“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
The above saying has long been held to be true, and it undoubtedly played a significant part in recruitment decisions, especially for senior executives. After all, research earlier this year found that executives are more likely to be hired if they’re members of the same golf club as others on the board. So networks have always been important for senior folks, but what about everyone else?
You sense that we are undergoing a fundamental shift in how employees are valued. The average person now has hundreds of connections online via sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These connections are more visible than they’ve ever been before, so it’s possible to see how valuable a persons social network is to you as a business. Sites like Klout attempt to provide a score for the power of someones network, allowing the busy recruiter an easy to use metric to gauge the connectivity of an individual.
There are obvious benefits to this in sales and marketing roles, as having a well connected network of contacts you can call upon is a crucial part of your role, but how big a factor should it play in your decision? Is it better to select a connected individual over a smart individual?
For me the ideal candidate should be a mixture of the two. Even the smartest individuals have a limit to their knowledge, and the smarter they are, the more aware they should be of where that limit lies. Having a wide and varied social network therefore allows you to fill in those gaps in both your own knowledge and those of your colleagues. Knowledge management is no longer just about getting the knowledge from within the company, but also from the 2nd and 3rd tier connections of those in the company.
Our modern social businesses demand that we don’t just look within our walls for the answers to the problems faced, but instead reach out and tap into the insight offered by customers, stakeholders, and yes, the connections of our employees. Innovation and collaboration now occur out in the open where people from varied backgrounds can contribute and develop ideas.
Connected individuals not only have the networks for you to tap into, but importantly they have the mindset that demands their ideas are shared with others. Innovation doesn’t occur in isolation, it needs to be shared and developed, iteration by iteration. Companies need to provide the tools for collaboration, but also importantly the culture of collaboration.
Of course there will be challenges with how to manage personal brands alongside corporate brands, but these are challenges that can and must be faced if we are to build companies fit for the future. So next time you’re hiring someone to your team, don’t forget to consider their social influence as well as their intelligence.