Research: Five Social Networks Newcomers in (Self-managing) Organisations Need – Part 2

By Asa Jonsson and originally published by Corporate Rebels  

This is a two-part article. Part 1 looks at Five Social networks needed in self-managing organisations. Part 2 describes how organisations can faciliate network formation.

From Uncertainty Reduction to Resource building

My findings suggest viewing the socialisation process in a self-managing organisation as a resource building process, where the newcomers acquire resources necessary for adjustment by building social networks.

Previous research on organisational socialisation is dominated by a perspective that conceptualises socialisation as a process of uncertainty reduction, where newcomers seek to make their work environment understandable, predictable and ultimately controllable (Bauer, Bodner, Erdogan & Tucker, 2007; Saks & Gruman, 2018).

Organisational tactics and newcomer proactivity are considered means by which uncertainty is reduced. This approach is sensible in the context of teaching an individual how to fulfill satisfactorily a predefined role in a static managerial hierarchy.

However, today’s working life requires newcomers to learn to live with and operate in ever-developing organisations.

Rather than learn how to control their environment, understand how to perform a predefined role, and ‘reproduce organisational status quo’, newcomers are expected to define how they want to contribute to the organisation with their interests and skills, and craft ways to do so.

In this process, they not only seek to reduce uncertainty, but also to build resources that make it possible to live with a persisting uncertainty and enable their personal contribution.

The centrality of networks to the socialisation process parallels a broader trend in management research, which acknowledges the increasingly networked reality of organisational life and the importance of social capital (Methot et al., 2018).

The findings of this study provide empirical confirmation of an emerging approach which brings together research on organisational socialisation and social networks/social capital theory, represented by Fang, Duffy and Shaw (2011) (theoretical model), Hatmaker (2015) (theoretical paper) and Morrison (2002) (empirical study).

What organisations can do to make use of these insights:

View onboarding activities as a means to both transmit information and help newcomers grow relevant networks. For example, invite employees with longer tenure to discuss characteristics of the organisation together with newcomers.

Make network brokering part of the culture. Develop practices where everyone helps connect newcomers to incumbent organisational members who they may have an interest in knowing, for example, because of similar professional or non-professional interests. Be aware of the different types of networks that support newcomer adjustment, and help newcomers grow this diversity of connections.

Use digital communication tools to facilitate the connection of people. Ideally, introduce new members to communications platforms before they officially take on roles in the organisation. In that way, the newcomers are allowed to ease into the community of practice by observing without any expectations to contribute.

Give the newcomer some ‘starting nodes’. Formal schemes for mentors and buddies can be effective ways to give the newcomer some nodes to start building their network from and making sure the newcomer has, for example, someone to coach them in defining their developmental goals and someone to offer social support. Explicitly articulating these roles can be valuable, since outspoken roles take away the possible resistance that newcomers may feel to reach out to individuals that have not formally agreed to be connected with them.

Make newcomers aware of the importance and usefulness of networking. For example, encourage newcomers to identify role models that may inspire them in how they want to develop competence wise or contribute to the organisation internally.

Connect newcomers with each other. Create forums where newcomers can meet without organisational members with longer tenure. Such contexts can be important safe spaces for newcomers to share experiences and support each other.

By understanding the diversity of social networks that newcomers require and facilitating for their growth, organisations greatly improve the chances that their new members will both ease into the organisational community and be enabled to contribute in their own unique way.

This blog post is based on some highlights from my MSc Dissertation in Organisational Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science 2018/2019. All names are pseudonyms.

Republished with permission.

Featured Image, block quoting, and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay