Crossing the bridge from network training to development: A guide to move trainees from classroom insights to effective networks

Kristin L. Cullen-Lester, Cynthia K. Maupin, Theresa M. Floyd, Michelle Mahdon, Alexandra Gerbasi, Dorothy R. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Professional networks help employees accomplish work tasks, progress in their careers, and thrive personally. Decades of research suggest that achieving these outcomes requires more than simply amassing 'more' network contacts. Instead, networks with certain characteristics (e.g., networks that are open, diverse, and deep) enhance effectiveness. Network training teaches trainees about effective networks and helps trainees identify their network development needs by providing feedback on their current network. Once back on the job, trainees are assumed to take appropriate actions to develop their networks. However, our research and experience training MBA students, executives, and employees at all levels suggest that trainees often struggle to develop their networks after training. We studied 119 trainees engaged in network training and development to understand why. Our investigation revealed that many trainees fail to set network development goals that match their personalized feedback, identify strategies that match their goals, and take actions to develop networks that match their strategies. These mismatches create gaps in the bridge that trainees build to take themselves from network training to development. Further, even after building strong bridges by aligning their feedback, goals, strategies, and actions, many trainees encounter on-the-job barriers that prevent them from improving the effectiveness of their network. We offer a guide to help address translational gaps and mitigate on-the-job barriers, thereby enhancing the translation of network training insights into network development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100937
JournalOrganizational Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Leadership development
  • Networking
  • Networks
  • Transfer of training


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