Office furniture and stationery suppliers, Viking, recently carried out a study in the UK, asking British workers how they utilize business networking opportunities. They found out how many are likely to engage in business networking and the reasons why they might not.
The survey found that almost half (46%) of those asked don’t take part in any business networking. This is despite 78% saying they recognize the importance of networking and 61% finding a new job through a contact in their network.
Only 4% of those who do network do so daily, with a relatively low 21% saying they network at least once a week or more. But why are so few people networking, despite the fact they recognize the benefits?
29% of respondents put their lack of networking down to the fact they don’t have the time to do it. This is further supported by 19% of workers who said they were too nervous to network and 18% cited a lack of money. This figure can be tied to the fact that 54% said they receive no networking support from their employers and only 22% are allowed paid time to attend conferences and events. If employers provided this time and support, workers would have more freedom to network effectively.
One fifth (20%) said there was a lack of events near them and 15% said they didn’t see networking as important.
These results clearly show that employers are missing out on important networking opportunities due to the lack of support being offered to their staff. If more focus was placed on employee training and the provision of paid time to attend events, businesses would be better able to move past the current roadblocks.
Defining business networking
The survey also asked respondents to define what they see as business networking. Being surrounded by like-minded professionals and having the opportunity to talk to other people makes a business conference the ideal place to network. But surprisingly, less than half of those asked (47%) see a professional conference as a place to network.
Only 17% see discussing work with friends as a type of networking, despite 29% of people having acquired a job through a friend. Even if your conversation with a friend feels like an informal chat, it could potentially lead to much more than that.
Business networking can cover a variety of different activities both in and out of the office. From attending conferences to interacting on social media platforms like LinkedIn, any type of discussion around work and business can be classed as networking.
How can your business help staff network?
With the benefits of business networking being so clear, and the recognition that networking is important, there’s a general lack of knowledge surrounding exactly what networking is and how to do it. So, how can your business help improve networking? The answer lies within the survey results.
1. Organize your own events
With 20% of respondents saying there weren’t any events near them, the answer would be to put on events of your own. This provides your team with the opportunity to meet new people from within the business and gives them the chance to do this in a more comfortable environment. With a proportion of respondents (19%) saying they’re too nervous to network, holding an event across your own company will present an opportunity for staff to work on their networking skills.
2. Teach your team
Over half of the respondents felt they didn’t receive enough support from their employers. This shows that employers need to step up and educate their staff about the benefits of networking, how to do it and what networking really is. Gaining a strong understanding of this will help them recognize and make the most of opportunities when they arise.
3. Invest in networking
Time and money are factors in any business decision. As an employer, it’s important to help facilitate networking whenever possible. Offering paid time to attend events and covering the expenses involved helps employees overcome barriers caused by cost. Remember, investing in networking will have long term benefits for your business’ growth.
The survey helped to highlight some serious gaps in knowledge and problems faced by many businesses and their employees when it comes to networking. As an employer, taking steps to educate employees and providing them with opportunities to network is an important part of the growth of your business. Following some of these steps could help your employees flourish and improve results for any business.