Foster Internal Networking to Combat “Brain Drain”
By Kristen Leverone on March 4, 2013
Every time an employee leaves an organization, a stream of knowledge and technical skill washes out the door. In some cases – depending on the tenure and expertise of a departing employee – the stream could be more like a river of lost experience, threatening performance and business continuity. When the changes are at the top of an organization, the flood gates can open – taking vast pools of skill and experience to other companies, possibly competitors.
How do you plug “brain drain”? A good place to start is by identifying root causes. Improving economic conditions are leading to richer opportunities. Individuals want to explore and advance in their careers. If workers don’t see a path to develop within the organization, they will look elsewhere. Organizations must be empowering, inspiring, promoting and rewarding the best and brightest within their workforce.
One step is to facilitate “internal” networking. By helping employees build relationships across the organization, they can make the connections needed to identify mentors, expand their knowledge, develop skills or learn about new projects or roles.
In her Harvard Business Review blog, “A New Way to Network Inside Your Company,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett discusses the creation of “Lunch Roulette,” an app that matches random employees for lunch with other participants across the organization (including C-level executives). As Hewlett explains, “Lunch Roulette is a practical way of creating links where none had existed and exposing colleagues to different ideas and perspectives.”
Here are a few tips to promote internal networking within your organization:
- Mix it up. Hold regular interdepartmental meetings that allow the participants to socialize. This lets employees learn more about each other and exchange ideas in an informal setting.
- Reduce physical boundaries. Place break rooms, coffee and/or copier stations in between departments, so casual interaction is encouraged. Informal conversations can lead to creative breakthroughs.
- Share the knowledge. Cross-functional or reverse-mentoring programs increase loyalty and offer mutually beneficial opportunities for growth.
- Cross-train. Cross-training your employees will enhance their skill set, provide a temporary stop-gap in the event that someone leaves, and keep valuable knowledge in house.
- Offer volunteer opportunities. Participation in company-wide volunteer projects fosters teamwork and develops pride in the organization.
- Use online collaboration tools. Promote the use of online channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as platforms for engagement and discussion.
Opening the channels of communication in all directions will open employees’ eyes to new possibilities, foster understanding and innovation, elevate skills throughout the organization, and ward off “brain drain.” And that’s a great return on very little financial investment.
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