We all know the saying "no man is an island." While some people may prefer working solo, society is generally dependent on connections. A strong social network is certainly important when it comes to the corporate world, as it can open up opportunities to learn new skills and it increases overall productivity. For the average knowledge worker, it is immensely beneficial in terms of career advancement. We discussed this at length in our previous blog post: Want to Thrive at Work? Build a Strong Internal Network. Here we’ll explore why fostering a culture of strong internal networks and open collaboration among employees is particularly important for executives and managers.
When Employees Succeed, Organizations Succeed
- Better Retention: Employees who are encouraged to foster strong relationships with both their managers and peers in turn foster a strong attachment to the company as a whole, minimizing the desire to look elsewhere for employment.
- Fluid Collaboration: When communication becomes a priority, and teams are provided the space and resources to interact more often, joining forces (even cross-departmentally) on assignments becomes more common.
- Higher Productivity: As collaboration increases, particularly between departments, solutions are realized faster and obstacles are more easily overcome.
3 Ways to Foster a Culture of Strong Internal Networks
While these end-results can be very powerful, creating a culture of networking and collaboration doesn't just happen overnight. It can be helpful for leaders to take incremental steps and even consider harnessing the power of technology to help out along the way.
1. Start Small: Set the stage
Within many corporate settings, especially larger ones, individuals often work on their own or with the same handful of teammates. It can be surprising how little employees on different teams know about one another, even if they do work on the same floor. To shake things up a bit and essentially "set the stage" for networking, leaders should consider pulling together project teams intentionally made up of individuals who don't interact on a regular basis. Additionally, cross-departmental lunches and other outings can be a great way for employees to interact with those outside of their everyday teams in a less formal setting.
2. Go Bigger: Empowered Networking
Once the stage is set, it's time to pass the baton. Leader-initiated bonds formed between coworkers aren't likely to go far unless employees are provided the right environment and resources to further cultivate these bonds on their own. According to The 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations published by Forbes, there are several ways for organization leaders to empower employees in this way - but encouragement and flexibility are underlying themes. This means meeting employees where they are, allowing them to network how and when works best for them. It goes without saying that getting the job done comes first, but allowing employees to fit networking into their everyday workflows allows for much more natural collaboration and long-lasting connections.
3. Fully Scaled: Lean Into Technology
Messaging tools and real-time collaboration platforms are becoming more prominent in the workplace every day, and for good reason. They are incredibly helpful in both establishing and maintaining internal networks in today's fast-paced and rapidly-changing world, especially with remote work and disparate teams becoming the new norm. With a searchable directory of data-rich employee profiles, leaders can easily coordinate initial networking groups based on similar skill-sets, location, or even interests and career goals. Even more important, employees have instant access to people data and resources that would otherwise be locked away in isolated data silos, making it easy for them to find and connect with the colleagues, experts, and tools they need to do their very best work.
With the numerous priorities that organization leaders juggle, it can be a challenge to set aside time for initiatives such as increased networking amongst employees. Breaking the process down into achievable steps can help even the busiest of leaders accomplish this worthwhile objective.