The importance of networking for HR
Judith Germain explains why it's just as important for the HR function to network as it is for any other department.
To most internal HR professionals the term 'networking' is assumed to relate to the activity of external consultants who need to network to find work. It isn't something that 'internals' think they do or indeed need to do. This is a dangerous assumption especially in a recession where ability to perform your role well is an underlying expectation of competency. Internal professionals need to be far more than just competent; the ability to build and nurture relationships, have advocates, build reputation and credibility, demonstrate openness and trust and having fantastic interpersonal skills is a must. Everything that a good professional networker takes for granted.
It's a shame then that one of the reasons that HR is deemed not credible is because it can fail miserably in its ability to network. Technical competency is hardly ever the issue.
Why is it then that HR is reluctant to network?
There are a myriad of reasons why there may be disinclination to network, especially outside the HR department. Sometimes it may be due to stepping outside comfort zones especially in what appear to be closed environments – where it's all about business and not about the people. When HR is deemed by managers to be all about policing, best practice, training plans and the art of saying no, it can feel safer to stay within HR rather than venture outside. If the HR professional is all about people and less about the workings of the business then they may feel that they are unable to truly converse with their senior colleagues in matters that interest them.
Professional fear may dissuade networking
Sometimes the need for HR to hold close the best interests of the company and the people can lead to a situation where it is unnecessarily aloof from the rest of the business. There may be a concern that it would be unprincipled to mix too freely outside the department – perhaps due to fear of accidentally disclosing something that they shouldn't or becoming too close to people that you may be disciplining in the future.
"The ability to build and nurture relationships, have advocates, build reputation and credibility, demonstrate openness and trust and having fantastic interpersonal skills is a must."
Fear of seeming unprofessional may dissuade networking
Sometimes there is so much work to do that leaving the office, just to network, can be seen as a waste of time and valuable resource. Or conversely the need to build good relationships with the management team can mean that there is little interaction with the other employees which can cause disharmony or lack of insight on how they are feeling about the company and the management team. Lack of time can also dissuade effective networking.
The benefits of networking
There are a number of reasons why HR professionals should network within their organisation. These include the following:
- Increased ability to do your job well
- Ability to build reputation and credibility
- Gather advocates
- Facilitate trust
A good corporate networker can sense the 'temperature' of an organisation before the evidence filters through official channels. They are able to facilitate cooperation and collaboration across departments through their ability, amongst other things, to be the conduit of information and understanding of behaviour. The networker's excellent interpersonal skills enable them to assist others in meeting their objectives, build a good reputation for themselves and enable the business to increase its performance.
When you network well within your organisation you have the benefit of enhancing your career. This will of course depend on your view of networking and how you network. Those that only network with those that they believe will be useful may gain some short-term benefits but in the long term may find themselves short of advocates. A lack of authenticity and/or integrity has a habit of becoming transparent, and is very unattractive to most people.
Good and effective professional networkers, network to be remembered. They network to build a reputation and use it as a way of demonstrating their expertise. They network to help others and have an open and transparent nature.
"Those that only network with those that they believe will be useful may gain some short-term benefits but in the long term may find themselves short of advocates."
These are attractive traits and a good way of drawing advocates towards you. Advocates are individuals who are evangelical in promoting you, and in the corporate world this means they are likely to be your biggest champions. This of course better enables you to facilitate change in a more conducive manner, thus ensuring that the company can meet its objectives.
Building reputation and credibility is an integral part of your corporate networking strategy. Your strategy needs to incorporate your personal brand, and how you demonstrate it. To be truly effective it is important to create a brand that is trustworthy and consistent, no matter where it is encountered. For example, this could be in your writing (e.g. policies or training programmes), in the training room, in meetings as well as in one to ones.
The execution of your network strategy will be in line with your corporate identity and establishes you as an expert in your niche. You will not be able to hide your intentions or personality for long periods; therefore it is better to demonstrate your integrity for better results.
Networking is not a dirty word and can do wonders for your company's performance and your career. There are many ways to network throughout your organisation, but the method that will work best is the one that is value-driven, has integrity and is open and transparent. Enabling others to succeed as well as having a strong reputation and credibility will enable you to attract advocates, thus enabling you to become more effective.
Judith Germain is founder and principal consultant of Dynamic Transitions Ltd, a leadership company specialising in working with Troublesome Talent®, often called mavericks and improving leadership performance within organisations. Judith provides strategic mentoring, reputation management and delivers innovative leadership programmes. For more information visit www.developing-leadership.com or email [email protected]
Judith Germain is the leading authority on Reputational Leadership and mavericks.
She is the Principal Consultant of Seeing Solutions, and has primary responsibility for ensuring that the company's mission is fulfilled. Judith will ensure that you are provided with a bespoke solution and the right consultant to help...