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Three Ways Companies Can Build Networks of Trust

I believe that the future of work is all about trusted networks. 

In the past, our problems were complicated and hard to solve but we could develop systems and processes. 

Six sigma or TQM, or Kaizen in Japan were all put in place to make things more efficient. So too was the org chart, whereby everyone knew their box and their place and who they reported to.

Today’s wicked problems - climate change, inequality, even the very chaos of rapidly changing work environments - involve so many unknowns and interrelated factors that rules and processes can rarely solve a problem for long and without other secondary implications coming to the fore. 

Because of this we have culture - the norms and values that bind us. 

And increasingly we have NETWORKS.

Companies and employees who learn how to navigate these networks will win the day.

Most companies don’t like the idea of networks. 

Ties that bind within the organization seem like a good idea. Ties outside? 

Well, that seems risky. 

What if our people get distracted, or their loyalty starts to fray, or they get funny ideas or they get poached?

So companies:

  • Refuse to let their staff say anything related to the company on social media even though most future employees trust current staff more than canned employer branding
  • Deny people the ability to sit on outside boards, sometimes even non-profit boards
  • Prevent anyone but a few from speaking at conferences or other profile raising events

Is it any wonder that people feel that they are working hard but that their company purposefully dampens their spark so that no one else can appreciate what they do? 

* * *

In the future, everyone is going to be part of ecosystems and networks in their work. A trend I wrote about in Future Proof

Individuals know this already and are taking steps to enhance their networks. 

Organizations who don’t support this risk losing their best talent by trying, often unsuccessfully to put a lid on your voice.

How can companies keep up?

Here are a few shifts in the way your company thinks that can keep people engaged and networked for the benefit of the company and ecosystems you work in and ultimately lead to a flourishing business. 

  1. Invest in training, processes and support to help employees with their social media outreach and personal brand.

    Professor Lorenzo Brizzi in Harvard Business Review said that employees who are on social media are more engaged and more connected to colleagues. To minimize the chances of them leaving, companies can focus on groups and conversations between employees and publicly recognize employees' value to the company to enhance a sense of belonging.

  2. Rather than banning all board appointments or associations, consider how you can incorporate leadership opportunities for your employees to engage in the community.

    One association of financial firms used non-profit board training and placement as a great way to train their mid-level managers to work with a diverse group of stakeholders and give back to the various communities they worked in. They supported this learning with conversations about what they learned on the board translated to wisdom they could use in their relationships in the office.

  3. Give opportunities to your staff to start small in public speaking internally and externally to prepare them for larger roles. Increasingly executives come to leadership positions without the kind of executive presence they need to command an audience, respond to media queries or inspire at a town hall because they have had so little exposure to it until deemed allowed to speak in these forums. Giving these opportunities to people at all levels can be a great growth experience for people which they can use widely inside and outside the organization.


Networks have always been important but increasingly are crucial as a way to retain and enhance talent, attract employees and clients and grow your business. 

Invest in them wisely and you can go from trying in vain to cast a wide moat around your people to having many nodes of a profitable network beyond your four walls.

How does your company leverage employee’s networks outside of the firm?


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