Definition of Employee Networking
Employee networking refers to events, activities, and initiatives that promote interpersonal interactions among employees. You can trade useful advice, information, referrals, and support by making professional connections and creating mutually beneficial partnerships. Networking provides you access to opportunities that you might not have had otherwise. You may learn a lot about various sectors and what future employers look for through your network.
Your workplace is an excellent place to broaden your network. You can access essential resources such as job leads, mentors, and hands-on training opportunities through these connections. Getting to know your coworkers is critical since they can help you advance your career or transition into a new one. Coworkers who have moved on to new jobs can recommend you to their new bosses and share insider information on jobs elsewhere.
With the introduction of technology, employee networking has evolved. Employees can now network on social media platforms. Whilst employee networks have many benefits, some can become toxic over time. This leads us to the most common question many employees and employers ask: "What makes a good employee network?"
Internal and external networks examples
Internal networking covers all the networking activities one partakes in within their organization, whilst external networking refers to all the employee networking done to connect with other professionals outside one's organization.
While external networking helps us grow our connections to professionals outside of our organization, internal networking helps individuals add people to their professional networks and increases productivity and engagement inside a company. Examples of internal employee networking include social gatherings at work, a group online chat with colleagues, and a book development club at work. Connecting with other professionals at business seminars, and professional social media platforms such as Linked In, business conferences, tradeshows, and associations are all examples of external employee networking.
Related: Increase Your Visibility on Social Media
Examples of Employee Networking Groups
Employee networks are coworkers with common interests, identities, or aspirations who voluntarily communicate with one another to offer information, support, or resources (Dobbin & Kalev, 2016). A good place to start creating employee networking groups is to select common grounds and formulate networks based on these. Based on a research article named Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks, people's networks are homogeneous on many sociodemographic, behavioural, and intrapersonal characteristics.
Employees want to feel a sense of belonging, and when there is a common ground between employee networks, employees feel at home. Feeling at home will help boost their confidence as they can speak up since they feel at home. Therefore, employees are likely to grow more in networks they feel they belong. Companies globally often have employee networks for people with disabilities. Other common employee networking groups include women's groups, a network for remote employees, and a network for LGBTQ employees. Any known similarities between employees can be used as a base to create employee networking groups.
What Makes a Good Employee Network?
A good network should be broad, with strong relationships and diverse contacts. A good network spreads over three dimensions. The three distinct but interdependent forms of employee networking are operational, personal, and strategic. These three are essential in employee transitions. The first assists them in managing current internal tasks, the second in advancing their personal growth, and the third introduces them to new business opportunities and the stakeholders they need to enlist.
A successful employee network should have a clear purpose and vision that resonates with the values and goals of the firm. It should also have a clear structure and governance to ensure accountability, transparency, and effectiveness to build trust among members. A good employee network also has a diversified and engaged membership that reflects the requirements and interests of its target audience. An effective employee network should have a demonstrable impact on the organization's performance and culture and its members' personal and professional development.
The importance of employee networking cannot be ignored. Networking is essential for individuals in the corporate world and small businesses. Having a single contact can get you multiple meetings or interviews. Employee networking is as simple as having a conversation; it can be formal or informal. Chatting with a coworker over lunch can be considered informal employee networking, while attending a career-related or professional event, such as a career fair or conference, is more formal. Most companies are moving towards a culture that supports employee networking internally and externally to reap the benefits of employee networking.
Benefits of Employee Networking
Improves the Wellbeing of LGBTQ Employees
According to research done by Science Direct in an attempt to answer the question, "Do workplace diversity training and employee networks make a difference in improving the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ employees?" After controlling for a wide range of confounders and organization-specific random effects, it was found that both individual- and organizational-level measures of workplace diversity training and employee behaviors showed positive, large, and statistically significant associations with the LGBTQ+ employee wellbeing index. They specifically stated that employee networks may increase the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ employees. Employer investments in diversity training and employee networks are effective interventions for improving workplace culture, employee productivity, and intergroup interactions.
Improved Employee Engagements
According to research on networking within organizations and its effects on employee engagement, It was discovered that networking among coworkers and between employees and management improves employee engagement levels through better organizational commitment, improved job satisfaction, and making them physically, cognitively, and psychologically engaged to the organization as they feel better connected to the organization through networking.
To add to improved employee engagement, internal employee networking can help employees connect with different people inside the organization. The more connections among employees, the greater the bond. When there is a better relationship between employees, it develops into a bond, and it is easier for the employees to learn more about the organization, its best practices, and to learn more about the organization's other stakeholders, such as suppliers, customers, and those whom the organization directly impacts.
Another advantage of internal networking is to know the expertise of others in the organization and to tap them whenever needed (Baber & Waymon, 2008). Cross-pollination of ideas occurs through internal networking, and employees can easily learn about other new abilities relevant to their firm. Employee networking increases organizational teamwork. People in the same employee network will collaborate more effectively on a project. Employee networks also boost the effectiveness of constructive criticism since members in the same network will not take offence while correcting one another. At the same time, internal networking can assist firms in obtaining new information and solving problems efficiently (Cross, Borgatti & Parker, 2002).
How do you Encourage Employees to Network?
How to encourage employee networking within your organization is quite an important topic, considering that employee networking increases employee engagement. I have covered three ways to encourage employee networking in this article. Find them below.
Team Building Retreats
Team building retreats refer to the bringing together of your employees in one location for a few days in a social environment. Team building retreats are an opportunity for employees to network. According to a study by Klein and the team on the question "Does team building work?" team building improves team efforts. Team building activities boost morale, increase communication and help foster employee networking. During team building retreats, employees often partake in team games and team fun battles. The collaborations to win against the opposing teams often bring together employees. Therefore, Team building retreats are a good place to encourage employee networking.
Related: Team Building Activities That Work
Volunteer Days and Events
According to research on the impact of social events on employee satisfaction, It was discovered that social difficulties at work are critical in developing a healthy interaction between employees and their employers. An old popular saying goes, "All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy." Being with your work colleagues outside the office is also a good place to start in encouraging your employees to network. There is nothing that brings people together more than a charity event. Charity begins at home, and networking is a form of charity. Employee network groups often find ways to give back and serve the causes and interests that form the basis for their group
What we normally do here at Industrial Psychology Consultants as part of employee networking is to have social Fridays. We select a particular Friday, and then we close early business-wise. From there, we throw a braai, drink, and partake in social conversation. It has been a good way for me to network with my colleagues. We also invite alumni on other occasions, broadening our employee networking reach. Inviting former employers has helped everyone learn how to grow their careers after being employed at Industrial Psychology Consultants. There are several ways employee networking can be encouraged in organizations. The above ways are just some of the common ways.
Disadvantages of Employee Networking
Employee networking can be a terrific way to meet new people, develop new skills, and discover new possibilities. Employee networking, on the other hand, may have certain drawbacks. Literature on technostress and social media use emphasizes that employee networks can adversely affect employees. I have listed some of the negative impacts in this section.
- Availability of time
- Unequal relationships
- Concerns about personal privacy
Employee networking has many advantages, such as learning about career opportunities, cross-pollination of ideas, and improved effectiveness of constructive criticism. However, there are also disadvantages, such as being time-consuming and privacy concerns. Therefore, employees need to join networks on their own will.