Social Capital – HR’s Secret Weapon – Part 3


Good guidance on places to start in the creation of social capital for the HR Leader in your last post. However, I think that I’d challenge that you first bullet should be expanded beyond connecting with only internal peers to connecting with “my organization.” Granted, peers is a broad term, but I would argue that there’s great value in being networked with individuals at all levels within the organization, even if you wouldn’t necessarily consider them “peers.”

As we think about who to network with internally, it’s good to identify people who are strategically valuable and important in terms of supporting our work of human resources within the organization. Malcolm Gladwell identifies some types of people in his book The Tipping Point (a book that should be required reading for every practicioner of HR) who are important to know for those in the business of making change happen.
First, there are the Mavens. The Mavens will be the people who possess the deep knowledge about the organization and where to go for certain things. They may have knowledge about what’s been tried and what’s worked throughout the history of the organization. They may be the experts in where to go to find certain information internally. The Mavens are important to know because they hold the key to a lot of information that could make or break your projects.
Second are the Connectors. Connectors are easy to identify because they have large established networks internally. When you are asking the question “who should I call for X,” you will hear the connector’s names come up as “people who probably know who you should call.” These people are the people who are both well connected internally, but also willing to help you get connected to others as well. Plugging in with connectors will help your own networking efforts because they can more quickly introduce you to the other people who you are most interested in connecting to.
Gladwell’s last group is the Salespeople. Salespeople are those who champion causes internally and get others on board. They might be the individuals who get selected to lead the United Way campaign on the year after a down year because it’s known that they can rally support. Obviously, identifying and connecting with Salespeople is important because they can help you garner support for new HR initiatives or plans. Get the salespeople on board and much of the rest of the organization will follow.
These three groups of people are particularly important in transformational HR work where you are leading the organization to places it may not have gone before because of their powerful influence on those around them. These are the people who will help you make change happen throughout the organization.
The connections you need to shape and influence decision making are a bit different. These connections are much more linked to the political decision making structure within the organization. I’ll tackle these in a future post.
Go forth and connect.


  1. Social Network Analysis allows you to easily find Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople in your organization. These folk each have a different "flavor" of social capital with a unique pattern of connections around them.

  2. Thanks for your comments Valdis…I think it might be valuable at some point to introduce some of the science and tools of SNA here…would you be interested in writing a SNA 101 guest post at some point?

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