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Build Social Capital with Relationships
 

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR  6/26/2012
 

 

ATLANTA--When a 7 a.m. conference session begins with a flash mob and ends with a list of useful tips for building strategic relationships, you know it’s going to be a good day. That’s how the capacity crowd at the June 25 session “Strategic Relationship Management: The Breakthrough HR Competency,” held here during the Society for Human Resource Management's 2012 Annual Conference, started its morning.

“Relationships matter,” noted the two self-proclaimed “card carrying members of Generation X” who led the session: consultant, speaker and author Jason Lauritsen (@JasonLauritsen) and fellow speaker and author Joe Gerstandt (@joegerstandt). “If you want more influence in your organizations, relationships will help you get there,” Gerstandt noted.

He explained that social capital, according to Wayne Baker’s book Achieving Success Through Social Capital (Jossey-Bass, 2000), is defined as “resources available in and through personal and business networks.” Individuals gain access to resources such as information, ideas, business leads, good will, trust and cooperation as a result of social capital.

Thus, HR people with a lot of social capital don’t go to work alone; they roll into work with a posse, Lauritsen said. As a result, when they face an issue or need a sample policy, they’ve got a team of people outside the organization to turn to for help.

Relationship building inside the organization can be a bit trickier, Lauritsen said, particularly because HR professionals are so often focused on being service providers to employees. That’s why they must take time to develop business partner and strategic-level relationships.

The biggest ways people build relationships center on proximity and activity, Gerstandt said; people get to know one another when they frequent the same places and do things together.

Having thousands of friends on Facebook isn’t the solution, however. “Social capital is about quality, not quantity,” Gerstandt noted.

Six Laws of Social Gravity

Lauritsen and Gerstandt summarized the six laws of “social gravity” described in their book Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships (Talent Anarchy Productions, 2012):

  • Be open to connections. Be available to have lunch or coffee or agree to work on a special project, Lauritsen said. Social technologies such as LinkedIn can help people organize their connections.
  • Get involved in meaningful activity. Because physical proximity is one way people build relationships, Gerstandt suggested that HR professionals look for ways to participate in activities such as diversity groups, wellness programs and book groups.
  • Always be authentic. People have a tendency to hide things at work, especially the stuff that makes them unique. “You want to be normal, but you are not,” Gerstandt said. “You are unique. … Stop trying so hard to be normal,” he said. “Fly your freak flag. Authenticity is rooted in self-awareness. You have to know who you are.”
  • Stay in touch. “Relationships don’t grow by themselves,” Lauritsen said. “They require tending.” He encouraged attendees to make a plan to follow up with connections regularly in ways that are appropriate and meaningful to the other person.
  • Use karma to your advantage. Find ways to help people solve problems, Lauritsen said, noting that “If you do good, good comes back to you.”
  • Invest in connecting. Budget time to connect with people. “Invest in relationships and make them matter,” Gerstandt said.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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