Thinking up ideas during the lunch break? Enquiring about possible mentors in the canteen? In other European countries, opportunities for networking are used much more incidentally and naturally. Here in Germany, it is rather unusual for HR staff to meet top management for lunch to talk about personnel development. From my own work experience in France, all I can say is, ‘What a pity to waste such an opportunity!’ I am a firm believer in networking events and in exchange that goes beyond conference rooms. For many of my clients, I designed and implemented networking events as part of talent management.
“Meet the management” – in line with this motto, young talents have the opportunity to meet leaders on an equal footing, off the beaten track of offices and conference rooms. Managers, on the other hand, can discuss things in a relaxed setting and get an impression of their employees without creating an atmosphere like in a job interview. Yet, in addition to being perfect for discussing positions that need to be filled, the events offer also many other opportunities.
Why networking should be practised as an important leadership quality
Networking is an art – an art you can learn regardless of character and preferences. Having relaxed conversations at business level that go beyond work-related topics requires practice. Offering young talents such an opportunity is a good and simple investment in the leaders of tomorrow.
Once they reach beyond the level of classic small talk at a networking event, managers and young talents are likely to have an exciting conversation about interesting topics. In this relaxed setting, the future leaders learn particularly well how to keep cool in such situations and control the conversation.
A conversation in a conference room, which is about clear facts, is quite different from a networking event. In the latter, new levels of discussion may contribute to ongoing substantive challenges.
The advantages of networking for top management
Outside the office world, conversations can be held differently and bonds can be strengthened. What is more, top management gets a good overview of the talents in the company.
In a relaxed setting, the inhibition threshold when talking to managers is lower than in everyday office life. Here, it is easier to get to know new employees.
In fast-growing companies, physical distances can be a challenge. Events are a good way to reduce such distances and to maintain and strengthen contacts.
What is it about and who participates?
To give everyone a chance to talk to each other, management should invite only eight to ten young talents.
Good events offer new opportunities for exchange on both sides. Employees get a chance to ask what they have always wanted to know from the executive board. Top management, on the other hand, can share their messages directly, communicate strategic issues, listen, and gain new ideas.
Extraordinary conversations develop particularly easily if the event is associated with a special theme. A keynote speech of about 15 minutes given by one of the managers can provide exciting ideas for discussion. The quality of the event depends very much on good facilitation – ideally implemented directly by colleagues in HR development. This creates space for qualitative exchange.
What environment is most suitable for networking events?
Unconventional formats such as a shared breakfast or evenings in front of an open fire have proven successful with many of my clients. Getting together in a relaxed atmosphere for two to three hours, eating finger food at a round table – this promotes exchange and has a lasting effect.
Wouldn’t networking as part of talent management be an interesting option for your company? You would like to get started straight away but are not quite sure how best to prepare the events? Please, get in touch!
Photo(detail) © Minyipuru Pangkalpa 2015, Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman