Networking is how entrepreneurs start to get the word out about their businesses and jumpstart growth. But what about once your company has employees? Could your employees also be working to spread the word and bring in new referrals and business? We think they could… and they should!
Although it can be tricky to encourage your employees to network for you, the potential rewards are well worth it. Whether you want them to be networking online, at conferences, or simply in their day-to-day dealings, effective networking from your employees can really make a difference! So, how do you do it?
Set Expectations From The Start.
If you already have a team, adding networking to their responsibilities is not easy. After all, that wasn’t part of the job when you first took them on.
You can bypass this in the future by making it clear in employee interviews that networking is expected of them. Include it in the job description. If a new employee knows that networking is part of the reason they were hired, they are just going to do it, right from the first day of work. Plus, their positive example can make a difference in the office, often convincing other employees that they should also be networking on behalf of the company.
Yes, you could make the argument that, by networking and helping the company, they are actually helping themselves. Sadly, many people don’t think like that. Instead, why not incentivize networking by providing your employees with some kind of reward for doing it?
Perhaps every time one of your employees brings a new customer into the business, they are given a bonus of some kind. New customers are easily worth an occasional bonus. With this kind of incentive, your employees will actually be going out with the full intention of networking to bring new people into the business.
Some employers are uncomfortable with the idea of their employees on LinkedIn, as they worry they might be searching for a better job. Looking from a different angle, the benefits of having your employees on LinkedIn, working as brand ambassadors for your company, far outweigh the risks. Plus, having all of your employees linked to your LinkedIn company page will increase your online profile and help you bring further value to your business.
Put them In Networking Positions.
If your employees are sitting at their desks all day, every day, they probably aren’t going to have a lot of opportunities to network. So, as their employer, you may want to set them up for success.
If there are conferences around your state, or even in neighboring states, where your company should have a presence, send one or more of your employees to it. Make the outing a reward in itself, but be sure to set clear expectations. After all, you want them out networking with others rather than spending their evenings in a hotel room.
Also, bringing networking opportunities to the office can take a lot of pressure off. Putting together events for charitable purposes, like our employee volunteer sessions with Operation Gratitude, is a great way to invite potential customers to interact with your employees and get to know your company.
Some might say that your employees are the eyes, ears, and hands of your company. But they should be the company’s “mouth” too! By encouraging your employees to network on behalf of your company, they will be extending your brand reach and creating contacts, both professionally and personally, that may benefit you in the future. Incentivizing and teaching them how to network is well worth the time and money, as you will likely see an excellent return on investment!