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Part 4. Overcoming Common On-the-Job Barriers to Network Development

Network Leader
February 8, 2023
minute read

Even when trainees leave network training with goals and strategies that will address their network development needs they may face barriers when they return to work that can derail their network development. It is important for employees and organizations to be aware of these barriers and to find ways to overcome them in order to make the most of their network training and improve the effectiveness of their networks.

Recent research by Dr. Kristin Cullen-Lester (Network Leader Co-founder and Chief People Scientist) and coauthors call attention to common barriers trainees face. Here we focus on 3 barriers trainees have and what trainees and organizations should do to address them.  

Barrier 1: Feeling uncomfortable and inauthentic initiating new connections.

  • Trainees should view networking as a skill that will improve with practice and focus on what they can give to (not only get from) their network contacts. Asking for introductions from current contacts ease the initial discomfort that 'cold calls' can create. 
  • Organizations should normalize social touchpoints (e.g., personal updates in meetings) in the course of day-to-day work to help people build connections and create opportunities for formal and informal mentoring and networking across areas of the organization.

Barrier 2: Having limited time and opportunities to network (especially when in a virtual or hybrid work role).

  • Trainees should schedule relationship development time into their work week. 
  • Organizations should clarify expectations for employee networking, particularly across departments and with external clients and stakeholders. 

Barrier 3: Struggling to identify whom to connect with and how to follow through to develop their relationships.

  • Trainees should review their existing connections, consider who is missing, identify specific individuals to fill those gaps and create a plan to build connections with them.
  • Organizations can include network development in performance reviews, professional development conversations, and team meetings. Managers can offer guidance regarding where a person investing in network development will help the team, the organization, and their career.

Both trainees and organizations have a role to play in removing the barriers that will derail trainees' efforts to turn what they’ve learned in network training into a more effective network!

Read more about the research here.

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