Why Employers Should Encourage Employees To Network (Beyond Meetings) More Often Than They Usually Do! 0

A company’s net worth is determined by the strength of its employees’ networks!

Employees perform their best when they are well-connected and empowered. According to a Gallup study, teams that have high engagement rates are 21% more productive compared to those with low engagement rates.

Better-engaged employees translate into better performers. Research from INSEAD, a popular business school, states that professional service firms gain a lot from personal networks that employees build during their job.

True to this, networking allows employees to articulate, form ideas, build friendships beyond the boardroom and learn from each other. Networking also helps employees to put their best selves forward and perform well.

There are two ways in which employees can network…

  • Internal Networking (Amongst employees in the organization)
  • External Networking (Networking outside the organization)

In external networking, employees get together with people outside the organization, predominantly aided by trade associations or professional groups. Internal networking, on the other hand, is networking within the organization and tends to be more casual.

While both forms give an opportunity to speak on common issues for advice and support, internal networking, in particular, helps to enhance the organizational culture and rapport among employees and boost productivity.

A study from the Journal of Personnel Psychology states that internal networking improves job embeddedness, job satisfaction and further networking with co-workers minimizes the chance of a turnover by 140%.

Job embeddedness refers to employees’ psychological connections by way of better coworker relationships, better comfort with work-related tasks and fear of leaving the job due to psychological costs associated with quitting the organization. Thus, internal networking makes employees stick on to their jobs and also employers due to job embeddedness and hence leads to lower attrition.

The study also revealed that while internal networking minimizes the chances of voluntary turnover, external networking, on the other hand, increases the chances of voluntary turnover in as much as 114%. This percentage is even higher if the chances of internal networking are reduced.

Thus, the concept of employee networking acts as a double-edged sword by exercising contrasting impact on the employee’s desire to leave the company. While bosses cannot prevent employees from networking outside the office, they can, however, increase the opportunities for internal networking beyond the boardroom in the right direction.

Why Employers Should Encourage Employees To Network More!

Here are some reasons how networking more than usual can be a benefit for employees, and consequently for the employers!

1. Better job performance:

Networking with successful co-workers enables employees to perform better. For example, research by the Journal of Marketing indicated salespersons who had good internal connections were able to perform better by demonstrating attributes that could cut across various lines of hierarchy.

2. Better equipped to deal with challenges:

A good network of peers will provide much-needed moral and emotional support in facing trying situations. Needless to say, if the internal network is hostile, then it becomes difficult for an employee to handle tough situations. Hence, the importance of good internal network cannot be overruled.

3. Identify and work on better projects:

A strong internal connection helps the employees find mentors who can help them find suitable positions within the organization. It also allows managers to identify required talented people for their projects. It is a win-win situation for both!

Zealously building networks is also a great way to reduce the woes of hiring — a strong network results in better referrals, and organizations can lap up the best fits by simply tapping into their employees’ network.

How To Encourage Employees to Network Beyond Meetings!

Here are some tips employers could use to encourage employees to network beyond the meetings…

1. Create A Sportive Environment:

Creating break spaces like fun-filled collaboration areas or break rooms is a great way to build networking. For instance, the company can use board games or such other interactive methods to help people come together in the break rooms.

This will facilitate better interaction between employees across the organization and foster better networking. Google, for instance, has embraced this concept wherein common spaces in its offices are full of video games, pool tables, Foosball, etc. Further, bicycles, scooters are available in many of its locations to enable employees to travel between meetings.

Creating such fun-filled common spaces will encourage employees to initiate conversations and build relationships that enhance their learning.

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2. Plan Team Outings:

Team outings across various departments help employees bond together on a personal level. Such opportunities do not happen on a day-to-day basis on the job.

Such outings can be in the form of short trips, or sports activities or even a simple lunch get-together. Allowing team heads to decide the outings will also be a good idea to get teams together.

Seagate Technology, for instance, conducts an interesting excursion annually for its employees. Employees who are interested can apply, and 200 are selected among them to enjoy a week of outdoor activities like kayaking, trekking, etc. Such activities foster a strong network outside the office environment.

3. Get Them To Bond Over Social Activities:

It always feels nice to give something back to the community. Socially conscious activities can be planned like a charity run, embracing a social project, etc.

Volunteers across departments can be motivated to form a group and involve themselves. Paid days off can be earmarked for such activities to encourage employees to participate.

Such exercises not only strengthen connections among employees but also promote the brand of the company as a socially conscious organization.

4. Foster Cross-Departmental Relations:

Interdepartmental activities and projects can be introduced to enable employees to get to know other key players in various departments. Such inter-departmental activities help in disseminating valuable information required across departments and also aid better networking.

For instance, the marketing department of an organization might be in need of some vital customer data and might be struggling to find the same while the sales head may already have it in hand ready. By enabling employees across departments to converse with one another such interdepartmental need can be fixed easily.

Working together on various interdepartmental projects not only helps the employer to solve issues but also aids in building professional relationships through networking.

Employers should identify opportunities to make employees collaborate with peers outside their current teams and resolve problems that will benefit the organization as a whole. This can be done through organizing interdepartmental meets especially within departments that have not been in communication for long periods. Various conferences or educative or networking events can also be considered.

5. Broaden The Networking Range:

A common mistake that most employees commit when networking is that they limit the scope of networking to co-workers in the same field or those at the same designation or level. It is imperative for organizations to foster networking across all levels and as many fields as possible rather than allowing employees to stick to the same level of comfort with peers at the same level and area.

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By broadening the network range employees can get better perspective different from their own, and they can, in turn, apply such skill set and knowledge to their job as well.

6. Online Chat Forums:

Use of office instant messaging and chat systems can pave the way for group chats, networking channels and more. Employees can request resources, ask queries, etc., and prove a valuable tool for networking.

Even small companies can afford to implement these chat systems specifically designed for them like Adium, Spark, Jabber, etc.

Jabber, for instance, can be controlled by the company’s IT section itself and hence would not pose a financial drain on small companies in relying on a third party for technical support. Most of these can be customized as well.

7. Women And Networking:

While women generally network well with their teammates, when it comes to networking with colleagues outside their teams, statistics show that women do not network beyond their own teams as much compared to men. Men and women view networking contrarily.

For most women, they have to maintain a balance between their work and family life and hence are keen to go home once the day’s job is over. Due to this, they miss out opportunities on networking with other employees across various departments.

For instance, they are unable to commit to company dinners, outings, happy hours and the like. To solve this problem companies can encourage more interaction within the working hours like extended lunch hours, small meetings during the day over coffee and doughnuts, earmarking specific days like Fridays for allowing employees to go out and have elaborate lunches with colleagues etc..

Common meeting pathways can be included in the floor plan across departments to build conversations.

In addition to such personal interactions, companies can encourage networking through technology. Women are believed to be adept at social networking sites and hence the usage of technology as a networking measure would enable them to interact better among their peers across various departments. LinkedIn is a useful tool for social networking in business.  

Social Media should not be perceived as a means of distraction, but instead, it should be used to foster networking in the right way.

Companies can encourage employees to use social media and take time off from their routine jobs to connect with peers on common grounds apart from regular work.

According to the leadership expert Warren Bennis “Know what you are good at and work to enhance those skills, Know what you’re not good at and surround yourself with people who can help you improve those skills.” The same holds good at networking for employees as well. Working to better networking skills and learning how to use them effectively is what really counts.

True to Porter’s words:

Everything can’t just be work all the time; People need to interact with each other.”

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