In most businesses, if the supply chain stops, everything stops. Ford can’t make cars if they don’t have wheels, hospitals get pretty jammed up if all the CT machines are down, and most organizations wither away if the sales pipeline goes away. You can view almost any portion of any business from a supply chain point of view. In HR, we usually think of workforce planning and recruiting as the supply chain, and since we manage the “human resource” that makes perfect sense. However, we also manage HR from the perspective of talent and competencies, and aside from headcount, the development of competencies through a systematic and technological approach is also a supply chain we should be thinking of.
Shifting gears, we use Web 2.0 to connect our employees, write and read blogs and wikis, and hopefully encourage internal knowledge sharing at the end of the day. To do this, we assume that people are actually producing content that can be consumed by the masses. This is the only way that Web 2.0 actually works as a talent building tool – people have to connect first, and then they have to share. Unfortunately, outside of technology companies, many Web 2.0 initiatives fail not because people don’t connect, but people don’t share.
So back to the point. If the resultant product is an increase in total talent within the organization as measured by competency and knowledge growth, which is created through an increase in volume of interactions in the Web 2.0 platform, it is reasonable to think of blog posts, wikis, or just questions people generate into the environment, as the supply chain. The problem is that you don’t just “order up” blog posts and keep doing that into the indefinite future. This supply chain has to be self sustaining.
If you are a technology company filled with computer engineers, this is easy. You probably already have a culture of people who have some form of expectation that business is transacted in this way. If you have a very young population, you are also lucky since Gen Y and most of Gen X thinks about their lives in a Web 2.0 way. But if you’re a more traditional company, you probably have significant change management hurdles to go through.
Web 2.0 is not a set of training and communications material you send out, it’s really a whole new way of thinking about how work gets done and how you collaborate. What might start as a simple goal for employees to make blog posts or a competition for the post that generates the most hits or comments is not actually a productive enterprise unless it actually creates a collaboration loop that addresses a problem. Otherwise people are just writing for the sake of writing. When it comes to change management, I take a phrase from the Herman Miller (sp?) Strategic Selling course called the “personal win.” Employees will only participate if they are either receiving great value or if they are perceived as a person to go to when great value is needed.
The question is not how you get people to post, but how do you get people to be aware of the available value, or how you make people perceive themselves as leaders. If you can’t do this, then you wind up with a pretty dismal looking supply chain. No Web 2.0 activity means no sharing which means no talent growth through the Web 2.0 tool.
(Follow-on question is if you guys even think that this type of collaboration is part of talent management the way that I do?)