for who they are and what they contribute, they show fewer symptoms of depression, emotional exhaustion and anxiety.

Small investments in socialization practices can yield surprisingly large and valuable changes in employee quality and retention. Organizational-focused socialization reduces a firm’s adaptability by replicating its traditional values onto new hires. Authentic socialization builds a creative workforce and agile organization. The technique helps newcomers identify their authentic strengths and link those strengths to the organization. Employees feel a greater commitment to making the organization succeed.

“Quitting is a likely outcome of unsuccessful socialization,” Staats said. “When newcomers feel they are using their signature strengths at work, they experience greater satisfaction, lower stress and less emotional burnout. They invest more personal energy into their work when they feel understood for whom they really are.”

Bradley Staats is an assistant professor of operations, technology and innovation management at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

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