The Value of Your Network

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers.”  Guy Kawasaki

As many of you know, I got my current position through good old-fashioned networking. And building my network took (and still takes!) time, consistency and effort. I consider my network to be one of my most valuable assets. I can rely on it to help me get questions answered, develop professionally, provide me with ways to expand my skills and to offer a friendly ear to hear about my challenges. I have known many networkers (and some so-called networkers) over the years and I have gleaned some best practices for networking. These have surely helped me.

We all need to tend to and build our networks. Our network can be one of the few consistencies we have in our career even as it grows and changes. I think of my network as a garden. Even when you aren’t growing things, you still need to care for the soil so that when growing season starts you are ready to go. The same goes for a network – you have to have the infrastructure built before you actually need it. Your network should include a broad spectrum of contacts from both inside and outside your field as well as inside and outside your company. This way you can identify areas of development to help you and your company get to the next level. I call on my internal network for consistency within our walls and my external network for best practices and ideas to enhance our business.

The toughest part of building our network can be stepping out of our comfort zone and meeting new people (or learning more about those you already know). Here are some things I keep in mind as I continue to expand and develop my network.

Be Seen. I belong to several organizations inside and outside our business and make every effort to attend meetings and events. While I have a busy schedule, I put these events on my calendar and make arrangements to attend as many events as I can. I find it really important to get out there and be seen. This can show others you are committed to the organization and your own development and it is a great way to build bonds with others.

Be Heard. I strive to meet someone new or learn something new about someone I already know as often as I can. When I go to meetings and events and have the chance to network, I start with the people near me and see where it goes. I have found that many people at events are a bit anxious about meeting new people (and I get this way, too) and a great way to stop that feeling is to start chatting. It is amazing what you can learn! Another way to get heard is to volunteer with professional organizations. Serving on a board or committee can get your seen and heard. Just make time for it – everyone is busy.

Be Sincere. I feel that the goal of networking is to offer your skills and abilities to others and help them develop and, as we all know, when someone succeeds they usually remember those who helped them get there. When meeting someone new, let them know how you can help them by offering your skills, abilities and knowledge. Remember to be genuine and be yourself.

Think Globally. I have connected with people from other companies, industries and geographies. This helps me keep a global perspective while working in South Florida. And keeping this global perspective has gained me relationships outside of my comfort zone. Keep an open mind when meeting people – every one has something to offer. I have a nice network in Egypt that I met at the SHRM Leadership conference in 2009 and still chat with them regularly. How cool is it to know HR professionals in EGYPT?! We just need to listen to them.  Oh and be that person who goes up and introduces yourself to the person standing alone. You never know who you will meet!

And Don’t Forget. Don’t forget about your network. We all get busy and life gets in the way, but find a way to engage your network. Before I had networking hardwired into my psyche, I populated my calendar to make sure I sent Tweets, did LinkedIn posts and wrote blogs. It took some time but now it is second nature, the key is to keep the conversation going and others will listen.

The time to build a network is when you don’t need it. Then when you do need it, your connections are there to support you. I know many people who are great networkers and those that aren’t have an opportunity to become great networkers. The satisfaction in knowing that I can email or call someone to get answers to almost anything helps reduce my stress, provides me with support system and allows me freedom to help others. We are all in this together; why not help each other out?

Last night, I attended the Greater Miami Society for Human Resource Management (GMSHRM) meeting at FIU and had a great time. I made it a point to meet 2 new people – and I did within the first 20 minutes of being there. One was someone who I was wanting to meet and the other became a connection that I hope to retain indefinitely. I got home and immediately connected with them on LinkedIn and added them to my network.

What networking success stories do you have? 

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!


The Language of Business

The language of business is money. As HR professionals we are surrounded by buzz words and phrases like “think strategically”, “what’s the return on investment” and “do more with less.” But what do these mean and how do I make them happen while I am recruiting for open positions, have investigations happening and presenting employee development opportunities? How does HR move from transactional to transformational?

On Friday, August 26, I had the pleasure of attending GMSHRM’s Global CFO Forum at the Sofitel in Miami. What a great learning experience! It was an intimate setting – about 30 in attendance – where 3 CFOs from global reaching organizations presented their business ideas on the value HR. For 2 hours they shared their thoughts and ideas of how HR can make a
positive impact to the bottom line and build value for the whole organization. Each panelist introduced themselves and shared their philosophy. One of the CFO’s mission hit home with me – “Lead people to deliver their best.” He also referred to HR as “Capitalists for change.” What a fitting description.

The key to moving HR into a more strategic role is finding positive ways to contribute to the financial results of the organization. Understanding that just because something is the right thing to do does not mean it should have the capital outlay for implementation. There must some sort of return for any decision. Many ideas that HR presents can have significant cost savings or even make money for a company. For example, the implementation of a wellness program not only can lead to a healthier workforce but reduce healthcare costs and decrease absenteeism. All 3 of the panelists agree that HR needs to look at every decision according to how it would affect the bottom line. Many HR people know how an idea will benefit the company; sometimes we just need to find the best way to communicate it. And using the cost savings and revenue driving terms of the idea will help HR navigate the idea to approval.

Easier said than done, right? A great place to start is by knowing, understanding and managing the HR budget. How much do you have? What do you want to do? What items are on your “need” and “wish” lists? Your CFO will respond favorably to an HR person’s ability to speak the language of business. Knowing how the company makes money, where the strengths and
weaknesses lie and most importantly that finance is the catalyst for the company’s strategy. What the CFO might not tell you is that without HR, the company will fail. Rest assured that HR is needed but the need can vary based on the strategic direction and slant of the HR team.

Another thing I learned was that there are times that we may need to present something 2, 3 or more times to have it become a hit. There might be a new training opportunity you want to implement or software that will help streamline operations. When you pitch it to the executive team, you might get shot down the first time. Don’t let this discourage a valuable idea. Some great ideas were denied before they were implemented. Ask for feedback when you are told no so when you can go back to the drawing board you know what will be needed to get something done. If a solid business case can be made and there is a positive effect on the profit and loss statement – even in the long run – you stand a better chance at getting what you need. So when you want to purchase a new HRIS program that will have significant upfront costs, be ready to show the actual savings it will bring to the company. It might take some time until you get it.

The CFOs also agreed that they look to HR for change management support. This includes training and developing employees and paving the way for change acceptance in the organization. HR should be on the front line of change efforts which include mergers and acquisitions. Most change projects fail because of a lack of leadership and failure of assimilation. HR should (and needs to) be equipped to lead the organization through change with the executive team.

The financial instruments of profit and loss statements, balance sheets and statements of cash flows are historical. They become strategic tools when they are used for forecasting the future of the company. The financial plan of an organization is a roadmap for the year and is subject to change. The HR team should be well versed in the plan and how they can
impact the various stages and milestones. If you don’t have a working relationship with your financial team, start working on it. The CFO is an important person to be connected with when working in HR. Take time to know your financial people and what makes them tick. You won’t regret it.

Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!