After completing network training, people must apply what they have learned in the course of their day-to-day work in order to make meaningful changes to their networks. The process of transferring what was learned in training to the job is often challenging and can be especially difficult when it comes to network development. This is because of the biases in many people’s natural tendencies that make it hard for them to change and increase the effectiveness of their networks (see Part 1 of this series). Once on the job, barriers also arise that undermine their network development (see the next part of this series to learn more about these barriers).
In this article, we focus on trainees and their ability to build a strong bridge that will carry them and what they’ve learned back to the workplace to make meaningful changes that will improve the effectiveness of their network. To transfer what they have learned in network training and make meaningful changes to their networks, recent research by Dr. Kristin Cullen-Lester (Network Leader Co-founder and Chief People Scientist) and coauthors finds that trainees need to build a strong bridge between training and development.
A strong bridge is built by setting goals for network development that match the feedback they received during training, identifying strategies that will help them achieve these goals, and taking action to develop, maintain, and leverage relationships with others in order to enhance their careers. When trainees fail to align their feedback and goals, goals and strategies, or strategies and actions, it creates gaps that weaken the bridge and hinder their ability to make changes to their networks.
In their study of MBA students actively engaged in transferring network training insights into network development, Cullen-Lester and coauthors (2022) found that trainees have three types of gaps, which explains why they struggle to make meaningful changes to their networks once they are back on the job.
Over half (54%) of the trainees struggled to set goals network development that were aligned with the feedback they received during training. This issue was particularly problematic for network openness. 82% of trainees received feedback that their core professional network was “closed” and were advised to take steps to build connections outside of their existing professional circles. Of the trainees who received this feedback, 83% failed to set goals to address the lack of openness in their network. Some trainees with closed networks even set goals that would further close off their networks, rather than opening them up. Trainees were much better at setting goals to diversify and deepen their networks, with only 23% and 42% failing to set goals that matched these network development needs. However, even these numbers point ot the need to help trainees set effective network development goals that match the feedback they receive during training.
This study found that many trainees also struggled to develop strategies for network development that matched their goals. Again this was especially true for strategies related to opening their networks. All trainees with these goals failed to develop strategies that would help them open up their networks. Trainees were more successful at developing strategies to diversify and deepen their networks, but instances of mismatch were still too high (49% for diversifying and 35% for deepening). These findings highlight the need to help trainees develop strategies that match with their network development goals.
Finally, trainees struggled to take action that aligned with the networking strategies. Again, the problem was strongest for openness with everyone who set out with an opening strategy failing to take aligned action to achieve this goal. Trainees were better at aligning their actions with strategies for diversifying (only 35% mismatch) and deepening (ony 18% mismatch). In part 4, of this series we discuss barriers that can derail networking actions once back on the job.
This research highlights the need to provide trainees with support in building a bridge of aligned feedback, goals, strategies, and actions if they are to apply what they learned in training to make changes to their network once back on the job.
Recognizing this need, we’re excited to have implemented a new Networking Goals and Strategies module to the Leader Network Diagnostic experience, which guides trainees in setting goals that are aligned with their feedback. It helps leaders create intentional and data-driven networking goals as well as identify strategies that they can implement on the job to improve their network. Learn more here