Networking. It’s a word that has different meanings for different people and in different circumstances. Every year when we conduct our member survey, networking tops the list of benefits HR professionals seek from a Greater Madison Area SHRM membership. Sometimes I suspect it is elusive for us to provide networking opportunities to our members because everyone interprets the word differently.
Because of this, I linked to a poll on networking (see questions below) in my February President’s Message as part our monthly chapter newsletter. Although some responses rose to the top, the poll supported my opinion that our members broadly interpret the word “networking” as it pertains to GMA SHRM. Assuming so, and even despite the results, I believe we strike a balance in offering a variety of networking opportunities for our members. The recent past and near future support our efforts in this area, and I want to take this opportunity to highlight them.
The month of February brought our semi-annual networking event on February 24 from 4:30 to 6:30 at Vintage Brewery Company in Madison. In place for the past couple of years, the event is perhaps the purest concept of what networking means to most people – the simple opportunity to meet individuals with similar interests in a social setting. The February event promised to be even more fun by adding a speed networking format, and it ended up delivering on that promise way beyond our expectations. We had record attendance at the event and tons of positive feedback. Throughout the evening, the event had a fun and informal atmosphere, which was simply all that we wanted our members to experience among their colleagues.
Late last fall, our Solo HR Practitioner Resource Group launched at a roundtable to discuss the challenges of running HR as a department of one. Since then, the group has met and connected several times to help each other out and provide support in meaningful ways. Members seeking this networking element from GMA SHRM can contact Programming Committee volunteers and get connected with this group for lunches and informal meetings.
Starting in February, members also saw the launch of our Peer Advice Network. The Peer Advice Network is what GMA SHRM used to call LocalNet. LocalNet was a list of HR topics and competencies with names of members willing to talk to other members who had questions related to that area of HR. Now that our new website is up and running, we have re-branded LocalNet as the Peer Advice Network. The network will function in much the same way as LocalNet. It will be completely online and available privately through our members-only database. We’re hoping many members will continue to be willing to talk to other members about areas where they’ve gained experience over the years. At the same time, we hope those seeking advice or input on an issue will find a benefit in talking to another HR professional outside of their organization. To me, both sides, the advisor and the advisee, would also find very tangible networking results from their interaction.
At each of our monthly Summits and Toolboxes, we set aside time at the beginning for informal networking among peers in the HR profession. Our Programming Committee is considering whether to bring a more formal networking structure back to these events. Even so, I challenged our members who attend a Summit or Toolbox this year to try to sit by or approach a new person and introduce themselves. Over the years, I’ve discovered our chapter members are a very friendly group and have always welcomed a new person to a conversation. I am sure GMA SHRM members will find the experience of meeting new people at our meetings very rewarding as well, and I hope chapters across the state also work to create similar welcoming environments at their programming events.
In addition to what I’ve highlighted here, there are so many other avenues available to our members for networking – committee volunteering, member orientations, our LinkedIn group, and plans for other social media opportunities. I sincerely believe we can offer something for everyone even though each of us may view networking in a slightly different way. I hope members across the state discover the many advantages their chapters offer in this area throughout the coming year.
To your continued success,
Dave Furlan, PHR
GMA SHRM President
Poll question included in the President’s Message from our February newsletter. Contact me if you are interested in the results.
Using the numbers 1 to 5, please list in order the most important networking benefit you seek from your GMA SHRM membership. (1 is the most important networking benefit, 2 is the second most important, etc.)
- Connecting with individuals to support my career development or job search
- Developing business opportunities
- Finding friends, having fun and socializing after hours with similar professionals
- Finding other professionals to help me with HR-related challenges at work
- Building an active group of individuals that elevate the HR profession in the community