A few years back the role I had was made redundant. If I didn’t get another job in this company, I’d be unemployed. In the weeks following the announcement of this restructuring, many people from all across the business contacted me. Some colleagues just checked in with me, others pointed me in directions where they knew a team was looking for support. People leaders and senior managers dropped by my office to ask what I planned to do next and if I was interested in X, Y or Z. If I wanted to join their team.
This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t (accidentally) built a network within the company. And it was an eye-opener which lead me to be more intentional in creating and tending to my relationships within the company.
What is internal networking?
If you just read the word “networking” and cringed at the imagination of talking to a different stranger every two minutes, I completely understand you. My idea of a terrible evening is going to a party or business event where I don’t know anyone and I have to “go mingle”. That’s not because I don’t like people, I just don’t like show-off-y, shallow chitchat.
“To bring a positive light to networking, think of it as simply talking to people.” says igrad. That sounds like something I can do and even enjoy if it happens in the right setting. smarp gets more specific in defining internal networking:
Internal networking is a process of reaching out to and connecting with colleagues within your organization, even if your job doesn’t require you to do so.
Why should companies foster internal networking?
smarp goes on to explain
Internal networking ensures employees work together more often, giving them a chance to speak with co-workers 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.
To expand on this short summary, here are some more benefits for companies (and teams) when people actively network (i.e. talk to each other):
It promotes knowledge sharing across the whole organisation.
Regular communication builds trust, ideas are exchanged more freely and openly and this facilitates innovation.
Communicating well promotes a focus on problem-solving rather than finding someone to take the blame.
The trust that builds creates a safe place for sharing disagreement, discussions get richer and healthier.
We have the feeling to belong to the company which boosts our engagement and we stay at the company longer.
Even the random conversations at the coffee machine often are a source for great new ideas and inspiration.
It breaks down silos and silo-thinking which leads to better decisions and more holistic solutions.
And of course, if people know where to get help, they complete tasks more effectively and productivity goes up.
Why should I build a network in my company?
With internal networking, you have the opportunity to raise your profile and build your reputation with colleagues across the organization. When it comes to advancing your career where you currently are, these are the relationships that really count. With a little effort, you might be able to tap into a wealth of opportunities right under your nose.
says IvyExec. And even if you’re not looking to be part of the next big project or trying to get promoted, you’ll benefit from putting effort in your relationships at work:
(1) Being connected to others is one of our basic psychological needs. The better we fulfil this need, the better we feel and the more satisfied we are with our job.
(2) The more often you communicate, the faster you’ll get the answers you need. You’ll also collaborate better with others on solving problems you face, which means you’re not wasting your time to find the best information to move forward and you get your work done more efficiently.
(3) Did I mention you’ll be more motivated and engaged? You’ll feel more empowered as you notice your social resources increase, you can basically choose the best people to help you get the job done and you’ll have fun while doing it.
Ideas how to build an internal network.
For you personally, the easiest way to get better at fostering your company relationships and building your own network – a group of allies – is start looking at each situation with fresh eyes. Keep asking yourself: “How can I connect with and create value for others in my company?” When you learn something new, think “Who might benefit from this?” and then go and share it.
Be as generous as you can be. Don’t hold back on information, ideas and support because you’re afraid that you’ll run out of good thoughts or you lose power. There’s always more where that came from!
Be kind and friendly. Smile at people, say Hello and ask how they’re doing (and then wait and listen for the answer). Show some interest in others’ work and their goals and celebrate their wins with them. You can ask people to have lunch with you and make connections between people who don’t know each other yet. Make it a point to give before you ask and try to create win-win situations even when asking. Reconnect frequently. Don’t be one of those people who only show up when they want something.
And by the way – senior leaders are humans, too. Sometimes people ask me if they “can ask a director to talk to them”. Why not? Be considerate of their schedule and be prepared to wait a little if things are hectic at the moment. Also, use the time you have with them wisely. Rank makes people busier, not better or more worthy.
And lastly, HuffPost recommends volunteering for work or projects to build your network:
[W]ithin your own company, there may be a gold mine of opportunities for making connections. By seizing any opportunity you can to work with people in your company in areas that you are interested in; you are essentially laying the groundwork for you to gain more access to this area of your company in the future.