The Talent Code – Cracking Social Business Requirements

The Talent Code
Creative Commons Attribution Creative Commons ATTRIBUTION by: NeoGaboX acquired from Flickr

Creating “sustained value” is the purpose of social business according to Gartner.  The mechanisms to achieve this goal are numerous.  They all are focused on pulling together “talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge” of people throughout an organization according to Gartner’s Mark McDonald.  But accessing those ‘pulled together’ is just as important.  Getting the information at the point it is needed, whether in the information supply chain or a production chain is what makes the aggregated talent, experience and knowledge useful.  Otherwise it devolves into arm-chair quarterbacking, recriminations and too-late expert I-Told-You-Sos.

Gartner outlines the concept of “sustained value” as being able to consistently apply social business technology to achieve goals. This is a good and true definition but it is hiding some important features.  Some social archeology is in order to uncover features of social business buried underneath each of Gartner’s social business characteristics.

In order to consistently pull together talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge in a social business that will deliver sustained value, social business systems, processes and people must have access to that information.

Talent means the proven ability to deliver results in a way that is above average.  This is more than typical HRMS (human resources management system) or IDM (identity management) systems deliver.  It is not a list of keywords culled from the resumes of current employees and partners.  If social business technology is going to pull together talent, it must be equipped to identify talent.  This means a combination of quantifiable business results and qualitative peer recognition.  Social suites that incorporate gamification systems to reward people who provide unique and useful help to the community are starters in this area (check out Lithium’s products that identify and cultivate “superfans” for an example).  Social reputation scoring systems like Klout and PeerIndex are starting to help identify talent – or at least influence.  HR focused systems like SuccessFactors that incorporate 360 reviews and behavioral anchors benchmark talent and provide a basis for identification.   Enterprise content management (ECM) systems have the ability to track and measure talent by combining topic and category metadata with downloads and accesses and then providing a topic talent score to the author.  However, few if any of the big ECM vendors are actively pursuing this important social vector.

Notice though that all the products listed above inhabit completely different parts of the organization.  Lithium’s social suite focuses on customer and partner participation in a community.  Klout and PeerIndex are focused on the individual person.  SuccessFactors is focused on HR management and business execution.  ECM systems are more about providing a safe place to store and publish documents than leveraging their data to provide talent insight for business.

Gartner is silent on how to achieve a Gartner-esque social business that is able to pull together talent along with the other important characteristics of a social business.  Pulling together sounds suspiciously like integration.  But first, all the places where talent can be found and measured must be pulled together to create something like a talent portrait.  Anything less risks being incomplete at best and skewed at worst.  Remember, the point of the entire exercise is to get the best person working on the problem at hand.  An incomplete or skewed talent profile risks bringing the wrong person to bear on a task.  So it is important to get this right.

It is one thing to say that a social business provides sustained value by pulling together talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge.  It is another thing to actually map out how to do it.

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