Should networking be compulsory?
By C-J Green, Group HR Director, Servest
I don’t think you should make socialising at industry events compulsory. Making anything compulsory is usually counter-productive because forcing people to do things tends to prompt a hostile frame of mind. If you’re saying ‘you must go and network’, that person is probably going to begrudge being there. Attending networking events requires an element of energy, positivity and a smile goes a long way when you walk into a crowded room for the first time. “Forcing” someone to turn up to such functions means they’ll be there in body, but perhaps not in spirit.
In general, insisting things have to happen in a mandatory way doesn’t get the best out of people - and this type of management style is completely against Servest’s ethos. What we do is encourage people to think about whether networking is going to be of value to them; and then let them make that choice for themselves. As always, it’s about empowering individuals to make the decisions that will benefit their own development.
At the same time, it’s important to recognise that everyone is different. Forcing the more introverted characters out there to shake hands with strangers isn’t going to do them - or the business - any good. However, if these said individuals actively want to step away from their comfort area and embrace the challenge, then it’s down to their managers to offer that support.
To encourage and empower people to engage and even seek out networking opportunities, it’s important to communicate the benefits of doing so. It goes without saying that networking events are a great way to meet new people. They offer the opportunity to learn from other experts within relevant industries, which can help individuals absorb and generate new ideas for their own business. After attending such functions, people usually return reenergised and ready for the next challenge.
I, personally, actively encourage people across the business to get involved with networking events. I do so because I think it can really help with confidence building. Plus, such events offer that crucial level of industry insight. What’s more, they enable one to determine a benchmark with the approaches they’re taking and how that fits into the industry and wider world of work. By really promoting what this can give to people, you don’t need to push it. At Servest, we offer coaching and we’ve recently started running sessions on how to network. These aren’t mandatory. But they’re there if people want to sign themselves up.
From a business perspective, getting your people out there in numerous social and professional circles offers an opportunity to grow your talent base and to showcase your organisation. Your people are your advocates; they are the business representatives. If they look ‘out of place’ or awkward in their own skin because they’ve been told they have to be there - then it doesn’t make you look particularly good as a business. But if they actively want to be there - and if they’ve bought into the benefits - then everyone’s a winner.