Performance Excellence Process
Baldrige Workshops
Global Insights Archive
Professional Networking in a Baldrige Organization:
An Easy Way to Build Trust, Knowledge, and
Teamwork


It is ironic that as people use LinkedIn and other online networking tools to build
connections with professional colleagues halfway around the world they often fail to
connect with the most accessible, important networks in their own
organizations--fellow employees, customers, suppliers, and other partners. It is
time to change this. An effective internal "social" network can build workforce
engagement, improve knowledge management, and create an overall environment
of trust and intrinsic motivation. Ultimately, these "soft skills" will make your
organization more adaptable and robust, better able to take risks and endure hard
times.

We suggest a simple three-step approach to get started:

Step 1: Learn about your employees

This is the easiest, most enjoyable step in the process. Right now, you are
surrounded by people who have unique skills and capabilities that you are not
even aware of. Start learning more about your employees. This is not rocket
science (but you may find you have some rocket scientists somewhere in your
organization). Keep this step light but purposeful; make it clear that professional
networking is part of your organizational culture going forward. You cannot change
what your organization has done in the past, but you can change the direction for
the future.


Step 2: Make this information accessible

As you learn more about each employee, make this information accessible. There
is no best practice here; whatever works in your culture is fine. We have seen
successful organizations use simple hardcopy binders with notes and pasted-in
photos, and we have seen others use electronic systems. A suggestion: if it fits
with your industry and culture, go ahead and use LinkedIn as your platform. Let all
employees establish online profiles with contacts, experience, skills, interests, and
other relevant information, and then create a group that links everybody. This is our
preferred model: free and open-source. Hmmm, just like the Baldrige Total
Performance Excellence System. No wonder we like it!


Step 3: Expand your network

Every node added to a network increases the value of all other nodes. As you
expand your network across your organization, consider inviting other
stakeholders: key customers, suppliers, partners, and anyone else who plays a
role in your success. Again, there is no one best practice model that you must
follow; go with your instincts and test different degrees of openness. Keep the
purpose in mind: to enrich your collective intelligence and capability as a group of
individuals with a common purpose. Knowledge in one mind is wonderful; sharing
that knowledge with other minds to achieve mutual success is not just priceless, it
is the foundation of performance excellence.


And, finally, have fun! Celebrate your successes and approach the future with
confidence. This economic recession will not last forever; start now to create a truly
networked organization that will thrive in a dynamic future. Carpe diem!