The ever-increasing presence of the workforce on social media presents opportunities as well as risks for organizations. While on the one hand, we read about social media embarrassments happening to organizations, on the other we see that social media activities by workers and candidates can enhance a company's brand and provide insight into what individuals are, or can become, influencers in the social media sphere.
HR can play a key role in helping organizations make the most value out of the activities and presence of workers and candidates, while at the same time also helping to manage the risks that come with the permanence and viral nature of social media.
What is Missing from Understanding Our Workforce?
"If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three-times more productive."
Lew Platt, Former Chairman, President, CEO, Hewlett-Packard
What Lew Platt recognized was that organizations only have a partial understanding of what their workforce is capable of. This lack of understanding impacts the company in several negative ways:
1. A particular skill that the company needs to access in one part of the organization might exist somewhere else, but there is no record that the skill exists, so the need is unfulfilled.
2. As market conditions change rapidly, the company needs to know strategic options, but some options are missed entirely because the company doesn't know that sufficient capability already exists to enable those options.
3. Employees may miss out on opportunities to demonstrate how their hidden skills could create new value to the company.
Why don't companies have that more complete picture of their workforce capabilities " that is, not know what they know" One very good explanation is that companies put most of their efforts into rating their workforce according to the jobs and roles they are filling today. This is the essence of two important talent management processes: recruiting and performance appraisals.
In recruiting, a set of requirements is put together for a job, either explicitly or indirectly through a job description. During the recruiting process, much of the attention is paid towards whether the candidate has the qualifications, the skills, the experience and the cultural fit to be successful in the role. This makes a lot of sense.
In the performance appraisal process, an employee is measured on how well they performed the functions of their role and in an effort to help the employee do even better next time, they are also measured on proficiency in the competencies that are deemed to be key in doing that job. Again, the logic is impeccable.
But in both these cases, two adages come to mind:
1. What gets measured is what gets managed.
2. You only see what you are looking for.
In other words, the fact that the current roles the workforce are performing are the basis for measuring which capabilities the workforce has, makes them the only capabilities to be measured. What was initially meant to be a positive, i.e. identify what is needed to perform well and measure it, in order that it can be managed, comes with the unintended negative consequence of overshadowing the other capabilities the workforce has.
This also comes with an employee engagement price, for the measurements and management of workforce capabilities is to typically focus on where the workforce comes up short. Again, it makes sense to do this, since improving a capability that appears to result in improved performance benefits, both the individual through improved performance ratings and the company through improved productivity. But this is based on the assumption that the capabilities identified and their required proficiencies are the only attributes of the individual that matter. Anything else the individual brings that results in high performance, while resulting in a desired performance outcome, often goes unrecognized or underappreciated at best.
As social media begins to occupy a more important part in current and future roles in organizations, businesses must incorporate social media savvy and innovation into job descriptions and expectations. These new measures could provide insight into how well someone can use social media tools to influence communities and decision makers; keep abreast of trends in fast-moving industries; present a positive brand image for the organization around thought leadership, customer focus, social responsibility; and coordinate and collaborate with partners. These measures should demonstrate the "social capital" the individual has invested in and developed over time. Without this dimension, "short cut" methods may generate a narrow set of positive metrics that do not have real, long-lasting benefits to the organization.
How Workforce Reputation Management Helps HR Harness Social Media
With hundreds of petabytes of social media data flowing across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, businesses are tapping technology solutions to effectively leverage social for HR. Workforce reputation management technology helps organizations discover, mobilize and retain talent by providing insight into the social reputation and influence of the workforce while also helping organizations monitor employee social media policy compliance and mitigate social media risk.
There are three major ways that workforce reputation management technology can play a strategic role to support HR:
1. Improve Awareness and Decisions on Talent
Many organizations measure the skills and competencies that they know they need today, but are unaware of what other skills and competencies their workforce has that could be essential tomorrow. How about whether your workforce has the reputation and influence to make their skills and competencies more effective" Many organizations don't have insight into the social media "reach" their workforce has, which is becoming more critical to business performance.
These features help organizations, managers, and employees improve many talent processes and decision making, including the following:
2. Talent Search and Discovery
The right technology helps organizations find information on people that might otherwise be hidden. By leveraging access to candidate and worker social profiles as well as their social relationships, workforce reputation management provides companies with a more complete picture of what their knowledge, skills, and attributes are and what they can in turn access. This more complete information helps to find the right talent both outside the organization as well as the right, perhaps previously hidden talent, within the organization to fill roles and staff projects, particularly those roles and projects that are required in reaction to fast-changing opportunities and circumstances.
3. Reputation Brings Credibility
Workforce reputation management technology provides a clearer picture of how candidates and workers are viewed by their peers and communities across a wide range of social reputation and influence metrics. This information is less subject to individual bias and can impact critical decision-making.
Knowing the individual's reputation and influence enables the organization to predict how well their capabilities and behaviors will have a positive effect on desired business outcomes. Many roles that have the highest impact on overall business performance are dependent on the individual's influence and reputation.
In addition, reputation and influence measures offer a very tangible source of feedback for workers, providing them with insight that helps them develop themselves and their careers and see the effectiveness of those efforts by tracking changes over time in their reputation and influence.
The following are some examples of the different reputation and influence measures of the workforce that Workforce Reputation Management could gather and analyze:
The Vital Ingredient of Workforce Reputation Management: Employee Participation
"Nothing about me, without me."
Valerie Billingham, "Through the Patient's Eyes", Salzburg Seminar Session 356, 1998
Since data resides primarily in social media, a question arises: what manner is used to collect that data" While much of social media activity is publicly accessible (as many who wished otherwise have learned to their chagrin), the social norms of social media have developed to put some restrictions on what is acceptable behavior and by whom. Disregarding these norms risks a repercussion firestorm.
One of the more recognized norms is that while individuals can follow and engage with other individual's public social activity (e.g. Twitter updates) fairly freely, the more an organization does this unprompted and without getting permission from the individual beforehand, the more likely the organization risks a totally opposite outcome from the one desired.
Instead, the organization must look for permission from the individual, which can be met with resistance. That resistance comes from not knowing how the information will be used, how it will be shared with others, and not receiving enough benefit in return for granting permission. As the quote above about patient concerns and rights succinctly states, no one likes not feeling in control of the information about themselves, or the uncertainty about where it will be used. This is well understood in consumer social media (i.e. permission-based marketing) and is applicable to workforce reputation management. However, asking permission leaves open the very real possibility that no one, or so few, will grant permission, resulting in a small set of data with little usefulness for the company.
Connecting Individual Motivation to Organization Needs
So what is it that makes an individual decide to grant an organization access to the data it wants" It is when the individual's own motivations are in alignment with the organization's objectives. In the case of workforce reputation management, when the individual is motivated by a desire for increased visibility and career growth opportunities to advertise their skills and level of influence and reputation, they are aligned with the organizations' objectives; to fill resource needs or strategically build better awareness of what skills are present in the workforce, as well as levels of influence and reputation.
Individuals can see the benefit of granting access permission to the company through multiple means. One is through simple social awareness; they begin to discover that peers who are getting more career opportunities are those who are signed up for workforce reputation management. Another is where companies take the message directly to the individual; we think you would benefit from signing up with our workforce reputation management solution. Another, more strategic approach is to make reputation management part of a larger Career Development effort by the company; providing a wide set of tools to help the workforce find ways to plan and take action to achieve their career aspirations in the organization.
An effective mechanism, that facilitates connecting the visibility and career growth motivations of the workforce with the larger context of the organization's business objectives, is to use game mechanics to help individuals transform their career goals into concrete, actionable steps, such as signing up for reputation management. This works in favor of companies looking to use workforce reputation because the workforce is more apt to see how it fits into achieving their overall career goals, as well as seeing how other participation brings additional benefits.
Once an individual has signed up with reputation management, not only have they made themselves more visible within the organization and increased their career growth opportunities, they have also enabled a tool that they can use to better understand how their actions and behaviors impact their influence and reputation. Since they will be able to see their reputation and influence measurements change over time, they will gain better insight into how reputation and influence impacts their effectiveness in a role, as well as how their behaviors and skill levels in turn affect their influence and reputation.
This insight can trigger much more directed, and effective, efforts by the individual to improve their ability to perform at a higher level and become more productive. The increased sense of autonomy the individual experiences, in linking the insight they gain to the actions and behavior changes they make, greatly enhances their engagement with their role as well as their career prospects within the company.
Workforce reputation management takes the wide range of disparate data about the workforce being produced across various social media platforms and transforms it into accessible, relevant, and actionable information that helps the organization achieve its desired business objectives. Social media holds untapped insights about your talent, brand and business, and workforce reputation management can help unlock them. Imagine - if you could find the hidden secrets of your businesses, how much more productive and efficient would your organization be?
Mark Bennett is a Director of Product Strategy at Oracle. Mark focuses on setting the strategic vision and direction for tools that help organizations understand, shape, and leverage the capabilities of their workforce to achieve business objectives, as well as help individuals work effectively to achieve their goals and navigate their own growth. His combination of a deep technical background in software design and development, coupled with a broad knowledge of business challenges and thinking in today's globalized, rapidly changing, technology accelerated economy, has enabled him to identify and incorporate key innovations that are central to Oracle Fusion's unique value proposition. Mark has over the course of his career been in charge of the design, development, and strategy of Talent Management products and the design and development of cutting edge software that is better equipped to handle the increasingly complex demands of users while also remaining easy to use. Follow him @mpbennett