How a company culture of social support drives success

How a company culture of social support drives success

It has been shown that companies that make a point of creating a socially supportive culture thrive financially. Leaders are becoming more aware of the harm stress can bring to both their employees and the bottom line, and what can be gained from a culture of mutual respect and support.

A stressful environment costs your company 

Stress in the workplace is more of a problem today than it has ever been. That, or people are becoming more concerned with mental health in general and realising the individual and collective costs it brings. Safe Work Australia estimates that stress is costing the Australian business sector $10 billion ever year; far higher than VicHealth's estimation of $730 million in 2010.

It  makes sense when you take into account how many studies have come out exposing the relation between physical and mental stress and how this affects employees' health. Most disturbing is a finding by the Karolinska Institute, which revealed that there is a strong connection between types of bosses and cardiovascular disease and mortality rates.

Stress at work can be managed by leadership. x 0 0 0 14100899 800Stress at work can lead to health problems.

While this is not exactly surprising, since most of us have experienced the stress of that tense and overbearing boss, it is surprising how much financial cost this brings to a company. The Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organisation found that when an employee is stressed, the costs include 60 per cent more errors, 18 per cent lower productivity, 16 per cent lower profitability, and 37 per cent more sick days. This just goes to show that stress is not only a health crisis, but an economic one, too.

The importance of social support 

However, there are solutions to the problem that stress creates in business. It is encouraging to know that you can avoid these kind of toxic workplace relationships by fostering a supportive environment.

Support is best given by providing employees with respect and recognition at work, according to the World Health Organisation. Numerous studies in the occupational health psychology realm have found that feelings of social exclusion are listed as one of the most stressful experiences. For instance, Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine found that that the probability of dying from poor social relationships surpasses that of even obesity or smoking. Humans are social beings and it pays for managers to make a real effort at learning about workplace health and safety.

In return for providing social support, your company gets: 

1) The best candidates 

Robert Half explains that providing a great company culture is the new way to compete. Younger people entering the job market especially prioritise company culture. Great benefits packages and higher salaries aren't enough to get employees to choose your company over your competitors anymore. Graduates today are looking for an exciting and meaningful workplace. 

"Company culture is something a lot of great companies are using to lure in great talent, and it's working," Glassdoor Career Trends Analyst Scott Dobroski said on the subject. 

2) Social support translates to efficiency 

An example of a successful company that practises a policy of support is Chevron, which made Glassdoor Career Trends' list for Top 25 companies for Culture and Values. Employees say that Chevron has a way of being supportive and making sure their team members are safe.

Other big name companies that have tried to implement this supportive culture include Google, Twitter, REI, and Nike. An article written by McKinsey and Co. describes a study that demonstrates how social support leads to more group efficiency. A group of Harvard psychologists observed the effectiveness of teams in the US Intelligence system. After studying hundreds of analysts across 64 different intelligence units, they found that the most effective teams were not those with top skills, but those who exhibited "helping behaviour." The teams that helped one another out the most in training and consulting were the most productive teams.

It is a good lesson for everyone that just making sure you're fine in your own job is not actually the most effective strategy for overall success. 

Businesses are investing more in policies of social support. x 0 0 0 14092619 800Businesses are investing more in policies of social support.

And these big name companies are investing in management training programs for a reason: There is abundant evidence that learning how to create a culture of social support works. Indiana University's Philip Podsakoff showed that employees helping each other predicts profits, costs and customer service in banks, as well as indicators of growth in many other industries. The example of banks, however, is most striking because it defies the stereotype that successful workplaces have to be a dog eat dog world of every man for himself when, in fact, group support drives success even in these high-stress jobs. 

Move into the new era of effective leadership by  enrolling in Line Management's Certificate IV in Leadership and Management, which includes the kind of skills that foster social support and business success.

Published by: LMIT