Meet Omar, he Works in IT as well, takes lunch and solely hangs out with his friends from IT. His social online presence is restricted to Facebook where he connects with family and friends. He almost never attends IT events unless he has to (for professional reasons).
Sara and Omar may both be good at what they do. They may both have great people skills and are great assets to the organization. But one thing is sure, Omar will never be as valuable as Sara, and here is why: Sara is a networked worker.
What is a networked worker?
They go under different names: Weavers, brokers or connectors. Networked workers are knowledge workers who happen to be the bridges between various social networks that would’ve never overlapped without their presence. They link different networks and thereby recombine the different cultures of these networks to make out a unique style of their own. They may not be central in their respective networks but they draw value from the variety of networks they belong to.
Why are Networked workers valuable to the organization?
Here is the thing about networked workers: because of the unique role they play in filling up structural holes in networks, they become indispensable. They’re the go-to people when seeking information or looking for the latest updates. They’re in the loop, not because they want to be but because people want them there. Networked workers get the best out of weak ties. They browse through their networks and can do wonders just by linking the right people together.
Within the organization, networked workers have a broader view of the activity. They aren’t trapped in their daily job bubble; rather they see the organization’s strategy at work across different departments. They come out with more rational decisions because they have better knowledge of their impact. They follow better routes for execution because they have built-in expertise detectors and they can be influent enough to make the case for change within the organization.
Networked workers are the interface between different networks. They are therefore in contact with various ideas, dogmas and cultures. They don’t fall for the homophily trap and thereby are much prone to coming up with innovative ideas.
They are often great carriers and evangelists of the organization’s culture. They bring back the value of their own relationships and contact networks to the organization (identify new hires for example) and can often reinforce their organization’s brand and reputation by providing a human face to the organization. Networked workers can be the finger on the pulse of changes in the organization’s environment.
What’s in it for the Networked worker?
Four words: connections, influence, innovation and opportunities.
Connections: Networked workers may not have as much connections as Hubs but they have access to different networks. This can be far more valuable in the connected world we live in.
Influence: The unique role that these knowledge workers play in filling structural holes and their unique position grant them enough influence to have their voice heard within their networks.
Innovation: People from the same social network tend to converge towards a common current of thought and that can only be harmful for innovation. Networked workers on the other hand belong to various networks and thereby avert falling for this trap. (I wrote more on this here: Homophily is #1 innovation enemy)
Opportunities: Being part of multiple networks means being in touch with diverse people which can translate into opportunities.
How to become a Networked worker?
Becoming a networked worker doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of socializing, networking and engagement. But always keep in mind that you can only be part of a network if its members want you there. It’s therefore extremely important to be Genuine and to help as much as you can. You can’t expect to get immediate benefits unless you’ve put enough effort to grow your networks.
Here are some tips that could help you become a networked worker:
1. Socialize with co-workers from different departments. Attend events and conferences, meet experts from your field and beyond.
2. Enhance your e-reputation: have an online presence, listen and engage in conversations. Blog and/or be present on social networks (twitter for instance).
3. Diversify your online contacts. Don’t get trapped into your career bubble.
4. Reach out and offer as much help as you can. Give unconditionally.
5. Always seize the opportunity to extend an online relationship into real life.
6. Be yourself!
In the end
They say it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. But the truth is, it’s about who knows you and what networks you’re part of.