Outside of a “networking event”, does networking have to be an event? Absolutely not, and if that is how it is being approached, reevaluate! What about networking within your organization? What is the value on that front?
Networking is the method used for exchanging information and developing professional relationships through interactions. Regardless of your skill or comfort when it comes to the practice, networking is a major conduit or “fiber”, the delivery medium, for communication in the business world.
One of the best ways to take the edge and formality off of networking is to integrate it into your business, top to bottom, as a means of ongoing professional development with ALL members of your organization. In doing so, you shift the perception of networking from something that is done externally with industry peers in other organizations, or with potential clients, to something that is required to optimize your business. So why is networking critical internally? While it’s easy to see that a networking strategy could improve your chances of landing a job or finding new clients, there is a more basic aspect of networking that can be applied internally to a business. When networking becomes a key part of an individual, team, or organizational-level professional development plan, a great deal of opportunity for improvement is created.
Let’s look at how networking as professional development works at various levels in an organization.
Front-Line Networking – Critical Information Exchange & Relationship Building
At the front-line level, whether that front-line is on a production floor, in a sales office, or with some other internal team in your business, knowing how individuals perform their jobs, what interdependencies exist, or other aspects of the business workflows, are all critical to optimizing outputs and improving existing processes. Then add in the value of understanding individual motivations, work styles, communication preferences, and a host of other aspects of how people think and operate. It’s difficult to argue against team members in entry-level or front-line positions putting in the time and effort to understand all of those information points. Networking is how that gets done!
Making networking part of the individual and team-level development plans are great ways to ensure accountability, clarity for results, and that your staff is coached on how to effectively get the information they need to excel in their roles and to do the best work possible. Team members that understand how the “big picture” works for their whole organization, AND how their own role plays into that, are much more capable of thinking “big picture”, which will begin to add strategic thinking into their daily work effort. They’ll have a more thorough understanding of their peers’ and direct leaders’ operating styles, and have much more efficient feedback channels for them to utilize as they perform their core job functions; the dividends paid from the investment in networking are significant.