A lot of HR directors today face a legitimate challenge when it comes to facilitating internal networking. More often than not, networking initiatives are focused externally, with the aim of helping a company to build connections, maintain client relationships, and attract candidates for hiring. Internal networking can be beneficial also though, as it can help employees to build bonds that can both improve workplace morale and set up more effective collaboration in the future.
In some cases, a manager or HR director looking to spark internal networking might do so simply by attempting to affect workplace atmosphere in a way that fosters more interaction. In others, the same manager or director might look to organise major company events specifically meant for networking. Either way, it can be surprisingly difficult to spark genuine networking in the modern work environment though. Employees are typically overworked, and (understandably) more interested in wrapping up their days or enjoying free time than putting in the extra effort.
This is where technology can actually come into play though. There are various ways in which a business’s use of technology can actually make it easier for an HR director to succeed in driving internal networking — even when the benefits may not be as direct as one would imagine.
More and more companies today are performing some kind of data collection. Indeed, we have written about ‘How to Use Data Creatively’ to drive growth. In a subtle way though, certain data collection operations can enable more effective internal communications and networking as well. This is due to the fact that a business with a data-driven approach to growth can often have clearer operations across the board.
More specifically, data can make it such that team needs and functions can be more clearly defined. For example, data can give a customer service team a better understanding of what customers are looking for or responding to on social media — thus providing a clear incentive for collaboration between said customer service team and anyone in charge of social media. Or, similarly, data could provide clear information to a marketing department about what is working or not working on the content front, necessitating further contact between marketers and creators. These are fairly broad hypotheticals, but they illustrate that data collection can clarify where more internal networking and collaboration are needed.
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This relates somewhat to data collection. In this case though, we’re largely talking about giving employees the time and flexibility they need to focus more on their own duties, and potentially networking and socialising expectations as well. Digital marketing is one example of a practice relevant to most modern companies in which automation can be effective in freeing up a workforce, so to speak. Much of modern marketing in fact comes down to data collection and analysis of SEO practices — which is tedious for the average employee, but manageable with a tech-based approach. To that point, SEO marketing advice primarily focuses on development resource as one of the areas of emphasis when implementing more data and analysis. The advice points out that places of business need workforces focusing on their own efforts rather than website issues or marketing. Extrapolating beyond the marketing example, this speaks to how automating some practices can improve things for companies. With more flexibility applied to tactical tasks like data collection, SEO, etc., employees can better prioritise internal efforts and interpersonal communication.
It’s important to remember that networking is more of an ongoing process than a one-off achievement too. Sure, an HR director might organise an internal company event in the hopes of leading employees to communicate and make connections. But the second half of that battle is maintaining those connections to make them meaningful within the context of the business. In this regard, modern workplace communications systems can go a long way toward building upon the success of any networking event. Consider Slack, for example — one of the most popular messaging systems currently in use in working environments. A post on Medium explored employee engagement through Slack, and spoke to the idea that it can be just as effective for making lunch plans or sending acknowledgements as sharing files or work-related messages. Clearly, a system like this can make it easier for employees to stay in touch within the work environment after connecting at a networking event.
At the end of the day, networking is a very human practice, and almost by definition has to happen without technology. That, in a sense, is the reason for holding internal events in the first place — to get people to talk, shake hands, and learn about and remember one another. With that said though, there are some common tech-based processes in modern workplaces, such as the gathering of data, the automation of processes, and the use of new communication systems, that can make it easier to drive internal networking. By clarifying roles, giving employees their time back, and facilitating lasting connections, these tech concepts can make a real difference.
Written by Larissa Banks