Want Engaged Employees? Help Them Connect With Colleagues Through Online Networking

Jul 13, 2015 - Joe Matar
A long, long time ago, work seemed simple. You clocked in, did your work -- probably mostly alone, at your desk or station -- and clocked out at the end of the day. On a good day, you caught some good gossip at the water cooler. You didn’t worry about whether or not you had happy, engaged employees on your payroll. You just hoped they turned in their tasks on time. But the way we work has changed, and we’re interacting with our colleagues and coworkers more than perhaps ever before. We’re not just communicating with your teams by scheduling meetings and using email and project management tools. We’re also working across teams in the office to complete big projects; or trying to get things done when half your staff works from home -- or even overseas. We’ve got to work seamlessly with the teams we manage, wherever they are. But how can you encourage your staff members to meet, let alone bond, when they might be several time zones apart? The answer: networking inside your company. And thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to bring staff members together for what may be the first time.

Why employee networking opportunities matter

When you’re working with great people toward a worthy goal, everything can fall into place. Employees engage when they feel their work is truly valued. When employees are engaged, they’re more likely to stick around and keep strengthening your business. And take it one step further: a happy, engaged employee is more likely to suggest their company to a friend who’s looking for new opportunities -- and can provide valuable referrals for recruiters. But employees can only collaborate when they know each other -- and sometimes they need a little help getting together. It goes beyond names and polite hellos in the hallway. This level of engagement requires knowing what your colleagues really do all day, and how it contributes to the bottom line. Employees can bond over shared skills or objectives, or even over hobbies outside of work. Sharing skills, goals, hobbies, and even concerns can build trust and camaraderie. In turn, that trust can get your team through a tight deadline or complex project. Companies love employee networks, whether informal or company-organized, because they promote diversity while bringing in both business and talent. Employees love networks that act as an outlet for a career track, skillset, or interest. So, how do you foster these networks that transform your employees into engaged, collaborative teams? In many cases, an online networking event can kick off the process. The Brazen real-time chat platform is the perfect tool for bringing employees together, whether in the same office building or half a world away. Internal communication tools facilitate chatter between employees who already work intimately, but bigger goals and topics can get lost in the noise. Brazen events cut through the noise and focus on one-on-one connections that can grow beyond the event. By meeting online, there’s no need to worry about appearances and nervous first impressions. Chat participants can focus on what’s on their mind at your company, whether it’s how to take the next career step, how to solve a workflow hangup, or just a desire to meet folks who share a similar vision. We’ve hosted a bunch of internal networking events to help employees connect based on specific backgrounds, qualifications, credentials, topics, or any other matching criteria you can think of. Our software allows you to opt-in to be matched in meaningful, purposeful conversations. Here are a few examples, so you can think about how one of the following ideas could benefit your company -- and your colleagues!

Connect staff members across campuses or branches

DeVry University’s career services staff work 25 states across the country, which means people who share the same job title and role in different parts of the country may have never met. That’s why DeVry Career Services Networking Meetup was such a good opportunity to bring colleagues together in a casual online setting -- nicknamed the sandbox. Chat booths have included technology, hiring trends and social media, allowing staffers to tailor conversations to their specialties -- or their needs in their city. With an 88 percent attendance rate, DeVry’s event is a shining example of how engaged employees can be if you offer tools and varied opportunities to engage with one another.

Exchange best practices

LPL Financial’s Coast-to-Coast Virtual Networking is a twice-yearly event that connects LPL’s financial advisors regardless of location. Discussion booths allowed employees to share lessons learned from the previous year of work, along with less formal networking prompts like a booth called, “What’s Your Job Like?” With a small group of 50 participants and just three chat booths, employees where able to take advantage of all the event’s opportunities to chat with their peers. It’s intimate without being intimidating.

Connect with potential employees

Thinking about hiring doesn’t have to be restricted to hard sells and resume reviews. KPMG’s Employee Referral Open House asked employees to invite their interested friends to sign up for the chat event. Employees were eligible to win prizes for referring their friends, and a new hire from the connection could turn into a financial reward for the referring employee. With a group of close to 30 potential candidates, recruiters were able to focus their attention on each pre-qualified candidate that was referred by an employee. How might you take advantage of online networking to strengthen your company? Ginny Manocha is the Director of Accounts and Customer Success at Brazen. Ginny describes herself as curious learner and loves reading about new trends between business, technology, and marketing. Follow her @ginnymanocha or connect on LinkedIn.

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