A recent article in the WSJ entitled “Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace,” caught my attention. First, the thrust of the article was all about tracking employees to boost productivity, an intrusive and not very employee friendly approach. The study was conducted at Bank of America’s call center and identified two main groups. One was the “social connectors” – those who communicated with lots of different groups, (a trait they called “centrality”). This type of individual is in contrast to what they called the “sedentary employee,” who rarely leaves their desk and tends to be disengaged. The study found this group of workers is approximately 10% less productive and leaves the company earlier. The conclusion was that if they made the lunch tables bigger, more people could connect and therefore be more productive and engaged. Additionally, those who were the social connectors were more likely to be promoted. The first conclusion made me chuckle, the second was a confirmation of what we know about the “Power of Triads.”
There is evidence that in the workplace groups of more than 2 people enhance satisfaction, productivity and career opportunities. It is validation of the work of Dave Logan and discussed in his book “Tribal Leadership.” Dave outlines the 5 stages an organization can go through to gain and sustain maximum productivity and satisfaction – in other words, happy productive organizations and companies that accomplish amazing things.
Dave introduces the concept of Triads – always having at least 3 people in a discussion, workgroup or gathering. We have traditionally had “one-to-ones” where two people meet weekly to discuss progress or issues. By adding the 3rd person, the power of the group is enhanced exponentially – think of it as a “twosome squared.” The exchange of ideas, the challenges, outcomes and connectedness are all increased by simply adding one person. It also prevents the conversations from being misrepresented as there were two “listeners” vs. one in a two-way communication.
The more triads a person forms in the workplace, the more connections all three members of the triad have access too. Think of it like the voice over in the old commercial that said “and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…” and the pictures of the people in the ad just kept multiplying. Instead of being a game of “telephone” where the message is passed on one person at a time and not recognizable by about receiver number 5 – it is spread out in groups of 3, ensuring a much faster and more accurate communication. The speed and accuracy of the communication of ideas increases productivity, satisfaction and the opportunity for individuals to get ahead.
However, it’s not just about making bigger lunch tables. It’s setting up a culture and company structure that encourages “the power of 3s” and discourages groups of 2. More people will become “social connectors” if the culture of an organization supports it. It’s okay to start with tables, but think bigger. You’ll be glad you did.