We’ve been told time and time again how we can use social networks to:
- help our careers.
- connect to future jobs.
- establish a personal brand.
- gain insights into new industries or problems.
We spend a lot of time tending to these networks.
We’ve also heard that nearly 85% of employees found or obtained their job via networking. It’s also estimated that referrals are associated with a 2.6% to 6.6% higher chance of an accepted job offer. Problem is, these stats are referencing external networking.
External networking refers to broadening your network if industry professionals and other individuals for mutually beneficial purposes including searching for a job or looking for a referral. If you’re in sales you should know external networking backwards and forwards. But how to network externally is something everyone should know.
What about internal networking?
First of all, exactly what is internal networking and how important is it?
Internal networking refers to reaching out and connecting with colleagues within your organization, even if your job doesn’t require you to do so. It’s going beyond your normal scope of job responsibilities. And if you’re one of those people who spends all of your time inside company walls, internal networking is very important for you to master.
Internal networking – whether written, spoken, or non-verbal – is a cornerstone of employee performance. A recent workplace study showed that the highest performers had 36% larger strong ties internal networks. Strong ties internal networks are ones that connect at least biweekly in small-group messages. The lowest performers had 6% smaller networks than average. In other words, those with large, strong internal networks had the highest performance.
That’s interesting news, but did you also know that (according to this study) internal networking affected performance more than external networking?
There are really 3 rules that make this work.
Internal networks increase transparency and performance.
When employees know what their colleagues are doing, they can avoid duplicating work, better understand their roles, and use appropriate channels – saving time and increasing performance.
Internal networks involve new minds.
By introducing new people and thoughts to the same old problems, creative solutions are brought about quickly.
Internal networks build relationships that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
These relationships help build more engaged employees who happen to be more productive. Create opportunities for these relationships by setting up interest groups, blind dates for coffee/lunch, or better-employee conversations.
Here are 4 tips for building internal networks:
- Remember: every interaction is an opportunity.
- No medium is off limits: email, Slack, social media, etc.
- Don’t build new connections without maintaining old ones.
- An offer to help is the quickest way to make a connection.
The internal difference
It’s all in your head. Make the distinction in internal networking. People have expectations about what various job roles should be, but when you apply those expectations to internal networking, those who are supposed to be connection seekers are considered suck-ups or playing politics when they use their external skills internally, for example.
If you think networking is for kiss-ups, take a moment and remember when you successfully made a connection beyond your department and how you – and others – benefitted. You’re looking for the win-win!
To improve your internal networking you should:
- Do amazing work. Your boss and your co-workers will love you.
- Ask your boss which of the other company leaders would be good connections for you.
- Meet the people in the organization that you should know.
- Become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and you can make more relevant contacts.
- Learn how your work fits into company goals and you’ll be more articulate about your role.
- Be a cheerleader, congratulating and praising co-workers for accomplishments when you’re in meetings. Sharing credit proves you’re a team player.
- If don’t know people on project teams, you’re probably not alone. Suggest the use of infomercials to introduce everyone on the team.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. Follow-up will earn you trust and respect.
Networking inside your company’s walls does not mean that you’ll get the reputation for being a kiss-up. If you keep others’ interests in mind, you’ll be seen as someone who’s willing to lend a hand.