Office networking matters for productivity and engagement. So how do you get started?
“Look around you and look everywhere. Make sure to build your network and use it to develop your ideas or to source ideas from.” Most business professionals echo this sentiment from global entrepreneur Ted Rollins. As such, we put an emphasis on networking, but mostly outside of the office, when looking for a job or trying to meet industry experts.
Networking inside the office is less talked about, but just as important for sourcing great ideas and finding inspiration. So often teams get siloed and forget that they have a network within the company that can help them complete their tasks more effectively.
“Being an internal networker means you’re looking outside your immediate, day-to-day activities and thinking about how you can connect with and create value for others in your company,” says Jennifer Miller, says founder of SkillSource.
For example, the marketing team may be struggling to get customer data for running tests, when the head of sales may already have it at-the-ready. The key to bringing this into your organization is making it easy for employees to talk with one another. Setting up and supporting an “internal networking initiative” is a great place to start.
How to Create an Internal Networking Initiative
An internal networking initiative will look different from one organization to another, depending on your goals, budget, tools and needs. Regardless, the most important piece is making resources available to help employees connect. Here are a few ways to do exactly that.
Host Office Mixers
Put “networking” events on the calendar once a month. Instead of having them after work hours, plan to end the day an hour or two early, so employees don’t see this as another task on their never-ending to-do list. This can be as simple as an office happy hour, or more specific to a large company project.
You can even host department specific mixers, where you bring two departments together who haven’t been connecting as much as they should or can.
Create Online Chat Groups
If you use an office messaging system, like Slack that allows for groups, create networking channels or groups. Employees can use them to ask fellow co-workers a question, request resources, or share information about their role within the company. Having a chat program like this in place is valuable, whether or not these “networking” groups are consistently used. Employees can exchange insights on posted content, while investing in open communication.
Attend events as a team
Set the tone for internal networking by attending industry events as a team. If you can’t afford a big conference, look for local get-togethers. Many larger organizations have small chapters in various cities that hold educational or networking nights.
Scheduled lunch “dates”
Give employees a chance to talk to someone new once a month with scheduled lunch “dates.” One Friday every month, assign pairs of employees to get lunch together, whether they eat in the office or out somewhere. This gives everyone a regular opportunity to connect with a different person and is especially helpful for new employees.
If employees are weary to grab lunch with someone they don’t know, host team lunches instead. Digital Telepathy, a mid-sized agency in San Diego, does this as a way to maintain company culture. One important tip they share: “During most lunches, we add on a table (or two) to fit our whole team plus guests from the community—especially family & friends” This keeps everyone together, making conversation easy and convenient.
Try Employee Advocacy
Employee Advocacy programs support external and internal networking through content. When employees engage with company-related content and become aligned with the company's social media strategy, they are also more in sync with each other. Tools that include internal communication and mobile features are particularly powerful in connecting the workforce and engaging then with the company.
Internal networking ensures employees work together more often, giving them a chance to speak with coworkers and learn about how they can be of value to one another. When they know what resources are available, or how others can make their work easier, they can be more productive and effective.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She’s been featured on Forbes and has written for StartupNation, Manta and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for small business tips and marketing ideas.
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