The art of forming a strong internal network has been around for a long time, but is often overlooked as a simple way of improving engagement and retention.
A study from Personnel Psychology found that individuals with a stronger internal (versus external) network were more likely to stay with their employer in two years. The opposite was also true: those with a stronger external network were more likely to leave.
While much has shifted since this study and employee retention may not be the highest concern of companies experiencing drastic change right now, many organisations still face retention risks for important roles or hard-to-find skill sets. Keeping people networked internally will be key to accomplishing new business goals coming out of COVID-19 and moving forward.
You’ve probably moved people around your organisation in response to the pandemic – creating excellent internal networking opportunities. But, as Michael Watkins, author of the essential onboarding guide, ‘The First 90 Days’, points out in Harvard Business Review, most companies take a ‘sink or swim’ attitude with internal transfers.
He coined the term ‘inboarding’ to refer to the support that organisations should give people transferring internally to match the attention they pay to onboarding new hires from the outside.
Three ways to embed internal networking
Let’s look at how you could capture the positives of what were maybe emergency moves during the crisis and introduce a more systematic approach to reaping the retention benefits of the new internal connections you may have created.
1. Create more opportunities for internal visibility. How can your people showcase their skills and talents internally? You could use any number of tech platforms available to create a talent directory or internal talent marketplace. Alternatively, there could be less formal ways of employees showcasing their capabilities on existing internal communications tools such as Yammer or Facebook Workplace.
2. Use virtual team-building events to create internal connections. Almost every remote work team will have done some kind of social or team building activity online over the last year. Instead of just bringing intact teams together, use these get togethers as a way for people to mix across functional areas. Airbnb create virtual learning experiences for people across the organisation, and a search for ‘virtual scavenger hunt’ will bring up many ideas to get people from across different functions to come together.
3. Show people how to network. Introverts tend to need more specific direction and guidance when it comes to exactly how to network or connect with new colleagues. Consider supplying templates for emails for initial outreach or sample agendas and suggested questions to ask for virtual meetings to help those for whom networking might not come naturally.
Just like so many other soft skills at work, networking is one that can be learned and coached. This article includes more tips and ideas as to how to facilitate greater internal networking.
At a time when the necessity of remote working for so long, for so many, is maybe causing fatigue amongst your employees, introducing some easy ways to make new connections could re-energise people and help them feel engaged again.