HR, Twitter and Osama bin Laden

Yeah – I’m going to write about this.  I just finished watching Zero Dark Thirty on the plane, and I’m thinking back to that day.  I remember landing in the Chicago airport, booting up my phone and checking Twitter.  Scrolling through the feed, one caught my eye: “bin Laden is down.”  The tweet was more than a couple hours old at that point, but I noticed it came from a friend of mine in India.  I then proceeded straight to the United lounge where I was in absolute disbelief – they had some random Court TV channel on or something.  I asked everyone to change channels to CNN saying something like, “Guys, bin Laden is down, we need some news.”  I got blank stares and a, “Who are you and what are you smoking?”  By the time I left the club, everyone was hanging out next to the TV’s, it had finally made US media more than 4 hours after the event.

There are all sorts of Twitter analogies I love.  I love that Twitter can figure out the mood of the country every single day (probably every single minute) based on keywords.  I know that we don’t all use Twitter (hey, I’m totally a late adopter and I still barely use it to this day), but this post is really about social media and the pulse of your organization.  Hopefully you have something running whether it’s Sharepoint, SFDC Chatter, Jive or anything else.  The question is, “are you listening?”

There are all sorts of stories these days about customers who don’t go to the vendor customer service call center, but tweet problems on-line.  Service organizations are starting to get pretty good at monitoring Twitter and responding to people to fix problems.  I’m not saying that your HR service center needs to allow tickets to come in fiat social media, but when there is a thread about how bad the health insurance is, or that managers are not listening to employees, do you find out about that first, or does someone else bring it to your attention 3 days later?  You have the ability to get a view into the problem before it explodes into something bigger that execs are now worried about, but you have to be listening in the first place.  Seriously, do you want to bring it to your exec that there is a problem, or do you want your exec to bring it to you?

Mass Collaboration:
You can’t get this on email.  Even if you are using large distribution lists, most of the people on those lists ignore those emails.  Take it from me – I’m one of them.  You can get really interesting ideas out there, but if it’s in an email thread where the content is not managed, it’s not owned by the enterprise.  Social collaboration forums not only allow mass storage of insights, but they do it in perpetuity (until someone cleans up or archives).  If we’re all sitting in front of the news waiting 4 hours to get it, that’s pretty slow and we’re dependent on the distribution channel to tell us what’s important.  If we take to the user owned collaboration forums, we get to filter insights in real time.

Back to this idea of pissed off employees – there doesn’t always have to be a thread about something that is upsetting any group of people.  How cool would it be if you could create an algorithm that gives you a measure of employee engagement on a daily basis (ok, maybe weekly).  Apologies to the vendors who sell engagement surveys, but if you could put together an algorithm that gave you engagement, split it up on dimensions of level, job families, pay grades, organization, you’d have a pretty powerful tool.  You might complain that you don’t have specific actions, but I’d disagree.  What is the use of an engagement survey that gives you a report every year?  Just like the crap about performance management not being meaningful, if it’s a year later, it’s too late.  On a weekly basis, you could dig into what comments are causing lower engagement scores, deal with them in the specific populations, create engagement and solutions before things escalate.

Talent Management:
I wrote about this years ago, but I think it might actually be time.  I’m totally intrigued by the idea that you can get rid of your entire competency model and just use social media.  LinkedIn is getting closer, but it’s nowhere near perfect.  I don’t want anyone tagging me with skills.  What I do want is for HR to figure out what I’m good at by looking at my social media posts inside the corporate firewall.  If I post about HR Analytics and 20 people respond, that gives HR an idea that I might be interested in the subject.  If someone posts a question about HR Analytics and I respond, and I also get 20 “likes” for my answer, I might have some expertise.  As you aggregate all the social data over time, create a taxonomy to apply against business conversations, and apply all that data against employees, you have a pretty good idea of what people are thinking about and what they are good at.

I’ll acknowledge that listening is only part of the solution – much of the other part is figuring out how to listen, what to listen to, and how to decipher what you are hearing.  There is a lot of static out there and you need good tools to get good insights back.  I also don’t know how far off social listening is for HR, but hopefully this gets us thinking.  It’s something we need to do as our organizations get more diverse globally, disconnected geographically, and technologically savvy.  Conversations are moving to social, and we have an opportunity.  Let’s grab it.

The Permanent Record

Perhaps it was because I’m Chinese American and my Chinese parents were rather crazed about education.  I did graduate high school with a 4.2 GPA and considered myself an academic failure (still do in fact).  My parents used to threaten us that our grades and other bad things we did would go on our permanent records.  I’m sure some of the bad grades I got (B’s?) are stored somewhere, but the permanence of them is questionable.  If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a transcript, but who really cares?  The permanent record is only meaningful so long as anyone cares to look.

This changes once you get into the workforce.  You get a bad performance review and it’s going to follow you around in that company for a very long time.  One wrong comment in a meeting with the CIO and you are not living that puppy down for years.  But one can always move on, and most things don’t truly last forever, especially if you switch divisions or companies.  Pretty much, when someone calls your old company for a reference, there is about 10% chance that job and last date worked are the only tidbits of information anyone will get.  There are things that seem to last longer now…

Ok, admit it, sometime this year, you have Googled yourself to find out if your name is on the first page of hits.  I’m happy to admit it.  I probably search myself once a quarter, but it’s not some narcissistic thinking in the back of my mind that is driving me to do it.  I could care less that on a random friend’s web browser I’m 8 of the top 10 hits.  (yeah, don’t search for yourself on your own PC – Google and others have figured this out and move hits about yourself up apparently).  What I really care about is my reputation.  My Facebook, Linkedin, systematicHR, published articles are all out there.  I’ve had conversations and arguments on the web, all recorded on some server I have no control over.

That picture of me on Yammer pretending to be Vanna White at some client change management thing (there was a whole spin wheel for prizes and everything).  I’m horrified, but it is out there forever.  (Damn you Erin!!!)  I might do silly things that I regret later, but I manage myself pretty well that I don’t do stupid things.  Somewhere along the line, a recruiter will undoubtedly look at a candidate profile of me on Taleo or Brassring, or whatever, and see all the web tidbits that link back to me.  They owe it to their companies to get a complete picture of who I am and how I’ll fit into the organization.  I owe it to myself to make sure that it’s a realistic picture, and not one tainted by one or two events that will stain the rest of the image.  If the worst thing anyone ever finds is that I helped with some change management, I can live with that.


Social Trust, Authority and Contributorship

There are three people who are pretty commonly in my car.  They will go unnamed.  One of them is pretty similar to me.  She always knows where she is, which way is north, and can get around pretty well.  The second has an idea, but has a tendency to say “left” when she really means “right.”  The last, has no idea where she is at any point in time, and when her opinion is offered, everyone else chuckles and goes in the exact opposite direction.  Basically, with passenger 1, you follow directions, passenger 2 you’d still be in the same state of doubt before and after the direction, and passenger 3 you know exactly where to go because that person is wrong 100% of the time.  (She really is that bad by the way.)

When we’re interacting with social enterprise tools at work, it’s quite impossible to decide who to trust.  In general, we’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of people that may be posting content to a particular group, and many of those are people we’ve never met.  There are a couple of things we have to count on.  The first is simply people we do know and have a degree of confidence in.  The second is what I’ll call “authority.”

In most social enterprise tools, we can follow, buddy or otherwise mark certain people.  The hope is that when these people interact with the social tool, we’ll automatically see the content they are creating.  However, if we counted on this alone, we’d miss an awful lot of content that might be genuinely helpful to us.  After all, if there are 300 people in a social group about Talent Management Process and you only know 25 people personally, then you’d be missing out on 90% of the content unless you go read everything daily.

So we get into authority.  Let’s say that everyone in that group of 300 people post on an equal basis (same number of posts and post frequency over time).  We’d have to have some way of measuring which contributors have the most useful things to say.  The way we measure this is by “likes” and comments back.  Basically if all 300 people each have 100 posts or comments, but only 10 people have 1000 “likes” or more, those 10 people should have a higher authority than the other 990.  Let’s also say that a different 10 people had over 1000 comments on their content.  Those 10 authors should also have more authority than the others.

If people’s content is “liked” then we assume some amount of value to that post.  Similarly, if someone’s content is highly commented, then we assume there was a value to the discussion it generated.  While the following rule is always true, we could think that likes infer that the person creates insight while comments infer a person who might be a data hub (or other similar hypothesis).  Either way, the combination of these and other factors gives us an overall authority rating.

At the end of the day, trust, authority and who is contributing to the knowledge of the business is all about employee talent management.  What we are actually identifying is who are the network hubs that allow people to find other people with information, and evaluating the information that is provided.  What we are also doing is incentivising the sharing of information so that nobody is a knowledge “hoarder.”  The reason social intelligence is so important to HR is it is one of the best ways of identifying the actual amounts of knowledge each person has.  Thus, the equation adds a quantification of knowledge to their skills capabilities.

Unlike in my car where I know everyone, this gives me an idea in social tools who I should trust and who not to.  At the end of the day, what it means is that the pure volume of content generated is not enough.  You really have to prove the value of your content through the interaction with your peers in the community.  Hopefully you don’t have people who chuckle at you and do the opposite.

The Cloud

Seven years ago, we started talking about social media in HR.  I remember this at a conference and nobody got it.  In fact, pretty much all the HR people said that it was a bad idea, it was not for the workplace, and it would just get us into trouble.  The concerns may have been justified at the time, and it was worth taking a less risky stance.

Five years ago, at another conference, social media was the big thing.  People talked about what we could do, how we would implement, and how we could network the organization and bring everyone closer.  But we never did it.

Today, we might finally have networks in most of our organizations.  There is the easy ability to look someone up on the directory and chat or just connect with someone in another part of the organization, but we are not really using any of the functionality for HR.  After all this time, we’re less excited only because nobody ever came to the plate and presented us with a technology option that just worked.

Here’s the thing – I’m really excited about all this interconnectedness because I start thinking about all the ways we could and should be applying the technology.  I’m sick of only talking about Yammer and Rypple (now for performance feedback.  Let’s do it real time, and let’s actually do it.  We thumbs up and down people (or their posts) all the time, but we as employees live in complete fear that negative feedback is going to screw one of our friendly relationships.  Let me tell you something, when someone is great, everyone knows it.  And when someone underperforms, that is also known.  But instead of the same conclusion the manager will reach during the traditional performace review, let’s pretend the employee had the opportunity to get positive and negative feedback throughout the year.  Let’s say that the employee had a chance to take corrective actions.

For the history of HR technology, we have not had the core capabilities to use social in HR.  Trying to plant social on top of SAP or Oracle was probably not going to lead us to success.  But everyone has new core foundations that can really enable this stuff, and I’m seeing that finally, HR technology has caught up with HR expectations.  Five years ago we were ready, but our foundational technologies just needed some time.  We were in contracts, or we just needed a few years to implement.  Now we’re there and the next generation of HR applications that are based on cloud and social can actually happen.


Leveling the Playing Field

I’ve always wondered about the benefits of doping in professional sports.  Once, I read about a journalist who decided to dope just to find out if it really was that dramatic at providing performance increases, and not only was he stronger, have significantly more endurance, but he also seemed to start reverse aging (age spots on his skin started to disappear).  Indeed, the reported benefits of doping are staggering.  Even an average guy like me could probably ride my bike over 100 miles a day for days in a row without real problems.

Lance Armstrong is once again in the news for doping.  Many of us have been pretty sure that he’s been a doper all along, but the man “has never failed a drug test” so we just let it go.  For the particular drugs we’re talking about, there is no real way to test if the drug is in someone’s system.  Instead, they test for other indicators.  In the case of EPO, they test for a blood hemocrit level above 5.0 (whatever that means).  Basically, if you tested every professional racer, there is a good chance that 90% of them have hemocrit levels at 4.8 or 4.9.  Their argument is that they are not cheating, even though they are cheating, just doing it below the level that they would get called out for it.  Instead, they argue that they are just keeping themselves level with the rest of the playing field.

A few years ago I’m sure I argued that core HR was dead, and talent management was dying with nothing to take their places.  Let’s face it – core HR functionality has not changed in a decade and Talent has been a bit of a bust because all we’ve done is automated the old crappy stuff.  Today, I’m not going to argue that HR technology is dead.  I’m going to argue that the playing field is now level.  Now I want to see who is going to perform, and who is going to get left behind.

If we look around the HR marketplace, there is really good reason to be excited.  I’m not talking about new functionality in core or talent, but I’m talking about how everyone is creating new user experience, and doing it in different ways.  If we look at Fusion versus Workday versus SAP/SF Employee Central versus ADP Vantage versus (all the vendors who are pissed they got left off al already too long list), the theory and design of the experience is totally different.  What we assume about our company’s employees and managers will drive a selection, not what functionality works for us.

We are no longer in the era of “do I want PeopleSoft position management, or SAP’s?”  I actually get to make a decision that is based on my culture and how I think they will best use the application.  Do I have a bunch of engineers, or do I have a bunch of management consultants?  Do I have machinists or perhaps finance guys?  I’m finally at the point where customers and culture are the things that are important.  I finally get to make decisions based on company strategy, workforce and culture.

Functionality is dead because it is a level playing field – but HR technology is one of the most exciting places to be in a really long time.


Social Taxonomies: Tagging versus Crowd Metrics

Every now and then, I’m parked at a mall, convention center, airport, and I ask myself, “now where did I park my car?  OK, so I don’t lose my car that often, but on occasion it happens.  OK, I’m not at the mall or convention center that often either.  At any rate, the appropriate action is to walk around the parking lot for a while constantly hitting the alarm button and waiting to hear that familiar chirp.  (Actually, I do that even when I know where the car is and I’m just walking over to it – no idea why…)  At some point, I’ll eventually locate the car.  The alternative, since I’d never really go to a mall or convention center or whatever alone, is the hope that someone I’m with actually remembers where the car is, or the general vicinity.  Depending on the person I’m with, there is either a high level of confidence or not, and sometimes none at all.

Here’s the problem with social enterprise.  Stuff can be really hard to find.  Let’s say that we remember that something was said on a particular subject, but we don’t remember who said it, if it was in a group message board or a blog, or even when it was.  How the heck do we find this stuff?  Even if we did remember it from a blog, the content might be 2 years old and still take a while to find.  Social tools all seem to use a variety of different search tools, but the tools that have emerged seem to deal with either tags or crowd metrics (or a combination of each).

Tagging is the job of either the content author, or content manager.  Sometimes tags can be community driven as well.  The point being that people can tag content with topics that they feel are associated with the content they are presenting.  You’ll notice that this post will return a tag of “social” and “social enterprise” among other things so that those get indexed by the blog and search engines.  It’s not an exact science like the good old dewey decimal system we all learned in elementary school, but if authors are tagging, then it’s likely to have a decent relationship.  If you give readers and the community the ability to tag, now you have even precision as the readers are also the searchers of the content and will have a pretty good idea if the original tags are off.  Every now and then on systematicHR posts I’ll actually adjust tags based on what searches are driving hits to the content.  Lastly, if you have a content manager involved that can further tag, now you have an element of standardization, so you know that similar posts will always be tagged in a similar way – in other words there are no concerns over someone tagging only “social” and a different author using “network.”  The content manager can leave the original tags intact, but would also communize the tags being used across the community.

Crowd metrics are also a wonderful thing.  For those of us who are Facebook users, we’re probably pretty familiar with the news feed that tends to launch more popular items to the top of the list.  The assumption is that if lots of people are looking and commenting on a particular piece of content, there is a higher probability that you’ll also be interested in the content.  The same goes for social enterprise in the workplace.  If many people are looking at content that you follow in some way (through a person, group, topic…) then chances are you want to see it also.  The assumption is that hits, reads, comments, thumb ups indicates some degree of quality of the content.

Things get better when you combine tagging and crowd metrics.  If you do a search for “talent management” in your social enterprise tool, hopefully it brings up the things that are not only tagged with the topic, but also finds the ones that were most popular first.  This blends not only the topical result, but also the assumption of quality as well.  The issue with this is that you can still miss content.  Some things can be mis-tagged, or some items just go unread by the crowds, and continue to appear lower in search results because of it.  Good search should also index words inside the content automatically, but that alone does not mean a high search result.

Obviously for me, the best result is if I just remember where my stupid car is.  But if I can’t hopefully some crowd intelligence in combination with my alarm clicker will work pretty quickly.  I don’t wander aimlessly in parking lots that often thankfully.

HR Technology Conference Reactions: Social Media Panel

I’ll admit.  I’m devastated.  Lexy Martin and Thomas Otter were both presenting at the same time as this session.  Had I the option, I would have pulled a Hermione Granger Time Turner thing.  You know where she goes back in time to take more classes?  I’d do that for these 3 sessions, but instead, I’m just a muggle.  (OK, enough of that nonsense.)

The panel consisted of Moderator: Kris Dunn (VP, HR, Kinetix ), Todd Chandler (VP, Learning and Performance, Helzberg Diamonds) , Ben Brooks (SVP & Global Director, Enterprise Communications & Colleague Engagement, Marsh Inc.),  Phoebe Venkat (Director, Digital and Social Media Communications, ADT).  As with my prior post, I’ll go with the same format:

Theme #1: File Centric versus People Centric. Perhaps this first theme is a bit obvious.  It really comes down to a definitional aspect of social versus where we have come from/are today.  There is nothing wrong with being file based, it’s here for a long time to come.  We operate in files today because that is how we store information and value.  Add to that we can easily search and tuck things away in a folder system, and we have a mediocre way to maintain information.  Thus, the next phase of evolution, if we are going to go social, we have to understand that the storage of prior information is not where it all is.  Instead, the generation of new information is paramount, and that comes from the exchange of ideas that social enterprise presents.  Thus, I call this a theme, but it’s really the starting point of the conversation – a definition of change.

Theme #2:  Email versus Social. If Theme #1 was a definition, perhaps Theme #2 is the problem statement.  Indeed, email is much more of a communication tool than a file storage tool as we all know when our corporate IT tells us we have gone over our 2 gig storage capacity.  The problem is that emails are so far from a real time production of value that it’s actually a barrier to the speedy creation of new insights.  Add that most of us also use emails for CYA and self preservation, and we quickly realize the major inhibitor that emails can be.  If we’re looking to protect ourselves and cover our tracks rather than provide new meaning to our jobs, this is a major directional problem for email.  So while social gives us productivity at the speed of conversation, emails are just too much of a security blanket for most workers to overcome in the very short term.

Theme #3:  Search and data mining. There are probably a couple aspects here.  The first one is about how we go about naturally doing our business today.  We’re organized in offices and cubes, or we go to meetings and sit at tables.  The interactions we have are largely based on who we see every day.  What is great about social is not that it allows us to reach past our normal daily interactions, but that it can help search for new contacts and encourage those interactions.  Sure we have emails, phone calls, instant messenger today, but with social we get to group ourselves logically based on something else other than location/job/department.  But we have to go beyond simple conversations.  The reason Facebook is not useful as an enterprise social tool is because you really can’t search the conversations.  Mining conversations for who is connected to who, what people are talking about, and how that impacts actual work and innovation is the key to creating value.

Theme #4:  Bad behavior. I remember 5 years ago when HR was just starting to enter the conversations about having social networks in the workplace.  Fully half of the conversations revolved around “bad behavior” or people just going crazy and doing/saying things they should not.  While you do have to set aside some rules of the road, you really can’t stop people from posting things.  Trying to moderate every comment would be absurd, and the consensus is that very little bad behavior actually happens.  The thing is, we should not have to create new social policies.  We already have them in place.  People also know how to behave already, and if they don’t, your managers should already be having these conversations.  This discussion presented one of the crowning moments of the conference for me (and I wish I could remember who said it).  “If you have a jerk, let them rise to the top so you can fire them.”  Another lovely quote, “HR… get over it.”

Theme #5: Creating change. Social for social sake is a bad idea.  You will get low adoption, and unless you are targeting your deployment to solving a real business problem, your audience will never really understand “why?”  Some of the suggestions revolved around polling the internal community for how your workers want to interact with each other, and then deploying solutions with the ability to say, “this is the tool you guys requested.”  A great example:  being one of the first at a dinner and not knowing anyone sucks.  But if you have a great host who is actively introducing people to each other, and contextually matching people’s interests, then you have really quick engagement.  The other interesting note that caught me off guard because it’s so basic, is not discounting the impact of faces and names.  If you think about Facebook, actually seeing faces is a pretty big part of how you interact with the tool.  There is a possibility that you see the face before you read the name, and that’s often how you engage with conversations.


Enterprise Digital Interactions

I know we don’t need any more buzzwords, but at the same time, HR and corporate organizations really seem to hate calling their internal blog, wiki, networking and collaboration tools “Social” media.  There is good reason for this as most organizations are not trying to encourage social behaviors at work, but professional networking, increasing connections, and sharing knowledge.  The tag “social” just does not work.  What it feels like to me is that these are just digital interactions within the organization, and that’s quite high level, but in addition to the word “social” I personally don’t like the word “media.”  To me, media is old school – it’s what I do consume when I pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV.  I know that in a strict definitional sense, media is exactly what blogs and wikis are, but media does not allow for the interactive nature of the technology.

A couple of months ago, I took a shot at defining Web 2.0.  It basically boiled down to this:

  • Web 2.0 helps us connect with each other
  • Web 2.0 helps us deliver content
  • Web 2.0 helps us receive content
  • Web 2.0 helps us organize content

To me, the key is in defining the “us” in each of the above four statements.  It strikes me that as I wrote these definitions, that “us” is ambiguous, and it is generally not HR as an organization.  Instead, each of “us” as an individual in the organization, whether we are representing HR or not, interacts with all of these technologies that help us connect.  This is important because we need to realize in a Web 2.0 environment, HR no longer pushes content out to the employee population.  If we have an environment that fosters blogs and wikis and networks and employee status messages, and anything else, then the environment is one where each individual chooses what to pull in to their own span of attention.

HR’s role in a Web 2.0 world is to foster our talent by increasing the connections people make and helping them find growth opportunities on their own through those connections.  But once we have enabled that, the employees are largely on their own to make it happen.  Our role in talent is to make sure that our total employee base has the right skills and competencies to accelerate the growth of our companies, and once we have fostered a culture that writes blogs and wikis and shares knowledge, that knowledge generates itself through the workforce, not through HR.  Our role in HR is to foster a culture where people are excited about continuous learning and have goals associated with learning and development, but it’s up to those individuals in a Web 2.0 world to actually subscribe to blogs and wikis in the environment.

Enterprise digital interactions is not a phrase I’m trying to use to replace Web 2.0 in any way – that would just be silly.  However, I think it better describes HR’s role in a Web 2.0 world.  It is a tool we can use as another enabler, but it is not our tool – it is the workforce’s tool, and we can only foster the right environment for them to want to use it.

Enterprise Web 2.0 and Personal Brands

I started systematicHR something like 5 years ago as a true weblog – a place where I could record my thoughts as I went through my daily reading and research.  More than 5 years after my first blog post that I never thought anyone would read but myself, systematicHR has really become my own personal brand.  It reflects a lot of who I am, what I’m interested in, but more importantly, it reflects what is in my head and how I think.  I have continued to contribute to the HR blogosphere since I think I have a unique point of view that is not widely represented in a space filled with analysts, vendors, recruiters, but not too many strategists connecting dots between all of that thinking.  Hopefully, you all have not decided that I’m delusional.

The thing about Web 2.0 and what I’ve decided to call Enterprise Digital Interactions (rather than “enterprise social media”) is that we’re assuming our employee populations are willingly going to participate and lend time to contributing content.  Certainly, we’ll have a hard enough time getting a large and diverse cross section of our workforce just to subscribe the the appropriate blogs let alone writing them.  Employees are used to the networks and connecting with other people by now, and some people are getting used to pulling data from the web and consuming what they want rather than what they are given.

The key to all of this is the personal brand.  Just like for myself, some (or hopefully many) people will take some pride at being able to share knowledge.  People like the fact that they came up with an original thought or a best organizational practice.  They like the community recognition that they are in some way, a leader.  And it just so turns out that people who contribute also tend to subscribe to more in the environment as well.  All of that leads to more comments, conversations and more interactions.

I know there are at least dozens of ways to help spur participation in the corporate communities, but personal brands seems to be a good, long term way to view employee motivation.  You can always get people to post a blog because it was on their list of goals, but you won’t get them to continue to do so unless they see the personal value to it.

Going Too Far: Social Media Notifications

I don’t know about the rest of you, but pretty much every time I receive a notification about farmville or gangster wars on Facebook, I pretty want to shoot the senders.  If they are nieces or nephews, they get some allowances for being kids.  But when I get literally 5 or 6 notifications in a row from the same person (who I have worked with at some time or another and is very highly paid) it absolutely drives me crazy.  In all honesty, I love most of Facebook.  Keeping tabs on people who I have been close to but have either moved away from geographically or just through the cost of time is a wonderful thing.  But there are some people out there who I would love to stay connected with, but the only thing I know about them is that they forgot to water plants on their farms (or something like that).  I think I would be totally ok with it if I never saw another gaming notification again in my life.

I then think about RSS feeds like many of you already have.  I’ll bet you are reading this blog either through a feed-reader or in your inbox.  Some way or another, you have requested this text to be sent to you.  I’ve never abused my e-mail lists and I couldn’t abuse my RSS subscribers because I have no idea who you are.  And that’s a lovely thing.  At the end of the day (or beginning in the case of systematicHR) you get a delivery of the goods you requested.

I’ve been talking about enterprise social media quite a bit lately with clients and friends.  It’s a complex topic that involves not only the Facebook-like connections with people around your enterprise, but also the collaboration that may occur in blogs and wikis.  The power of the enterprise social media cannot be limited to any one of the features, but is an integrated experience that involves all of the above.  Lets say you have a talent management program in place at your organization that has internal mobility processes.  It would be marvelous if the talent management program could capture data on not only internal candidates who have declared interests through their career paths, but identified candidates based on their activities within enterprise blogs and wikis.  Talent managers could find that some of their best knowledge workers in an area didn’t actually get paid for a job in that area.  Similarly, if you were interested in a role but were not getting the type of response from your talent managers, you could connect to groups or people who could help steer you into the right career path.  Networking is half the battle after all.

The downfall of enterprise social media is in the governance.  It could make it really good or really bad.  In general, “bad behavior” is fairly limited.  Although we see more iffy transactions happening with younger people, most have some amount of self censure and restraint in a work environment.  The problem is when the organization does not censure actions when they happen, and questionable behavior becomes customary.  The posted pictures of inebriated sales people at the company convention is humorous to many, but not appropriate for the masses.  You never really know who your links are linked to, and who is looking at profiles (which are usually totally open behind the firewall).  To many, there is no line between posting pictures of the local after work happy hour and the company softball team (and perhaps there shouldn’t be).  But not all of our interactions with work people outside of work should be published.  Some of it is team building that is great for everyone to know about, and other stuff might be things you really only want to share with the limited group that was involved.

I think we’ve started in the enterprise social media space being a bit too careful.  But I also think that we will manage to start to lose attention to it as the technologies start taking a life of their own and we forget that an entirely new generation is starting to enter the workforce.  Perhaps I’m old fashioned? (wow – that indeed would be strange).  Thoughts?

Measuring the Temperature of your Workforce

For those of you who have read Dan Brown’s new book “The Lost Symbol” there is an interesting concept of measuring the temperature of a population. I’ll provide a quick couple of paragraphs, noting that it’s really not critical in any way to the plot of the story:

Trish laughed. “Yeah, sounds crazy, I know. What I mean is that it quantified the nation’s emotional state. It offered a kind of cosmic consciousness barometer, if you will. Trish explained how, using a data field on the nation’s communications, one could assess the nation’s mood based on the “occurrence density” of certain keywords and emotional indicators in the data field. Happier times had happier language, and stressful times vice versa. In the event, for example, of a terrorist attack, the government could use data fields to measure the shift in America’s psyche and better advise the president on the emotional impact of the event.

“Fascinating,” Katherine said, stroking her chin. “So essentially, you’re examining a population of individuals… as if it were a single organism.” ((Brown, Dan (2009). “The Lost Symbol.” New York, Doubleday.))

Admittedly, it is such an interesting idea that as we enter a world of enterprise social media, that we could install software that looked at the density of search terms or keywords, or even tags, and make some meaning out of them that translated into good or bad moods. We could even do this today with emails, but that might be a bit more problematic to have all of our client related emails searched and cataloged for terms. Since social media postings within the enterprise are theoretically all open to the entire population, this is probably much easier to digest.

Theoretically, it should really not be all that hard to do. I mean, all you’re doing is having a search engine run in the background for a specific set of terms, and counting the number of occurrences. This can yield an emotion indicator that given the size of your organization probably does have some statistical degree of accuracy. Especially if you have discussion boards that allow employees to ask about the organization and what’s going on, you’ll certainly have some good data based on the language people are using. I’m sure there are linguists out there that can help translate the overall mood based on language and word choice, even though conversations may not be intended to display any mood at all.

What intrigues me is the almost real time nature of this tracking. Rather than running the employee engagement survey once a year or quarter, you could have this assessment on a daily or weekly basis, again depending on the number of employees and the volume of traffic on your enterprise social media sites. While I have no idea if there is currently software out there that does this stuff, the possibilities seem to be quite simple and realistic. HA!! If anyone does it, let me know.

Employee Blogging for Recruiting

I’m not sure how many of you noticed the NYT article a few months ago on MIT student bloggers.

M.I.T.’s bloggers, who are paid $10 an hour for up to four hours a week, offer thoughts on anything that might interest a prospective student. Some offer advice on the application process and the institute’s intense workload; others write about quirkier topics, like warm apple pie topped with bacon and hot caramel sauce, falling down the stairs or trying to set a world record in the game of Mattress Dominos.

Posting untouched student writing — and comments reacting to that writing — does carry some risks. Boring, sloppily written posts do nothing to burnish an institutional image, college admissions officials say, and there is always the possibility of an inflammatory or wildly negative posting.  ((Lewin, Tamar, October 1, 2009.  “M.I.T. Taking Student Blogs to Nth Degree.”  Retrived from

Certainly we have our recruiters on the blogs (look how many recruiting and HR blogs there are nowdays).  And we’re all over linked in and facebook, especially facebook where we can characterize ourselves and our organization with some personality.  But I’m not really sure how many of us have looked into employee blogging.  Employee blogging are not those snippets of quotes that you see on recruiting pages.  They are not the rehearsed lines of “I love my company so much” branding with precision.  Instead, they are the raw, uncensored words of employees and their lives at your organization.

I think that employee blogging holds less risk than student blogging.  Students are expected to say whatever they want, but employees are still bound by the employment contract, and while we may tell people to write whatever they want, at the end of the day, employees still want to keep their jobs.  If you use employee blogs, you’re probably also selecting some of your smartest, most productive performers (and hopefully well compensated engaged employees too).  If this is the case, you have little to worry about.  What you will have is a blogging forum that tells potential employees what a day in the life at your organization really might be like.  Candidates get to hear from the mouths of real practitioners what to expect and what the culture holds, and even what some of the pitfalls are.  If you’re lucky, you not only attract the right people, but you might even weed out those who are not a good fit for the organizational culture.

In a few months, I’ll be hitting year number 5 of blogging at systematicHR.  Come on everyone, it’s time to get in the blogging game already.  🙂

Internal Staffing Through Social Media

We all know that the best way to find a job is by having great professional networks.  God, looking for a job through job boards is possible, but oh so difficult.  Shouldn’t the same go for internal staffing?  Rather than having internal job boards and postings, we should be deploying social medias to facilitate internal staffing transactions.  Here is the idea:

Employee plans around high potential employees, career paths, performance plans, and even succession plans should give us a pretty good view of what the possible next steps of each employee could be.  Rather than sitting around waiting for a position opening to pop up and hoping that the internal employee and the position opening get magically linked up, there are certainly ways to be much more proactive about this.

Often, employee job growth is a function of pure luck.  They either knew the right person and the hiring manager wanted to hire/transfer them, or HR stumbled upon someone and decided it was the right move the get them to the new department.  The science and predictability of moving people around the organization these days is more haphazard than science.

In the external market, people now join groups in social medias to acknowledge their interest in specific jobs or job families.  If you want to get into compensation, you can link up to people who are already in the compensation field.  If I’m an internal employee, why should I not have an internal social network of people who are in the compensation department?  I could connect to people, do informational interviews, ask questions about the skills needed, and understand the realities of working there.  Best yet, rather than hoping that magic occurs, I have a direct link to the people in the compensation department and when an opening actually happens, the probability that I’ll become aware of that opening grow significantly.  The hope is that someone in comp that I’m linked to is just going to let me know as soon as something happens, and not only am I linked and have some good awareness of the requirements, but I’ve also had time to prepare myself and develop the necessary skills.

Internal mobility is something that talent practices can execute within our HR organizations, but we can also put a lot of power in the hands of employees if we can correctly deploy social medias and have our employees adopt the idea that they can actively manage their own futures.  One of the key parts of the employee engagement equation is control.  Not only do employees need to love what they do, but they also need to feel some measure of control over their own destiny.  Deploying internal social medias in this way makes sense on so many levels, and HR really needs to get on the bandwagon of actually starting to deploy this stuff.

Getting on the Non-Social-Media Bandwagon

A friend of mine was recently telling me about taking his son and son’s friends to a movie.  At the end, rather that talking to each other , they all got on their cell phones and started texting each other and friends who were not there about the movie.  It was described to me as one of those revealing moments where my friend realized that the way we communicate is changing in such a fundamental way, and the reach of our communications is so broad real time, that the very fabric of our social existence morphs every few seconds.

We all seem to be waiting to experience the “greatness” that is coming with the implementations of HR social medias.  The possibilities abound and the theories are tremendous.  At the same time, we’ve all experienced the realities of the downside.  Anyone who has a iPhone or Blackberry understands the incredible portability and ubiquitosity ((I reserve the right to make up new words whenever I want to)) of facebook and twitter.  I myself recently posted on the systematicHR twitter page that I felt like missing 5 minutes of feeds pushed me out of the HR loop.  There really is that much going on, and some HR thought leaders are literally pushing out hundreds of tweets a day.

Social medias have the wild possibility of changing the way we live our lives, they literally change the landscape and timeline of our social existence on a minute by minute basis.  Some find these to be fascinating times, and I think they are.  But treating them without some reservations might just get us into trouble.

We’ve all also sat in restaurants with people and found first hand what incredible conversation stoppers social medias on our portable devices can be.  Kids are starting to have trouble doing homework because they can’t turn off the messaging out of facebook.  Heck – not even in restaurants or at home in personal situations, in half of the meetings I go to, someone is sneaking peeks at their blackberry under the table and doing e-mails or facebook updates.

Real time communications are a beautiful thing.  I firmly believe that the transformation in how we work and interact with broader spheres than was not possible a few short years ago will bring tremendous advances in innovation and service models.  But we have also been proceeding down the path that these social medias will self govern – people will moderate the community’s “bad behavior.”  The problem is that in everyday life, we have seen that “bad behavior” permeates every event and activity.  We simply can’t help ourselves and our physical, face to face interactions seem to be suffering.  How do you encourage this and govern it at the same time?


The New Order of HR Existentialism

Thanks to Bill Tincup for bringing us the marvelous series of “what’s next by some of HR’s greatest thought leaders.  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I love Sumser and am proud to call him a friend and mentor.  His entry into “What’s Next” actually did make me laugh out loud, on an airplane of all places.  Here’s a repeat of his thoughts, but many others on Bill’s site that are worth reading:

  • Job Boards Refuse To Sign Do Not Resuscitate Orders. The habits of job hunters outweigh the push towards social media. Job Boards find new lives.
  • Multiple Kafka Moments. People who wake in the new normal will write in their diaries, “On morning, as I woke from an anxious dream, I noticed I had been turned into an enormous bug.” The realities of an economy reset to 75% of the good old days will not sit well. Big mid-term victories for non-democrats.
  • Shrill Voices Proclaiming The Worthlessness of HR Grow Louder. The fundamental problem is that no one has figured out how to use social media effectively. The evangelistas blame the institution and call for revolution in the streets. The institutions yawn and demand variable pay packages.  ((Sumser, John, December 18, 2009.  “What’s Next by…John Sumser.”))

I’ll admit that it has been quite a few years since I have read Kafka (hey, at least I’ve read him),  but this is absolutely brilliant.  I remember after “2001” it took HR until 2004 to get their budgets and spending habits back.  HR technology and many other areas of the HR function not only lost momentum as the economy shifted south, but they also lost great ground.  I predicted that this downturn was going to be short enough and mild enough that organization leadership would continue to see HR’s core strategies as valuable and maintain investments.  Boy was I wrong.  The problem is that not only did we see budgets plummet, but I agree with Sumser that we’ve seen some of the good old days come back.  Those of us who were planning in 2008 see ourselves replanning in 2010 because our old plans no longer fit the new organizational realities and models going forward.  We have new mandates and have to execute them with 25% less budget.

I hope that proclamations of HR worthlessness don’t get louder.  But it is true that we just can’t figure out social medias.  Part of the problem is that as we exit the days of ERP and inhouse IT kingdoms, CIO’s seem to be grappling with figuring out how to keep pieces of that kingdom.  We are in constant battles with IT and other groups with who social media technologies should be owned by, and we don’t always know how to play nice from a collaborative standpoint when the owner of such topics and technologies is largely undefined.  Marketing can do their own thing with customer social media technologies, but we really have to control our own destiny in regards to employee, candidate and alumni experiences.

One last thing, Sharepoint is a good start, but please, nobody tell me that it’s the be-all-end-all of social medias again!!