How to Help Employees Network

Julie Shenkman
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While most business people are aware of the value of networking when it comes to seeking a new job, many overlook the importance of creating networks within one's own company. Establishing formal and informal employee networks within the workplace fosters collaboration and efficiency and encourages innovation. Internal networks among employees also increase the intangible bonds between employee and employer, boosting employee engagement. Three key tactics help employees network with one another.

Establish Informal Structures for Networking

Many large workplaces establish committees for everything from strategic planning to casual event planning. Consider stretching this concept even further by encouraging ad hoc gatherings that can form a basis for valuable informal networks. Encourage employees to gather together by providing one-time training or brainstorming sessions that can serve as the basis for an ongoing communications loop. Look for small incentives to promote internal informal employee networks based around projects and specific challenges to be solved. Serving food at gatherings like this serves as an appreciated incentive.

Identify Key Network Players

Studies show that top-performing employees tend to have strong intra-office networks, with ties that reach out from their own departments and stretch across the company. Leverage this by recruiting key players into any informal networks. These key players are likely to energize and inspire other employees, so they leave the workplace feeling they have made contributions that are valuable and appreciated. Encourage these top performers to facilitate networking among employees in their departments who seem less engaged with their work, drawing them in to both formal committees and informal networks. Top performers can serve as connectors, pulling together people from varying departments and work groups who might otherwise never collaborate or share ideas. While there are typically few of these top performers in any company, their impact far outweighs their actual numbers.

Develop a Range of Experts

As more formal and informal employee networks form within your company, employees may feel overloaded by the combination of their work responsibilities and the claims their networks make on them. Creative or less extroverted employees can respond to this situation by withdrawing. Ease the overall communicative load by establishing a range of experts within the company so one person does not become the automatic go-to person for any given problem or question. Discourage micromanagement, which tends to create vertical ties rather than more healthy horizontal ones. Encourage employees to document each project fully, creating a database of answers to which employees can refer in the future, rather than overwhelming one employee with requests for help. The more experts your company has on any given subject, the more the informal employee networks will thrive.

Internal employee networks can greatly boost a company's ability to be creative and innovative, even as they cement employee loyalty. Facilitating networking among employees is a fascinating and productive way to keep employees engaged with their work and strengthen their personal ties to the company.

 

(Photo courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / freedigitalphotos.net)

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