The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Creating Effective Collaboration Networks

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If having the best talent is almost useless if you can’t get them to collaborate, then to some degree our mission in HR is assuring that we jump to the next step after we acquire and retain that talent.  However, the technologies I’ve pointed to don’t really work yet for HR.  Creating and mapping talent into collaboration and innovation networks isn’t as easy as saying it should be so.  What we find in the mapping exercises of networks is that there are clear hubs of information that consistently facilitate the most information sharing or idea generation.  These hubs (individuals or small groups of talented people) can be identified and should be.

Brokers who serve as bridges across a number of subgroups within networks are often quite influential.  “Bridging” relationships uniquely position brokers to knit together an entire network and often make these interactions the most efficient means of gathering and disseminating information in a high-touch way. Brokers also tend to have the best perspective on what aspects of a reorganization will work across different subgroups and a high degree of ground-level credibility with people from disparate functions, locations, or occupations. What’s more, if management can persuade brokers to be early adopters and proponents of change, it can significantly boost the odds that a big transformational effort—involving a major cultural shift, postmerger integration, or the implementation of new technology—will succeed.  ((Cross, Robert, Parise, Salvatore and Wiess, Leigh.  April, 2007.  “The role of networks in organizational change.”  Retrived from

What’s particularly interesting to me is that the authors go on to point out that the broker is not necessarily the influencers who are much more easily identified.  These should clearly not be confused as you want to center your hubs around the brokers who can drive the most advances to your development processes.

I’m not sure what type of a competency you’d create to identify the “broker” but I think it’s possibly one of the most important first steps we in HR can take to begin involving ourselves in the innovation and collaboration processes.  It’s a combination of organizational understanding, availability to other employees, and the willingness to coach, share and assist others.  The brokers have a high level of trust throughout the organization and can help bring others together.  These skills are the foundations and you may already have them identified.  Bringing these skills together through analytics might just tell you who your key brokers are.

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3 responses to “Creating Effective Collaboration Networks”

  1. systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology » Creating Effective Collaboration Networks

  2. Sean Rehder Avatar

    This is why we need a TMO … Talent Management Office within medium to large sized companies. Think PMO .. Project Management Office…many companies have these.

    In the TMO you have “Talent Managers (TM)” who have access to external talent, internal talent, vendors (business partners) and the business lines. They “serve” and “support” their client, they do not report to them. Think how an army medic reports to “battalion” but “serves and supports” the platoon.

    TM’s most likely come from the business line with proven successes. They’re not someone’s lackey…but a respected business leader in one way or another. Smart…success driven…love challenges and watch the company’s stock price.

    HR is stereotypically ran by your fourth grade teacher (mine was Mrs. Burr), the TMO is run by your high school football coach (mine was Coach Grable). They love what they do and need to win to the point that you think they take it a little too far and might just be a little crazy.

  3. Steve Roesler Avatar

    It always amazes me that organizations will recognize and pay outside “brokers” to identify and put good deals together. But it seems that it is assumed the same things will happen automatically because “we’re all on the same team.”

    You’ve rightfully identified that it’s not so.

    Sean’s got the right idea and a simple, concrete way to think about it. The kind of talents a person needs to have for the role include the ability to look at the organization from a total business perspective, accurately spot and assess talent in others, know the organization and its people intimately, and have the credibility and mobility to bring the right people together at the right moment.

    Strangely, as I read the post it sounded as if you were describing a role that I frequently play!

    I’m an external consultant and have had very long-term relationships with corporate clients for the past 30 years. What I’ve realized is this: the fact that I am not part of the internal hierarchy allows a certain mobility and trust when it comes to noting someone’s observed talent (vs. their job title), knowing what’s happening around the organization, and then bringing the principals together.

    So now I’m wondering: Is this a role that can be played even more effectively from the outside?

    The question is not meant to be self-serving, but is really a legitimate one based on what I see with internal struggles for collaboration and talent.

    Waddya think?