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'Social capital' key to workers' success on the job, according to study by Russell Korte and Shumin Lin

by Sharita Forrest / Apr 10, 2013

UI NEWS BUREAU — The quality of the social relationships that newly hired people develop with other employees in their work groups is critical to newcomers’ job satisfaction, learning their responsibilities and their ability to fit in to the workplace culture, a new study suggests.

Often taken for granted by people within organizations, overlooked when training new people and not addressed in college courses, the social/political/cultural realm of the work environment has a pervasive influence over employee learning and performance, say researchers Russell Korte and Shumin Lin.

“There is a relational structure that is very powerful in the work group, but it’s not given much recognition and it’s typically ignored or under-valued in how we help newcomers learn to do their jobs,” said Korte, a professor of human resource development in the College of Education at the University of Illinois. “New hires tend to learn the norms of their work mostly through trial and error, and then we wonder why some people are not performing or integrating very well. Traditionally, we blame the new person for not learning how to fit in when, in fact, the culture or the relational structure of the work group was part of the problem.”

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Photo by L. Brian Stauffer