Why should workplace social networks be important to HR specialists?
It matters because these networks drive your compant's culture.
Karen Stephenson is an anthropologist who teaches social network theory as part of the MBA program at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Stephenson has successfully applied her research in cultural anthropology to corporations and discovered a way to map an organizations social capital and identify critical participants within social networks.
Understanding social networks are not social media
Social media like Facebook and Twitter are about collecting and connecting at a superficial level. Social networks are about trust and powerful relationships that happen mainly face to face.
Why are social networks important to HR Specialists?
Stephenson explains that social networks are the formal and informal bonds through which people communicate and get work done-the invisible bonds of trust and the water cooler relationships that happen between employees. These networks are different from the hierarchal structures that define authority; they are not found in organizational charts.
Together, Social networks and hierarchy form a company culture.
Social networks are made up of three network roles:
- Hubs: These are the employees who are good friends with 100 people in a star burst pattern.
- Gatekeepers are more strategically connected people and are the bridge between two powerful people in different divisions for example.
- Pulsetakers are behind the scenes and observe all. They are acquainted with 100 powerful people throughout the organization.
Ways HR specialist can identify their social networks
Stephenson says you never ask employees who they trust. Instead ask the following 7 questions which help evaluate the types of trust employees have in different people.
Stephenson's Seven Questions That Reveal Social Networks:
- With whom do you exchange information—face to face or virtually—to get your job done?
- With whom do you collaborate to discuss new ideas?
- To whom do you turn for expertise and advice on work-related issues?
- With whom do you collaborate to fix what's broken and improve the way things get done?
- To whom do you go to get decisions made quickly?
- With whom do you spend time discussing what's going on around the workplace?
- With whom do you discuss where the company is headed in the future?
When things don’t feel right culturally
Very often the tools to fix a problem are in HR’s toolkit. Diagnosing the problem is where many organizations fail and it happens because they don’t know where the gaps are. Once they know however then HR specialists can use the invisible trust influences of social networks to enact change.
- Know the people who are in the hubs. HR can discuss changes with the hubs and involve them in new initiatives. The hubs will spread the message throughout the organization. And employees will believe or buy into it because they trust the hubs.
- Gatekeepers connect one part of the organization to another so they can support or block the message.
- Once an initiative is rolled out do a quality control check with the Pulsetakers to see if the message was accurately received.
A well designed employee survey will identify the repeating patterns within social networks so that HR can understand relationships and identify employees who have the ability to bring people together and generate new ideas. Understanding and applying social networks is a strategic tool that is available to HR. When the the carriers of knowledge and agents of change within an organization are identified and known then they can be they can be recognized and retained.
Stephenson recommends we think of it this way:
With proper training, HR specialists are the human capital experts who know how to leverage networks within the company to get work done today and prepare for tomorrow.
Insightlink has been conducting employee surveys since 2001. We live and breath employee research and can help you gain the insight and understanding you need to facilitate positive change. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website at www.insightlinkcom or call our Client Care Director Lynn Gore at 866-802-8095 ext. 705.