Academic Minute Podcast

Theresa Floyd, University of Montana – Retaining Employees By Fostering Social Connections

On University of Montana Week: Retaining employees is now a pivotal part of any business.

Theresa Floyd, associate professor of management, examines how to foster the right environment to keep good people.

Theresa Floyd earned her Ph.D. from Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky in 2014. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University. Theresa’s research interests encompass two main streams, both of which incorporate social network theory and analysis.

The first stream, in the realm of business management, focuses on social cognition, social influence, and the effects of organizational change on organizational identification and attachment. The second stream, in the realm of natural resource governance, focuses on how psychological processes operate within the social networks of resource stakeholders to influence attitudes and outcomes.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Theresa worked in retail merchandising for industry giants such as Gap and PetSmart. She loves bringing her business experience and research experience to her teaching and has a passion for preparing her students for successful business careers.

When not teaching or doing research, Theresa enjoys travel, singing, Oula, yoga and spending time with her husband, Paul, and their daughter, Natalie.

Retaining Employees By Fostering Social Connections


In response to “The Great Resignation,” organizational leaders are seeking ways to keep employees from quitting. Many are turning to monetary incentives like increased pay and improved benefits.

My recent research offers another consideration: social relationships at work are an important factor for retaining employees. My co-authors and I studied employee turnover during a large corporate merger. Mergers are stressful for employees – changes in their job responsibilities, their status, and worries about job security mean that employees may choose to leave rather than deal with these stressors.

We found that employees who changed their workplace networks by adding new people from the other pre-merger organization were more likely to stay than those that didn’t, because they felt more attached to the newly merged organization.

Unfortunately, remote work has limited our opportunities for informal interaction. For leaders that want to foster social connections in their companies, I have a few suggestions:

– Consider bringing employees back to the office, at least a couple of days a week.

– Use the in-the-office days for meetings and other collaboration – face-to-face meetings are more conducive to forming bonds than Zoom calls!

– Foster cross-departmental collaboration so that employees can develop relationships across boundaries.

– Finally, taking COVID restrictions into account, plan informal events where employees can interact in non-work settings. Numerous smaller events may be more effective than one huge event.

In summary, leaders who want to retain their employees should look for ways to foster social connections, especially across organizational boundaries.


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