Developing Inclusive Networks

Networking works. People who have more effectively structured networks receive more positive performance evaluations, faster promotions, and higher salaries. Not only that, they are also more likely to be tapped as top talent, propose good ideas, be involved in innovation, and receive venture funding for start-ups. What’s not so clear is if networking works equally well for everyone. Members of historically disadvantaged groups—such as women and people of color—face networking challenges that others don’t. For example, exclusion from informal professional networks has been identified as one of the greatest barriers to career success for women. One of the biggest challenges in overcoming this barrier is that men and women perceive the challenge quite differently. One multinational study of over 240,000 men and women found that while 81% of women report some form of exclusion at work—astonishingly—92% of men don’t believe that they are excluding women at all!

In this talk, I outline the networking challenges facing members of historically disadvantaged groups and provide proven strategies for addressing them at both the individual and the organizational level. Full inclusion in informal organizational networks has been shown to drive productivity, innovation, and profitability. Frankly, figuring out how to help individuals thrive at work—in every sense of the word—is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s an essential business challenge and one that many organizations are struggling to address.

Optimizing Organizational Networks

In our flatter, networked world, understanding organizational networks is a critical organizational competency. Organizations that identify and purposefully design optimizing networks have a competitive edge over companies that do not. This talk explores three ways in which savvy organizations can leverage their informal networks to boost organizational performance, through:

  1. Changes in organizational design. Many organizations have formal work structures that are misaligned with their actual work flow. An informed look at these differences—through an organizational network analysis—can identify opportunities to optimize and realign structures.
  2. Knowledge management strategies. Expertise location and distribution problems are often approached as technical issues when they are, in fact, human issues. Knowing how the organizational network operates not only helps you manage the flow of knowledge better, but helps you spark the kind of serendipitous interactions that generate creativity and break-through innovations.
  3. Talent management efforts. Identifying, examining, and monitoring organizational networks can help talent management professionals promote workforce diversity, recruit and select talent, develop effective onboarding and retention plans, create smooth succession plans, reduce organizational conflict, and locate and develop talent.

The talk covers specific organizational practices that can boost performance in all three areas.

Creating Leadership Networks

While the fundamental principles of professional relationship-building don’t change, the purpose of networking changes—at least it should change—as careers develop. The networking strategies and goals that were critical to leadership success in early career stages look markedly different from the strategies and goals that are needed to lead in later career stages. Many people make the mistake of continuing to pursue early-stage strategies and goals during later stages of their careers. This common networking mistake traps individuals like flies in outdated networks. Instead of furthering their career, an outdated network keeps them from advancing.

In this talk, I offer tips and pointers for adapting networks—and networking—to match career stage. By analyzing personal networks at critical career inflection points, individuals can create the right leadership network to achieve their professional career goals.