Ready, set, go.
How quickly can you build social capital? With it, you have the fuel to drive success in your new job. Without it, there could be a failure to launch.
…but how often, on joining a new company, have we heard this instead?
" I came in on the first day. The company had a two-day onboarding program. HR came in. They did a team-building activity and gave a history of the organization. Several company leaders came in to welcome us and give advice on how to be successful.
A key theme in all of this was learning how things get done and building a network quickly. The comedy (and tragedy) though is that once in your real job, there’s no help in understanding who to connect with or what matters.
In fact, day-to-day work conspires against building a network. You’re stuck in your silo, have to produce results quickly, have a hard time getting people’s attention to know who to network with, how to build trust, and on and on.…”¹
In a recent article Social Capital, I spoke about this; how to help new employees build their networks.
Leveraging networks is the most impactful way new employees can perform and be fully accepted by their organization.
But it takes years to establish those relationships. Job one on day one is to build a set of relationships with managers, subject matter experts, peers, and other newcomers throughout the company.
Research shows that replicating the network of an established employee in a strong culture typically takes three to five years.²
In the era of hybrid work this has become more difficult. We have learned from the pandemic that most employees can be more productive away from their work address. But can we say that about a new employee?
As a new employee it’s easy to feel you’re on the outside looking in; not only disconnected from co-workers, but missing the social life that creates meaning and connections with the organization.
In her article “What to do when you have to onboard yourself,” Amy Drader believes, regardless of whether face to face or virtual, that it’s a daunting task to understand what tools and information you need to be effective. More challenging is how to integrate into a company culture. To cultivate these relationships, you need to meet the right people, who will not only inform you about the work but shed light on unwritten rules, social norms, and office politics.
The faster you understand this, the faster you add value to your team and feel confident in your job.³
Understanding the formal vs. the informal network.
Employees need to understand the existing patterns of interactions amongst each other, rather than merely the formal org chart.
This idea was introduced in 2017, under the umbrella of “organizational network analysis”.⁴
Typical onboarding processes focus on integrating new employees into your company.
This involves helping them become familiar with their workspace, job responsibilities, company employment policies, and the company’s history. While these practices are important they do little to build networks. For instance, the typical hierarchical org-chart, used to help new employees navigate the company, offers little help in promoting individual performance or effectiveness.
On the other hand, making visible the relationships between individuals and how information flows, or how decisions are made, jumpstarts productivity. An example of this would be knowing who are the people skilled at making introductions, and getting things done; something that here at fassforward, we call ‘bridging and brokering’. Chances are these individuals may not stand out in a traditional org-chart. However, if they were visible to the new employee - think how it would change the focus on who they would want in their network.
Rather than focusing on the traditional hierarchy within the organization, the focus would shift to connecting with the people who could help them quickly build productivity and influence.
A network is only as helpful as the people within it.
Think of yourself as Hans in the illustration above. You want to meet Carol and Ben because both provide value to the business and ultimately to you. The diagrams below suggest a different strategy for developing your network. Each illustration begins with an inner circle, people closest to you, and reaches to the outer circle, people you want to know.
Here are five views of starting and cultivating your network.
One Final Thought
Adam Grant describes in his book “Givers versus Takers”; takers are people who are trying to get as much as possible from others, while contributing as little as they can in return. On the other hand givers actually prefer to be on the contributing end of an interaction.
Grant’s research supports the fact that the way to success is by giving – not taking! Therefore, whenever you meet interesting people at networking events, to follow-up and start giving to the relationship, do what Grant calls the 5-minute favor, which is asking yourself, “What value can I add for this person by spending five minutes or less?”
When you have your answer, do exactly that.⁵
¹ Rob Cross, Tina Opie, Greg Pryor and Keith Rollag “Connect and Adapt How Network Development and Transformation Improve Retention and Engagement in Employees’ First Five Years” Managing Transitions 4/17
² Rob Cross and Peter Gray “The Best Way to Network in a New Job” HBR 3/19/18
³ Amy Drader “What do you do when you have to onboard yourself” Fast Company 5/31/21
⁴ Rob Cross, Tina Opie, Greg Pryor and Keith Rollag “Connect and Adapt How Network Development and Transformation Improve Retention and Engagement in Employees’ First Five Years” Managing Transitions 4/17
⁵ Adam Grant “Give and Take” April 9, 2013