How Social Capital Happens for HR


Hopefully, we’ve established that social capital is critical to successful human resources. Our relationships and connections both within and outside the organization are central to our ability to produce breakthrough results. So, I’d like to turn our discussion more specifically towards the tactics and approaches that a human resource professional or leader might apply to create social capital.
Since I like a good list, here are four ways that HR pros can start to build their internal social capital. As you read this list, some of this might seem obvious. Despite how obvious it seems, most HR pros aren’t doing them. We aren’t taking the time to build our social capital. What we haven’t figured out in human resources yet is that “having a seat at the table” isn’t about a table at all, it’s about having the social capital to exert influence on the direction and decision making of the organization. Here are some ways to start building that social capital.
  1. Adopt a connection mindset. Since there is value to being networked at all levels within the organization, we must first make the decision to connect with everyone we meet. This means learning people’s names, knowing where they work, what they do, etc. It means taking every interaction (whether it’s a meeting or a phone call with a question from an employee) as an opportunity to form a connection, not just an isolated interaction.
  2. Cultivate relationships. Whether you are a new to your company or have been there for years, making an introduction or knowing the basics on someone is just the first step. Relationships develop over time through regular and ongoing interaction. So, it is important to identify where the most important connections need to be made and have a strategy for regular contact with these people. For some, it might be a phone call once a month to check in. For others, you might schedule a coffee or lunch regularly.
  3. Get involved. The most effective way to build relationships with people internally is to find opportunities to work with them on projects or initiatives. So, while extra work may not seem too appealing, HR pros should actively position themselves to get involved in company wide projects. Through the work on these projects, you will find that relationships with the others involved on the project will happen organically.
  4. Help others as often as you can. As we are establishing our connections and building relationships, we should actively look for opportunities to help others as often as possible. When I say helping others, I don’t mean just doing your job (although that is important). I’m talking about helping others when you don’t have to, when it requires an investment of yourself to do it (like being asked if you would review an employee’s spouse’s resume to provide them some suggestions for improving it). Every time you help someone in this way, you establish goodwill with that person. The more goodwill you invest into your network of connections, the more powerful your social capital will become because every person you have helped will welcome an opportunity to return the favor.
These are a few foundation strategies for building social capital internally. Do you have some to add? Or perhaps you can share some strategies for how to build your external network as an HR professional (maybe some insight into how you became so well connected and what role social media played)?

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