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Archive for the ‘engagement’ Category

Making more Top Talent with better job fit

Posted by Meg Bear on October 16, 2009

TRAs a Maximizer theme the concept of Top Talent is an especially personal one.   In fact, I have managed to get a team of directs that are all Achievers, which was something I knew about them, before I even knew there was such a theme.

When I think about using a Talent solution to get business value, I have to know what business leaders want.  What keeps a business leader up at night? Is it wondering if their team will meet their Performance bell curve?  Or if they will be using a 3 or 5 point rating scale?  I’m guessing not.  In fact the entire performance process is a means to an end, to a business person (or conversely a PITA but I’d rather not cover that part in this blog).

What a business leader wants is to be successful.  Successful in their business, seen as capable to their leadership and exceeding on their objectives.  For business leaders to scale they need teams who are able to deliver for them.  Here is where we get back to top talent and job fit.

When people are doing the job that is best suited to their strengths, they become top talent.  Making that connection between individual motivation and job role is not just a touchy-feely ideal, it’s smart business.

The better I can position people to do what they do best, the more they do for me. The more they do for me, the more I can do for my boss and my organization.  So, to me as a business leader, the more top talent I have the more successful I am.

So what I want from a talent solution, is to help me get people aligned into job roles based upon their strengths.  When I can do this, I get all the goodness from the rest of the talent strategies.  Goal alignment and attainment become easy,  engagement improves and overall output  is optimized.

To make all this work for me, I need more data.  I need data that I have never captured before.  Not just your competencies but your strengths.  Not just your career plan, but your motivations.  The more rich data I have, the better job I can do getting people to become top talent.

So now we are back to systems and scale.  Systems today have a better ability to gather and make use of data.  With the rise of social software, and a heightened awareness of the importance of a personal brand, people are volunteering more data than ever before.

These are exciting times for those of us who are allowed to find unique opportunities between technology and business. For awhile now I’ve been anticipating a shift in what defines a talent solution.  Initially I thought it was just my own personal boredom with having done this for so long, but now I realize that what I have really been doing is a lot of thin slicing to get to the most obvious of “a ha” conclusions.

The job of a talent solution is not really to measure talent.  The goal of a talent solution is to use the measurement of talent to drive better business results.  If you are just doing the former and not getting the latter you are missing out.  It’s time to think bigger about what can and should be possible with technology.

Are you doing that today?  Is that your talent strategy?  If not why not?  What is your plan?  Hit me with the comments and give me your ideas, I promise to use them for your benefit.

Posted in Career Development, engagement, Innovation, Job Fit, leadership, performance, profiles, social network, talent review, top talent, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

You Might Learn Something from a Pirate

Posted by Alex Drexel on October 4, 2009

BlackbeardAn article by Caleb Crain in the September 7th New Yorker provides a fascinating look into the business of being a pirate in the 17th century.  They were in some respects, quite forward thinking for their time when it came to keeping the crew aligned and motivated.  Most of us wouldn’t associate pay equity, performance based compensation and incentives, healthcare, democratic/bottom-up approaches to decision making, and racial tolerance with pirates, but research suggests otherwise.  Most of those practices came from the necessity of circumstances, rather than the existence of any higher ideals.

Before anyone was accepted into the crew, they had to agree to articles that dictated how booty, power and responsibility were shared on the ship – it created an at-will association that provided order.  Crew members knew in advance of any activity exactly what share they would receive and any add-on incentives they would be awarded for specific accomplishments.  Furthermore, an attempt was made to balance the shares paid out to the internal worth of each job – this included pegging the share the Pirate CEO (lead captain) received relative to the average man on deck.

For example, before the buccaneers, led by Captain Morgan, attacked Panama in 1670, it was agreed that Morgan would get 1/100 of the loot, while the rest would be divided in shares among the men.  Captains under Morgan got 8 shares, while each man got a single share. Those with specific skills received additional amounts; each participating surgeon got 200 pesos and any carpenters got an additional 100.  And there was incentive pay; anyone who captured a Spanish flag received 50 pesos, and the act of throwing a grenade into a fort got you 5 extra shiny pesos.  The agreement provided insurance against disability where the loss of an eye would yield 100 pesos and 1500 would be received in the unfortunate event of losing both legs!

Risk taking behavior was further encouraged through a crude form of estate planning (called matelotage), where two pirates agreed to keep the loot of whoever died first and distribute a portion to the dead man’s friends and family.

The system of paying out shares made every crew member an owner-operator which provided some alignment around the primary goal.  The democratic nature of decision making helped create buy-in and a sense of fairness among those who voluntarily served on the ship.  All decisions were voted on, including determining who would fill the role of captain.  The captain would have the authority to make executive decisions only in the heat of battle, otherwise, the crew members would have their say.  The captain could be deposed at any time by a vote, and was more or less seen as like any other crew member – the captain slept on deck with the rest of the men.

So while no one would agree with their profession, you might start to wonder if your organization is run as well as a pirate ship.  Is it?

Posted in Compensation, engagement, goals, leadership, management, teams | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Talking About OraTweet in Social Media at Work

Posted by Mark Bennett on September 25, 2009

front cover - AJ

Jake from our friends at AppsLab, posted earlier this week about the soon-to-be-released book, Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance. It’s authored by three of our Oracle colleagues who specialize in organizational development: Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcade Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis. Connect is cited frequently and there are quotes from both Paul and Jake.

There’s a quote in the book from me related to how we use OraTweet, written by Noel Portugal, internally to help developers improve their productivity. I had first written about OraTweet a year ago in a post describing how companies were finding business value in using Twitter, both externally as well as internally.

Arthur, Jackie and Mary Ellen have put together a practical, use case-based guide that provides strategies for how to effectively deploy these tools in order to achieve your productivity, innovation, development and engagement objectives.

If you are attending the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld, you can find the authors at two 30 minute book signing slots:  Tuesday 1:00 – 1:30, and Thursday 1:30 – 2:00. The book is available for preorder now and should hit store shelves mid-October.

Posted in engagement, Innovation, productivity, Uncategorized, web2.0 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Da Vinci Conundrum

Posted by Ken Klaus on September 18, 2009

Da Vinci Flying Screw

Leonardo Da Vinci was a very gifted man to say the least.  He was an accomplished painter, sculpture, engineer, architect, mathematician, musician, inventor, and, if you believe Dan Brown, a keeper of really big secrets.  And I can’t help but wonder if Leonardo awoke each day and agonized over how to spend his time: “Should I finish the Mono Lisa, get Peter added to The Last Supper, finish the designs for that flying screw thingy, continue working on the four armed – four legged man sketch (Note to self: I need to come up with a better name for this drawing), or maybe just work on my journals – so much to do, so little time.”

Few of us are as gifted as Leonardo, but most of us have excelled in at least one or two areas.  And chances are many of us have also found a way to incorporate our interests and skill set into the work we do.  If you have, then my guess is you’re also getting pretty high marks on your performance evaluations, because a high level of engagement coupled with the right skill set is the perfect recipe for success.  So if you’re like me, and not like Da Vinci, chances are your skill set is pretty narrow; which means your ability to be successful will be limited to one or maybe two areas of expertise.   Unfortunately this situation leaves many of us with a conundrum: how do we remain successful in our chosen vocation (success = engagement + the application of the right skill set) without succumbing to the mind numbing boredom that so often comes after years or even decades in the same role?  For some the answer to this puzzle will be to advance to a new role, adapting their current competencies or learning additional skills which will help them succeed in their new jobs.  But for others, who may not want or be ready to change roles, remaining focused and engaged can be a real challenge. 

Though the solution to this problem will differ from person to person and even from job to job, one fact remains constant: engagement is a choice.  We must choose to be focused, motivated, optimistic, and plugged-in.  When we’re feeling tired or beaten down, when we want to retreat and hideaway, we have to summon the courage to connect with others and challenge ourselves to move beyond what we are feeling.  We have to go on the offensive and not give in to frustration, boredom, or despair.  Often this will require some creative thinking on our part.  We might have to look beyond the boundaries of our job description and engage in tasks that will renew our focus and top-up our engagement.  We could join a blog – as a reader, responder, or better yet, an author.  Or grow our professional network by joining an on-line group, attending a conference, or simply finding others outside our organization that have a similar job function.  We could also mentor a new employee or informally advise a colleague from another department wanting to make a change.  Our choices are limited only by our imagine and our determination.  So if you’re feeling tired, unmotivated, or just plain bored it’s time to go on the offensive and take action.  The truth is I’ve been feeling a little defensive myself lately; but I’m already starting to feel better.  Cheers!

Posted in engagement, performance, social network | 6 Comments »

One, but not the same

Posted by Mark Bennett on July 3, 2009

3220803117_22cf199b2f_mThis weekend marks the anniversary of the birth of a nation whose motto is about unity of purpose while acknowledging the differences in those who contribute to that purpose. That’s a very interesting duality that effective networks share; each person in the network has unique capabilities and individual goals, and different ways in which they contribute, but the network is unified in purpose.

As social networking tools gain acceptance in the enterprise, folks are recognizing that first, networks have always existed inside companies and second, that these network tools are more about making the networks more visible and more easily acted upon and utilized. As a result, when properly used, these tools accelerate productivity, innovation and engagement. However, like any tools, used improperly, these tools can damage those objectives as well.

Previously, we discussed how networks are inherently “opt-in” since they are usually not formal organizational structures. This means social factors such as trust play a large role in whether people will participate and make the network effective. But even after you achieve participation, the potential to wreck the network still exists in subtle and insidious ways.

One way is in the very structure of networks themselves. We know that the more connections that exist in a network, the higher the likelihood of information finding its way to the right person. Of course, everybody knows you can’t have ridiculously high levels of connections (although whether the number in 150+ or 1,500+ is debated) but is it right to assume that people in the network who have a significantly lower number of connections than others are somehow not as effective (or vice-versa?) As Steve Boese commented on a previous post, simply measuring the number (or extent) of connections doesn’t really tell you whether or not it’s working; it depends on the role or the person’s objectives. It can go beyond that as well; in some roles, some individuals might simply be more effective having only a tight set of connections with just a few of which reach outside their close circle of colleagues. Now, imagine a manager who simply measures effective use of the network by number and extent of connections dinging that individual for not having a high enough “social score.” Why risk their departure or reduced participation if the individual was an expert in a particularly strategic area and had contributed perfectly well through a “bridge” connection into the network?

What’s a better way? Managers need to look at the big picture and understand first what the purpose of the various networks are that their employees are members of. In that context, the manager can than understand what role an employee has in that network and then coach the employee if it seems that either the network is not getting what it needs, or even more effectively, if the employee is feeling they aren’t getting the most use from the network.

The most energetic proponents of network tools in the enterprise are not surprisingly heavy users of these tools. As such, they can easily fall into the perfectly natural human behavior of thinking other participants should be just as active, or more subtlety, not pay effective attention to those who aren’t as active. They can unwittingly alienate the very kind of employee that otherwise might not have had as much voice or impact on the success of the company from using the very tool that would have overcome the obstacle of organization structure, etc. Especially during the delicate initial phase of encouraging the use of network tools, it’s a good idea to look out for the non-productive effects of social pressure. As the culture becomes more familiar with their use, social norms will start to take effect and help people understand the different ways everyone contributes. Gradually, job and role requirements can then be added where appropriate in order to more clearly communicate expectations and guide career development.

Photo by: pursuethepassion

Posted in collaboration, community, engagement, Innovation, social network | 8 Comments »

Is Bacon at the Center of the Universe?

Posted by Mark Bennett on June 7, 2009


Not here either.

No, this isn’t a cosmological question regarding pork products, but really about Kevin Bacon and his position in the Movie Universe. Although not at the center, he is closer than a lot of other actors. Understanding the principles behind this can help us find ways to develop talent more quickly and effectively, which benefits both the employee as well as the employer.

We already discussed the principles that show how social networks can help form “weak ties” that foster innovation and breakthrough thinking. It turns out that the book, Driving Results Through Social Networks points out another principle* from the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It can help shed light on how networks and how they are developed can contribute to the success of high performers. This is achieved by building the right kind of network, which not only benefits the individual (and thereby serves to motivate them to put effort into this activity), but there’s a big payoff for the organization as well with these better-built networks.

Authors Cross and Thomas point out that being more central in a network (where the network is the total of all the people and their connections to each other) typically means having more numerous and diverse contacts and therefore closer access to a greater number and wider variety of information, ideas, resources, and opportunities. Note that it’s the combination of number and diversity that generally lead to this. For example, having a huge number of connections to a very narrow segment of a network probably means the connections are highly overlapping, which limits access to the rest of the network.

By having that closer access, an individual can more effectively tap into the network in order to achieve more than they otherwise would, be it goals, career development, etc. In turn, the company gets more productivity, increased innovation, and enhanced engagement from having employees more effectively connected.

There is a danger in looking at this single-minded. For example, grading everyone on a one size fits all “centrality score” is apt to backfire. How central in a network one is helps some individuals more than others based on their role, for instance. The definition of the network as all the people and their connections leaves open some questions. In some cases, you may not want to include every department in the company, but rather the pertinent departments from across all the business units. For some individuals, it makes sense to include more external networks, like industry groups, along with the key groups within the organization. Other individuals might be very central in a particularly intense area of expertise within the company. Remember that all the members of the network contribute to it in a wide variety of ways and it doesn’t serve any purpose to try to force everyone to be the same – that defeats the very usefulness of the network itself.


*Briefly, the principle works like this: while there are a large number of actors, there are hardly any that are more than 3 “steps” away from Kevin Bacon (he is only two steps or less away from almost 25% and three steps or less away from almost 90%). By having so few steps to so many other actors, Kevin is better positioned than the average actor to find out about and exploit an opportunity. Of course, we all know his talent, experience, “look”, etc. all affect whether an opportunity will be opened to him, but a moment’s reflection tells us that these “connections” (to use the cliché) have a big impact as well.

How does this work and how did his network develop this way? Those two are related. By virtue of a combination of the total number of stars with whom he worked as well as who those stars were and with whom they’ve worked, Kevin has a network that reaches relatively quickly to a greater share of actors. This came about by his choices on what movies to star in and/or with whom to work. It’s likely that there is more diversity in the genres, cast, etc. in each of those choices. In contrast, other actors, whether due to type casting or personal preference, had made more narrow selections and their networks are “skewed” towards one area of the network. For example, someone might select for or get typecast as the slapstick comedian or the horror movie queen, and that would restrict the other actors they work with, reducing the share of the total network they have access to, and in turn impact the kinds of opportunities they get.

Photo: Sean Munson

At the time, I thought this was an interesting way to label their crosswalks. It turns out there’s more too it: “On September 25, 2004 Wallace’s Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be the center of the Universe. Specifically, a sewer access cover was declared to be the precise location of the center of the Universe. A specially made manhole cover was made to mark the spot. It bears the words ‘Center of the Universe. Wallace, Idaho.'”

(Fly to in Google Earth | See in Yuan.CC Maps)

Posted in analytics, Career Development, collaboration, engagement, Innovation, productivity, social network, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Are you a talent magnet?

Posted by Justin Field on May 26, 2009

I was reading materials on performance management and came across the concept of being a talent magnet.  We know that we want to retain top talent and we do a lot of good things to keep high potential / high performers in the organisation.  But taking the organisation perspective, and particularly the manager perspective, do you, as a manager have a good track record of retaining high potential / high performing employees?  Are you a talent magnet?

A manager who is a talent magnet will, over time, develop a reputation for leading high performance teams and for developing and retaining key employees.  The organisation will know this and respect them for this. 

Managers who lose talent, or who develop a reputation for driving talent away from their teams, will naturally end up with mediocre or low performing teams. 

I am hoping that we can find a good way to measure this, as a talent metric:  talent magnetism.  If you have a good idea of developing a metric for this, leave a comment on this post.  Personally I am thinking about the rate of loss of top talent, over a five year period (or some similar rolling average).  I think a long time frame, like five years, is really required in order to see the true trend regarding a manager’s track record.

Posted in engagement, Innovation, performance, top talent | 5 Comments »

Holiday Humor: Zombie Employer of Choice

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 24, 2009

colin-zombieCNN and Mashable bring to our attention an inspiring story about an independent film getting notoriety with a (nominal) budget of under $70. The story is remarkable just in the fact that is shows how someone like director Marc Price, with the right attitude (a hangover helps), imagination, and tools, can achieve a pretty amazing goal. Some might say the epitome of a BHAG. But there are some “employer of choice” tidbits as well. Read on.

Clever Use of Social Media

Price showed skillful use of social media such as Facebook and MySpace for recruiting. He laid it out simply by asking, “Who wants to be a zombie?” and then let the network do its thing. Price also used YouTube to build word of mouth buzz for the movie.

Keeping the Zombies Engaged

Rather than take a “Pay for Performance” approach, Price opted to find other, less expensive investments to keep the zombies engaged. In fact, other than a crowbar and a couple of tapes, the $70 budget was spent on “…some tea and coffee as well — not the expensive stuff either, the very basic kind. Just to keep the zombies happy.”

Photo: Mashable article

Posted in engagement, social network, Uncategorized, zombies | Leave a Comment »

Rich social network = rich productivity

Posted by Justin Field on March 11, 2009

I was browsing through last month’s Harvard Business Review and lo and behold there’s a short article on social networking. The article was about the types of social networking interactions that are required at different times or for different purposes. A centralised structure works for discovery; but a richly connected network supports integration and decision making.
But that wasn’t the important bit! The important bit was recent research from MIT showing the productivity of poorly connected workers versus richly connected workers. Those workers with the most extensive personal digital (i.e. electronic) networks were 7% more productive than their colleagues. Of course, there’s no substitute for face to face, so the same study also found that workers with the strongest and most cohesive face to face networks were 30% more productive.
So I see corporate social networks as places for:
– gathering to share information
– gathering to integrate information and make decisions communally
– building a virtual network that supports and extends the face to face network

Posted in analytics, Career Development, community, engagement, social network, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Where is Social Enterprise with no Social Contract?

Posted by Mark Bennett on February 14, 2009


Imagine the following variant of a classic Office Space exchange:

Bill Lumbergh: So, Peter, what’s happening? Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and answer some questions on our social network this afternoon?
Peter Gibbons: No.

Bill Lumbergh: Ah. Yeah. So I guess we should probably go ahead and have a little talk. Hmm?


Not too difficult to imagine Peter’s response, right? Why is that so? What would work instead?


There has been a bit of controversy around a suggestion that companies look at collaborative tools such as enterprise social networks as a means to retain knowledge that would otherwise be lost when an employee is laid off. Part of the problem was that it wasn’t made clear whether the tools were supposed to have been in use for some time prior to the layoff or not. The suggestion also included rewarding or even forcing participation if necessary. There was a lot of pushback – mostly on how it either wouldn’t work or worse yet, would create unintended consequences.


We should look at how this might be telling us how employees and employers sometimes view the social enterprise differently. To some employers, collaborative tools are seen as *only* a technology to be used as a means to drive higher productivity, make innovation happen, and capture and preserve “tribal knowledge.” It’s true the technology can indeed enable and/or accelerate these benefits, but the essence of the pushback is that the technology alone is not enough. For the benefits to occur there must be genuine participation by employees. For there to be genuine participation, there must be trust from employees, which means looking at collaborative tools from their perspective and interests.


This is where the “Social Contract” comes into play*. The “Social” in “Social Enterprise” is not just a catchy label – it says that genuine participation is needed to make it work. And *genuine* participation, as opposed to merely going through the motions, is primarily an optional exercise for the employee. The “Social Contract” between employer and employee is based on its participatory nature. The employee always has the option to “opt-out”, at least in such a way that will cause efforts to use collaborative tools to fail.


So what would work? Focus on why an employee would “opt-in”. You would have little reason to participate if you knew layoffs were imminent and that management has consistently sent a message that all they value is what you know. If management has instead demonstrated they value how you help solve problems or get things done using what you know and collaborative tools in turn help you do that, then you would be more apt to participate. In this situation, the value the company has in the employee encourages the employee to use the collaborative tools.


*The idea of the “Social Contract” comes from Jean Rousseau and has been adapted to business issues such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR.) There is naturally a lot of debate on this since Rousseau was focused on political rights and government while businesses are private property. However, employees are not the property of business and therefore a “social contract” of sorts exists between the company and the employee, although its nature has changed over time.

Posted in community, engagement, management, social network, Uncategorized | 12 Comments »