People’s professional networks have shrunk since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, while companies’ attrition and hiring challenges are growing. To help reverse these trends, people and organizations will need to manage workplace interactions more intentionally. Here’s how.
Social capital—or the presence of networks, relationships, shared norms, and trust among individuals, teams, and business leaders—is the glue that holds organizations together. When teams feel connected, they tend to get more work done and do it faster. When colleagues trust their managers and one another, they tend to be more engaged, more willing to go beyond minimum work requirements, more likely to stick around, and, as research shows, more likely to recommend that others join their organization.1 Social capital matters to an organization’s performance.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, connections in the workplace have been in short supply. We recently surveyed about 5,500 US workers on the state of their internal and external networks and connections.2 More than three-quarters of the respondents working in “traditional” roles3 —especially women and frontline workers—report that they are connecting with others less frequently, have smaller networks, and spend less time and effort on relationship building since the start of the pandemic.
The decline is concerning, especially at a time when employees around the world are continuing to leave jobs at unprecedented rates, often without another in hand, despite a looming economic downturn. In McKinsey’s most recent Great Attrition research, for instance, nearly two out of five employees in a global sample spanning about 13,000 workers in six countries across 16 industries say they are considering leaving their jobs within the next three to six months.4
Their employers, meanwhile, are left to manage the financial and opportunity costs associated with this level of attrition—according to Gallup, for example, the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times that employee’s annual salary,5 and companies can experience significant productivity and knowledge losses.