Network building in the age of automation

As the world of work evolves and the gig economy sees employment becoming more global, mobile, and automated, one thing remains unchanged – human relationships and collaboration will remain central to success. Employees, contractors and small business owners must continue to build and maintain networks of people they know, like and trust to ensure a sustainable future in the face of these winds of change.

We have all heard of the hidden job market and the importance of networks, with research showing as many as eighty-five percent of all jobs are filled through the job seeker's networks. While it may seem paradoxical in a world of work increasingly dominated by technology, human relationships and networks will become even more important in years to come.

Technology supported teams will become short-term and project based; teams will be kept deliberately small and flexible, coming together to complete a project and then disband.

In this increasingly agile and dynamic world, roles are even more likely to be filled by a liquid project workforce, sourced through pre-existing networks that can be accessed instantly, rather than complex recruitment and selection processes This doesn’t simply mean searching through LinkedIn connections to find those with the right keywords on their profile – it means deliberately transferring online contacts into face to face networks of key people. Those who are known, liked and trusted will get the gig.

Key skills required now and in the foreseeable future, particularly for graduates, include collaboration and teamwork, oral communication and applying knowledge to real world settings. Online networking is less effective in developing these skills than face to face network building. Online networks also don’t offer the same opportunities to build genuine trusting relationships. As the 2018 Yellow Social Media Report found, just 22% of respondents used LinkedIn regularly, with 75% of those spending five minutes or less each time they used the platform.

LinkedIn is undoubtedly a perfect platform for making connections, but when it comes to building a strong network of trusting relationships, nothing beats taking the online relationship face to face.

One 2017 survey found that 68% of junior professionals valued face to face network building above online networking. More than this though, research has also found that 9 in 10 people report that small meetings are their preferred communication method, and nearly 100% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. One reason why is the idea generation that comes from meeting new contacts face to face. Research also shows that innovation and strategic insight come through the different perspectives and weaker ties that add depth to our networks by enabling us to interact directly with people we don’t currently know through those we do.

Finally, face to face meetings also maximise network building time and effectiveness by interacting with multiple new contacts simultaneously; something that would benefit the 41% of networkers who want to network more frequently, but don’t have enough time.

The world of work is changing – the importance of building strong, trusting relationships is not.

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