You get hired for what you know and promoted for who you know goes an old adage.
And today who you know is becoming much for relevant and valuable as who you know, and how well you know someone is not limited by geography or organization boundaries.
There is clearly value here, certainly to each individual. But here is an interesting question about how much an employer should seek to leverage that value.
It came from a large Telecom company: They said: ‘ as we modernize our directories and expertize location systems to take into account what people really do, what they really know and who they know, should we also be looking to tap into personal networks that employees may have created using services like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, etc?’
There is a reasonable argument that yes, in some cases this is desirable – for example when an employee participates in an external social network as part of their formal company responsibilities (eg for marketing or recruitment), or when an employee brings individual contacts into the work environment (eg by introducing someone to a colleague, or when they invite them to participate in a project, discussion, transaction, etc.)
But tapping into personal networks beyond these simple cases where employees willingly and knowingly bring in external contacts would be problematic in many ways. Asking or expecting employees to import this information into an internal directory or give wholesale access to their personal networks is generally a bad idea.
A lesson from the way that the public/private divide is managed in consumer social network services is the way they can help individuals control the flow of information between their public and private networks. Perhaps a similar approach where the employee can stay in control as gatekeeper between work and personal networks but can also easily broker connections on an individual basis as needed may be the optimum compromise.
What do you think about personal and work networks? Separate them, mash them, or mesh them?