2023 could become known as the year of "the great reconnection" … more and more organizations are figuring out “the right” mix of in-person, hybrid, and virtual work, and people are beginning to bring back their network.
Flash backward for a moment… we know remote work and social distancing closed down the networks of many professionals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As you can see in the “What Happened to our Networks” analysis, the percentage of leaders with open networks dropped from 52% to 13% from 2019 to 2021. During the same period, there was a 17% drop in cross-functional connections, and resources exchanged shifted toward maintaining performance-related ties, with friendship and purpose connections declining. These findings from our global database of professionals completing the Leader Network Diagnostic reveal people retreated into cocoons of close connections (i.e., their strong ties and teams) whom they relied on to get through the day and to get the job done.
This shift in network patterns helped people and organizations survive the pandemic. However, if it persists, it will undermine future success. The loss of bridging ties within organizations creates fragmentation—pockets of connectivity but fewer connections crossing organizational boundaries gluing the organization together—that reduces employees’ sense of cohesiveness and identification with the organization.
Dr. Kristin Cullen-Lester (Network Leader Co-founder and Chief People Scientist) spoke about the implications of the move to virtual and hybrid work, particularly for enabling organizational culture in a changing work environment, in a featured session on the Top 10 Work Trends in April 2022 at the annual Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology annual conference (check out this 5-minute presentation).
The good news is that our recent analysis of professionals’ networks in 2022 suggests that things are changing again. Again, as you can see in the “What Happened to our Networks” analysis, the percentage of leaders with open networks increased from 13% to 26% in the last year. The 2021-2022 Network Resources Comparison below shows that network resource exchange remains tasked-focused with an increase in the assistance provided by network connections. Of concern is that energy, purpose, and sponsorship provided by network connections continue to decline.
Data from Leader Network Diagnostics in 2022 suggest that people are beginning to open their networks. This is great news! Yet, our analysis suggests the need for intentional development as we move into 2023 to focus on network connections that will benefit individuals’ effectiveness and well-being and the organization’s success. Now is the time to commit to making network development a focus for this upcoming year!