This narrow mindset was wrong when it arose, and it’s even more wrong today. Connections and contacts do lead to revenue, it’s true. It’s just that revenue is everyone’s business. And this is true regardless of the enterprise, be it law firm, cabinetmaker or financial-services provider.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. The modern workplace is a terribly stratified thing, with disengaged employees laboring in distinct silos, largely disconnected from the company’s broader goals (no matter how many pocket-sized cards they collect). To be fair, this isn’t always the case, just usually so. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report revealed that 50% of this country’s full-time employees aren’t actively engaged with their company’s goals. Another 20% are actively disengaged. The report estimates that disengaged professionals cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion a year, a number that’s likely far higher once you factor in the missed opportunities that come when people inside a firm aren’t communicating as they should. Think of the new business and new hires, the deals and partnerships and alliances that aren’t pursued because warm leads and straight paths aren’t identified.
There’s no simple solution to the problems caused by disengagement. But a program designed to identify company-wide relationship capital and that rewards employees who share theirs is a start. It will not only elevate engagement and increase revenue, but build morale and esprit de corps as well.
Imagine, for example, a law firm bizdev staff of 10 who, rather than depending only their own contacts could avail themselves of a formalized process that taps into the networks of 300 associates and partners. We’re talking something much more than a now-and-again morning email to ask who knows someone at Amalgamated Widgets. For revenue generators, such a process offers broader coverage, easier access, warmer leads, shorter sales cycles and fewer cold calls. For new hires and veteran employees in non-revenue generating roles, it fosters a sense of control and the ability to directly impact firm revenues.
But there’s more than agency at stake here. Increased revenue brings substantial employee benefits: higher salaries, better perks and more resources. Even better, when workers are more informed about and involved in business generation, they’ll be more likely to think about opportunities on their own.
It’s a virtuous circle—if not a perfect one. Inevitably, there will be some resistance from non-revenue generating employees, potential hires and even experienced veterans who consider their network their most prized asset. Contact lists, after all, are intensely private. But, at their root, most objections to sharing connections are based on a misunderstanding of what relationship capital is and how it should be used. A purposeful mix of communication, education and patience is likely all that stands in the way of meaningful revenue increases and even more meaningful gains in employee engagement.
You just need to get everyone in your business to understand that revenue is everyone’s business.
RelSci helps create competitive advantage for non-profit, corporate and financial organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. There’s always a way.