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February 19, 2019 | Elise Schafer

The Friendship Factor

Employee retention, satisfaction grows through connections

Do you remember your first day on the job? It was probably spent filling out paperwork and sitting through orientation videos, but if it also included a connection with someone who has since become a friend, chances are you’re still at that job — and your mental health is better off for it, too.  

I recently learned about the relationship between work friendships and job satisfaction at Feed & Grain LIVE from Amy Jones, human development leader with Didion Milling, Cambria, WI. Jones said her company cares deeply about mental health and conducts screenings on each employee. They found those with the lowest scores, or most at risk for needing mental health intervention, answered “no” to the question “Do you have a friend at work?” 

These people reported not having anyone to ask work-related questions to or discuss problems at home with. These respondents also had the lowest job satisfaction rate across the company. A result of those findings was the development of an employee immersion program that helps new hires form real connections – friendships – from day one. 

In another LIVE session, Nick Treblik, business operations director for Wayzata, MN-based Cargill, shared another reason it’s important for coworkers to take new hires under their wing: safety. 

After a series of internal studies, Cargill discovered that while only 18% of its workforce is made up of employees that have been with the company for 6 to 24 months, this group made up 48% of its injuries — that’s nearly half!  

In response, Cargill established the 6-24 Program, designed to increase safety awareness among this group of vulnerable team members. It consists of training programs where attendance is tracked and leaders educate them on hazard recognition along with Cargill’s safety policies and programs. Assigning a mentor to each 6-24 Program enrollee is another key to its effectiveness.   

Whether your company establishes a mentorship program or simply leads a culture that actively fosters friendships, it’s important to facilitate meaningful connections in order to retain a safe, healthy workforce in mind and body. ■

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