In a recent post I wrote about my experiences using the online business-networking service LinkedIn. At the end of the post, I wrote that every employer should encourage their employees to join and build their own network.
- Networking is the most powerful thing anyone can do in business, and really, in life. It gives people access to the most powerful resources they need â?? other people. This means better opportunities and solutions are found faster.
- Having easier access to knowledgeable people, particularly those outside the office, increases institutional learning (an important driver of innovation) and encourages people to collaborate.
- LinkedIn demonstrates your membership in the business community. It shows you want to connect with your customers, suppliers and even competitors. It demonstrates trust and openness.
- Being the one to introduce your industry to LinkedIn demonstrates technological leadership.
- Feedback suggesting change has many names â?? â??constructiveâ??, â??negativeâ??, â??educationalâ??, etc. Ironically, the positive feedback that thanks people for being who they are rather than asking them to change often provokes more positive change than anything else. Through its endorsement function, Linked provides a way to give that feedback to your co-workers in writing.
- It releases pressure and validates people. Nobody wants to work at a job that is their only alternative, yet many people do just that. They stay in the same job for years and years, slowly convincing themselves itâ??s the only place they can work. Itâ??s pure nonsense, but itâ??s also human nature. Weâ??ve all worked with, or perhaps occasionally been, these people. The process of networking opens peopleâ??s eyes, validates their work through endorsement, and LinkedIn is very effective at doing that. Critics will claim that this will encourage employees to leave. I think a better way of stating it is that it encourages people to seek the best place for themselves. Removing the â??trappedâ?? feeling will make their current position much more satisfying. If people do need to leave, acknowledging the process openly means managers are far more likely to have the valuable advance notice they need for a smooth transition. By being LinkedIn, managers will also have an easier time filling the empty spot.
Before one begins promoting this within the company, however, itâ??s a good idea to have some ground rules:
- An invitation is an invitation, not a command. Even when it is sent from the CEO to the broom closet manager. Forcing or coercing people to connect just isnâ??t a good idea.
- LinkedInâ??s value is based on trust. Invite only those you would be willing to use in a referral. On the other hand, weâ??re talking about garden variety trust here. Inviting only those whom youâ??d trust with a briefcase full of cash in a casino is going to make for a very small, inbred network.
- Write honest endorsements. Thereâ??s always some positive aspect of someone, but if you just canâ??t find it then simply decline the request.
- Accept declined invitations, requests and requests for endorsement gracefully. If you just canâ??t let it slide, wait at least a few days before inquiring about the reason for being declined.
- While LinkedIn is a very nifty tool, itâ??s just that â?? a tool. Itâ??s not anyoneâ??s life or self esteem. Itâ??s not going to spell success or failure for anyone by itself. Donâ??t take it too seriously!
Last but not least, once people have joined and have invited their contacts, it’s important for people to remember use and maintain their network. Because it’s not something most people will use every day it’s easy to forget it’s there, until you need it.