Enabling 'Find-ability' and Collaboration
To accelerate employee and organizational performance, companies need to create easily accessible "rich profiles" of their workers. Technology vendors are making it easier to create meaningful employee systems of record -- but HR leaders must push for the processes they need
By Sameer Patel
As organizations get more global, more "conglomerated" and more outsourced, a vital nut that needs to be cracked is the efficient "find-ability" of people across the company's ecosystem. If your employees, your prospects and your partners don't know who to engage with, they can't ... well ... engage effectively.
Organizations generally have a good handle on common work processes, and they often do project-based work effectively as well.
But, then there are the "exceptions" -- those unpredictable and complex incidents that require a different set of experts or problem owners, some known but most unknown.
If an organization's employees or stakeholders can't engage with the right people, they can't share or deal with day-to-day exceptions effectively. And ultimately, they can't collaborate effectively to impact performance.
But reliable intelligence on who to reach out to is arguably the most neglected utility inside organizations today. Thanks to mergers and acquisitions and globalization, access to the best brains is fragmented across multiple systems.
And even for those organizations that are fortunate to not have multiple systems of employee records, the information regarding who the best minds are and what they know is woefully incomplete. It is limited to what HR formally knows and publishes, and usually is not available when and where people need it the most.
When you factor in the growing reliance on a contingent workforce, and on channel partners to improve global reach, this problem only gets amplified.
Effective and connected enterprises need the right players to get the job done.
The race for market leadership via a new connected enterprise design is well underway at many global organizations and we're seeing the very first iterations of what well-crafted identity profiles can be.
For example, SuperVALU, the giant grocery store conglomerate, is using social profiles to connect store managers across all of its brands to enable sharing of tactical, hyper-local strategies to cater to the needs of each community it services.
Nationwide Insurance connects claims adjusters with internal experts to effectively serve customers in real time when an accident or other type of hardship occurs.
KPMG Australia is set on improving its margins by connecting people and knowledge so that work is not duplicated on subsequent client projects and teams are more effectively resourced to solve customer challenges.
Based on what I've seen across scores of organizations, few have integrated all four dimensions of a meaningful employee system of record, but many are well on their way.
For organizations to collaborate effectively, assessing the real value of its employees needs to not only project what HR thinks of the individual, but also needs to be based on the merits of the individual's work.
The focus, to date, in most organizations has been on manager or peer reviews. And that, of course is necessary. But to comprehensively judge an employee's abilities as a potential contributor or a new team member, or even an expert on a one-off question, we need to get a handle on other factors --- such as talents, connections, experiences and co-workers' views.
These items need to be available, not just in some separate HR system, but where the workers are. That could be inside "input" systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning, Business Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management, and/or collaboration and productivity applications where workers generate output.
We need to expose what employees consider to be their strong suits, who they connect with most and in what context, to complement HR's structured view of given contributors. Together, this projects a "rich profile" of each employee and is a more robust footprint of capabilities.
Another dimension of employee systems of records is found on public resumes -- such as those stored on LinkedIn -- which can highlight previous jobs, industry or geographic market expertise, participation in public groups and what former co-workers believe are the individual's strengths.
Add to that information each individual's personal assessment of his or her own capabilities as well as what current co-workers think of the individual's performance and abilities.
The value of this highly enriched data set on real employee value may well belong to HR as it always has, but the opportunity is much larger than has been traditionally captured as human capital insight.
It's now highly tuned to empower in-the-flow talent brokering as dynamic teams of employees, customers, partners and even suppliers huddle together to solve problems and ship products at the speed and quality that today's highly informed customer expects.
That's infinitely more powerful than a general-purpose resource management profile that's visited primarily at the time of hiring, reallocation, (sometimes sub-optimal) performance review and retrenchment.
If you stop to think about it, the real performing happens between these events. That's when employee insight is needed the most.
to performance are significant, including:
You now have the opportunity to fold in important behavioral data -- such as degree of sharing, helping, engaging, contributing and involving -- giving HR a broader set of data points about the employees' allegiance to the firm and, dare I say, employee lifetime value (with the company, at least).
These important data points complement traditional performance metrics giving you a sense of how critical each employee might be to a business unit, a product line, a geographic territory and, ultimately, to the company as a whole.
Today's customer expects us to break through organization silos and rally around their questions and other needs. It now becomes much more efficient to align business objectives, and to measure and dynamically optimize how different functions come together to support say, field marketing, product launches, customer pitches or support inquiries.
There are crucial lessons to be learned here in terms of not only identifying who the rock stars are, but also how to institutionalize well-performing processes and interaction models going forward, based on who did what, and how.
CFOs mostly learn about failing investments after the fact. In-the-flow analytics gleaned from collaboration can give managers distinct insight into how projects are performing as they happen, if the resource mix is right, and again, who to keep, replace or remove, before it's too late.
That's a really powerful outcome from amalgamating both traditional knowledge from HR, and what our collaborative programs can supplement.
But Will the Technology Play Nice?
It's all theory until the right strategic know-how is leveraged, and the enabling technology plays nice. For the technology to play nice, it takes three elements:
1. The ability for HR to collaborate as a team to make this a reality.
2. A back-to-the-drawing-board design on how such information is collected, visualized, mobilized and acted upon.
3. A fluid connectivity architecture and software partnership model that enables the connectivity between structured HR and collaborative infrastructure in the context of your business execution needs.
Process and tech innovation around "people insight" and reputation is on a tear at the moment, both from HR and collaboration platform vendors.
On the HR front, companies such as Workday provide a decisive device-first design that accounts for how and where we need to consume people insight so we can act; internal feed-based streams for HR collaboration, yet necessary third-party software integration and extensibility to connect people profiles with collaborative systems.
Oracle has also given Rich Profiles and Unified Communications pole position in its design across its Fusion Applications and with the recent addition of Oracle Social Network, insight emanating from structured and unstructured interaction will start to come together.
SAP is taking mobile very seriously and from what I just heard and saw, SAP Career OnDemand has HR collaboration front and center.
Other HR providers, such as Saba and SuccessFactors, have elected to sport their own collaboration platforms.
Finally, promising upstarts are providing the right human capital intelligence nuggets and add-ons that sit alongside your HR systems of record. Rypple, for instance, is powering "social performance management" for customers such as Facebook and Mozilla.
From a collaboration platform perspective, organizations such as Salesforce.com (Chatter), Jive Software, Yammer, VMWare (Socialcast), SocialText, IBM (Connections) and TIBCO (Tibbr) offer ready hooks into HR and other process applications to bring structured and unstructured identity information together. The devil is in the details but conceptually, collaboration vendors are now embracing business processes.
Across all these choices, one important factor remains constant: Relatively speaking, today's systems make it easier to amalgamate the four dimensions of meaningful employee systems of record. So, it's important for HR leaders to push their technology partners to address this desired end state.
The focus thus far has been on collaboration tools, which serves as a kitchen sink of find-ability, engagement and collaboration capabilities. That's fine, but the first step to efficient collaboration needs to focus on "people insight" and comprehensive identity.
That, then, opens the door to efficient resourcing, then better co-creation and problem solving, and ultimately, business performance. Get identity wrong, and you've handicapped your odds of success, no matter how shiny your social tools or how big your budget.
HR as a function has been beaten down (emotionally) to a pulp over the last decade. It's this group that has had the unwanted pleasure of, on one hand, getting near zero credit for those very rock stars they sourced who were responsible for blazing performance in good times, but yet were handed the dirty job of laying off thousands in bad times.
Now is their time to design for and to transition into the ultimate brokers of real people intelligence. Then, they must trade on that indispensable currency as the rest of the leadership sizes up what effectively competing and winning in the 21st century will entail from a resource and material standpoint.
Sameer Patel works with global organizations to improve employee, partner and customer performance with the effective use of enterprise social and collaborative approaches, and technology.
His clients during the past 15 years
have included McKessonHBOC, WR Wrigley Jr. Co., CA, Intel, KPMG, Nike, Oracle, The Sabre Group, Grupo Televisa (Mx), and The World Bank. Sameer has been cited on the promise and pitfalls of collaboration, and trends in enterprise software
in media such as CNBC Business,
The New York Times, CIO.com and
Forbes. Follow him on Twitter @sameerpatel or on his blog Pretzel Logic.
December 1, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications