Companies and Networking

If you don’t shape your career other people and other events will shape it.

The last post looked at the idea of Me-Inc, the notion that you are Chairman, CEO and Marketing Director of a company called Me-Inc and that you have to take individual responsibility for crafting your own career playbook.  If you don’t shape your career other people and other events will shape it – how true is that given recent developments? However, most people think that career development is somebody else’s responsibility. Research shows that the average worker spends 1.5 hours per year planning their career – yet many are not happy with their career trajectory. 

Research also shows that most employees think it is the job of their manager to plan their career whereas most managers think it is the job of the employees. So – a major disconnect there. Add to this Gallup’s State of Global Workplace report that states that 85% of employees globally are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global norm are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. So again – the perfect storm.

Is there any resolution? From our perspective, we in The Networking Institute believe (surprise, surprise….!!!!) that one element involves companies creating a more creative and enabling culture around Networking. Our last post looked at what individuals can do to get better at Networking but what can companies do? We believe that there is a necessity and an opportunity here for companies to proactively create the conditions to nurture a Networking culture and this could be a competitive advantage. This will involve embracing the concept of Networking Intelligence as articulated by the co-founder of Linkedin, Reid Hoffman, and is based on a very simple premise – there are more smart people outside your company than inside it. Hoffman believes that companies should create a culture that promotes connections both among employees and with a wide variety of external contacts. Who you know, he says, is more important than what you read. An externally connected workforce is a key asset for an innovative company. Incidentally, it is also good for employees’ own careers so a bit of self-interest comes into play here – always a powerful motivator. A strong professional network is a huge career asset.

This then might be an opportune time to introduce some company-wide Networking initiatives as we exit lockdown and begin to engage with colleagues, customers and the general public. Here are 10 things a company can do to nurture a benign climate of Networking as part of the culture of the organisation –

  1. Make it a KPI so people are aware it is part of their job spec and that they will be assessed and compensated for it. Make it an ‘all of company’ initiative and not just the preserve of the CEO or the C suite. Promote the concept of ‘Network Intelligence’ and how it contributes to the objectives of the company.
  1. Make the business case and rationale for it and encourage it from the leadership down. Develop initiatives like sponsoring external lunches with key people and reporting back and sharing information. This is Networking on the company ‘time and dime’.
  1. Make the company’s premises available for external events and build a reputation for being open and generous. Welcome in diverse groups to your offices.
  1. Embrace the concept of Social Capital – the relationships that people have in their personal and business networks. This is about who they know. That goes with their Human Capital (what they know)and Financial Capital (what they own).
  1. Encourage your employees to build their personal brand and be active on Social Media. Show them how to do it.
  1. Train employees to be better at it – Networking is a learned experience with a precise process and learnable skills. Teach how to be a great listener, manage serendipity, build weak connections, audit one’s network and be an effective public speaker.
  1. Hire connected people who will demonstrate the effectiveness of having strong and diverse networks. Have a ‘Hire and Wire’ recruitment policy – hire well-connected people and wire them into their networks.
  1. Tell stories of successful Networking examples and inspire others. Show how innovation and creativity come from personal contacts and interactions. Opportunities don’t float around on clouds – they are attached to people.
  1. Encourage internal networks to help break down silos. Organise ‘Coffee Roulette’ on a regular basis. Put everyone’s name in a hat and pick out pairs of names who must have a coffee together in the next month.
  1. The overall objective is that everybody should feel empowered to contribute to this new culture which will benefit them individually and the company collectively.

A key theme running through these initiatives is the importance of becoming ‘known not famous’ as a company or as an individual. It is a huge accolade when you become known as an authority in a certain field. This requires demonstrating great knowledge, expertise and experience. It also requires other people to promote you and your organisation, you will need to have a track record of publications and presentations, have been recognised by industry experts and have an online presence and identity. In a world where ‘life is a game of inches’ this can give you a competitive advantage and help you and your organisation survive and thrive. However, all of these suggestions require taking action. If nothing happens then nothing happens.

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