While the internet has created great networking opportunities for businesses and individuals, the value of face-to-face communication is often being sidelined, say recruiting experts Hays.
This issue is explored in the latest Hays Journal, where some critics argue that the use of technology is causing people to lose their interpersonal or ‘soft skills’, both in terms of external networking and communicating with their colleagues.
Regional director of Hays Property, Adam Shapley, says the technology boom has opened up networks online and created real, focused, commercial opportunities.
“One merit of making connections online is the opportunity to tap into a vast international knowledge base…Businesses are exploiting these new networks.
However, Shapley says that since most business communication is migrated online, some believe a static workforce has been created, one that is losing confidence, dynamism and the ‘tangential’ benefits of real human contact.
"In a knowledge-based economy, it's a high risk strategy for individuals to neglect person-to-person connections and companies should help their staff to learn to network more effectively, both in person and online."
He says introductions via technology can be a good starting point, but professional relationships are often cemented in person.
"If you want your business to succeed, sooner or later you'll need to meet the people you would like to turn into clients…and you should not underestimate the need to get people together physically to create the required trust and common understanding.
Top four networking tips according to the Hays Journal:
People should be cultivating their 'weak ties' - those individuals encountered casually or unexpectedly who could develop into new and useful relationships. Potential networks are everywhere and not always in work-related places.
Technical knowledge of a job role or organisation is a given in anyone with any professional ambition. But 'loose knowledge' - what and who we know outside of work - is also relevant and could also be useful to career development. Such information should be exploited appropriately.
The 'global green room' - the elite networks that welcome senior people, but remain closed to those further down the professional chain - stifles creativity. Opening up established groups to outsiders and sharing knowledge and best practice on a more meritocratic basis could revitalise networks.
'Marzipan managers' should be a source of concern for organisations. These employees sit beneath the leadership 'icing' and often feel frustrated and swamped in a sea of email and paperwork. Responsible employers will encourage them to network for their own benefit and that of the organisation.