E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Employee Engagement

2013 – The Year of Social HR

Gran Canaria - Roque BentaygaEarlier on in the year, while doing some casual reading out there on the Web around HR related topics and how it’s been impacted by the world of Social, now that it’s become my new focus area around Open Business, I bumped into an article at Forbes that clearly reminded me how we may not have learned much in the last 18 years around knowledge sharing, collaboration, connecting and building personal business relationships through digital tools and the overall concept of social networking for business, as we keep applying lipstick on a pig trying to dump traditional social components into every single aspect of a business organisation, whether Sales, Marketing, Communications, Development, Retail, and, now, of course, Human Resources as well, since it seems to the hot topic du jour that everyone is trying to hop into. But seriously? Haven’t we learned anything in the last 18 years since we had the first instances of social software tools with blogs and wikis? It looks like we haven’t. 

At least, judging from that article Jeanne Meister published earlier on under the heading “2013 – The Year of Social HR” and where she gets to develop further on a good number of different social media trends that will be affecting HR over the course of the next year. It’s interesting to note how those very same trends attempted to have some kind of impact around other areas of the business and with very mixed results. So it looks like it’s now a good time to try them out on HR and see if they would work. Never mind the extended first hand experience we have had in the past proving that some of those trends just didn’t even make the mark. Shouldn’t we be aiming higher with regards to HR and the impact of Social for that matter? 

Allow me to explain briefly further along tackling each and everyone of those various different trends that Jeanne mentions on that article to explain a little bit of what I mean: 

Gamification Becomes A Standard Practice

Well, I surely hope it won’t, and big time! I know that in the recent past I haven’t written much around the whole topic of gamification or serious games at work, but those folks who know me from interactions on several social networking tools out there would agree with you that it’s currently one of my pet peeves from the world of Social. More than anything else because we have been trying it out for the last 15 to 18 years in the field of Knowledge Management and because time and time again it keeps failing under a singular, specific premise, amongst several others, that keeps getting ignored time and time again: put a gamification engine of whatever the sort behind the firewall and people will naturally tend to game it, never mind the unhealthy competitive nature that will inspire knowledge workers to protect and hoard their own knowledge even more, so that they can continue gaming the system to be on top! Therefore making it a waste of time and resources, as well as a huge disappointment for the entire workforce for not delivering much on helping improve engagement, after all.

It may well be a matter of semantics, but for as long as we keep using gamification as the wording / concept it will never stick around in the corporate world as we know it, based on those couple of reasons I shared above. An alternative? Probably I would go with Behavioural Dynamics, which has got completely different connotations to what gamification has been all along, and perhaps I should develop further in additional blog posts what is meant with that behavioural dynamics, to help influence how knowledge workers engage through social technologies behind the firewall.Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas 

I, for once, would hope that gamification and social business vendors would finally put a stop on wanting to infantilise the corporate world as we know it, because that’s essentially what they are doing. You can’t engage knowledge workers by treating them like kids playing silly games of gaining points here and there, competing with one another in an unhealthy manner, showing with pride their badges. For what purpose? Reputation? Engagement? Really? See? Gaming the system will provoke one single element to come out that could even destroy the corporate culture of your own organisation: lack of value add from your own online interactions with others, just to earn that badge. We have already done this in the past with KM and we don’t seem to have learned much about it, have we?

If HR would want to re-engage back the knowledge workforce I would certainly stop focusing on gamification and instead adopt the mantra of Open Business as in Open HR, meaning, becoming more open and transparent around both HR and Human driven processes, engage in direct dialogue with the workforce to find out the many different reasons they may have as to why they are no longer feeling engaged, to evaluate what can be done to revert the change, be capable of accepting constructive criticism not only on what works, but mostly on what doesn’t work, so that HR can have an option AND the opportunity to revert the tide back again. And, overall, bring back into the conversation topics like equity, democracy, meritocracy, social eminence, trust, open knowledge sharing and collaboration, meaning, purpose, focus, motivation and so forth, which have been missing on HR’s narrative for far too long!

The Death of the Resume

Nothing really new on this one either, I am afraid. Not even a trend anymore, but more of a reality, I can imagine. For instance, I just can’t remember the last time that I updated my official CV. I think it must have been about 8 to 9 years ago, if not longer!, yet in all of that time I have been moving around in between projects, business units and what not and I never had to revert back to the CV to show what my skills and experience are on a particular subject matter.

Instead, indeed, both my personal business blog, and, specially, my extended social networks have become my new CV, which is probably the reason why my curriculum has now become the first page of Google Search results for “Luis Suarez” (i.e. my blog et al). See? Building a digital footprint is now more the norm, rather than the exception, and perhaps the end goal for all knowledge workers out there wanting to establish themselves demonstrating their subject matter expertise and their passion for a particular topic by making a smarter use of the digital tools to not just get the message across, but also to make sense of it all through meaningful conversations. Something that Howard Rheingold has described beautifully on his most recent book Net Smart.

The primary goal over here for HR then would be to help prepare knowledge workers to become more knowledgable and savvy to move their traditional, fixed, always out of date, paper based CV into the digital world where it’s constantly updated on a regular basis and with perhaps much more accuracy, since it will incorporate both the expertise from those knowledge workers, along with their networks’, by how they demonstrate their thought leadership always adding business value into the conversation(s).

Your Klout Score Will Become A Measurable Currency

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the Winter Goodness! I surely hope not! In fact, I would strongly encourage everyone that every time you may bump into a job vacancy where they are asking for your Klout score, or to have a certain score for the job, to not even think about joining that firm, because right there they are reflecting how they don’t respect much your own privacy as a knowledge worker, based on how Klout destroys it by just trying to figure out how influential you are in social networks by being rather intrusive, never mind how flaky the algorithm is and how restrictive it is when measuring that social influence since it just focuses on the easy part: how verbose you may well be in blasting out your marketing messages out to others! 

Yikes! No, thanks! Seriously, if you are looking for a job, and in that job description HR mentions the word Klout, the best thing you can do is run away! As fast as you can! There are way better jobs out there waiting for you where your privacy is well respected while measuring your social influence in an smart and responsible manner.

Alternatives for HR? Look into the bigger picture. Look into how you can measure the influence of knowledge workers out there in the digital world by focusing more on the conversations and the value add they put forward in their various networks and communities, rather than how many times they manage to blast out their own marketing messages without focusing on anything else. This is something that other services like Little Bird do extremely well, that is, focus on the networks, the communities, and how they are influenced by those experts (More on Little Bird shortly, by the way…)

Personal Branding Will Be A Required Skill

Not much of a trend this one either, is it? From the moment that knowledge workers are keen on going digital, using whatever the social Web technologies in place, this is no longer a growing trend, but a well established one. In fact, it’s been in the making for nearly 10 years now, even way before Enterprise 2.0 became the buzzword, when folks resorted to their own personal business blogs as their best personal branding tools. And that’s still going rather strong when that aspect has been hugely amplified and augmented with all of the social networking sites we are all far too familiar with. 

The role of HR in this one, as an opportunity to lead by example on that mantra of Open HR, is that one of helping knowledge workers facilitate plenty of opportunities to build their digital footprint with enough resources, education, coaching, mentoring, facilitation, so that instead of becoming a hurdle where some HR departments may not be in favour of employees being out there in the open in fear of being snatched by talent hunters, they work even harder to make that happen so that they can have a chance to fight for them by caring about them. There is nothing for HR to take more pride on than having your employee knowledge workforce being enticed by talent hunters to make a move. That’s basically sending out there a tremendous message: you have got a high performing, rather talented, motivated and engaged team. It’s your job now, HR’s, to retain it. 

Recruiters Will Find You Before You Know You Are Looking For A Job

Finally, perhaps the most interesting of the various different trends that Jeanne talks about on that Forbes piece, not so much for the opportunity of looking for a job, way before you sense you may well be in that situation, but, specially, from the perspective that this trend on its own could well be the confirmation of another well known one that will surely tear apart the traditional concept of the knowledge workforce and the corporate world as we know it. Essentially, the shift from the traditional payroll employee workforce into that free agent, freelancer workforce that gathers around networks and communities to deliver their expertise and extensive know-how, get paid for it in good terms, and then move elsewhere. 

This is the one area where HR would surely need to go through a major transformation from being right at the centre of managing employees / resources, to be shifted around the edges facilitating alumni networks, freelancers, and a small core group of employees to be part of the same ecosystem. One that, at long last, is going to reach the final frontier: The Social Web. 

2013 may well be the year of Social HR, we will have to wait and see, but what I do know is that judging from the reflections I have shared above 2013 certainly is going to be the year of Open HR, where openness, transparency, publicy, equity, trust, engagement, meritocracy, purpose, meaning, online / digital reputation, recognition of networks and communities vs. just individuals are becoming common HR speak, that is, HR’s new narrative to be able to re-engage back the workforce and if we were just to learn a little bit from what we have done in the recent past, what worked AND what didn’t work!, there is only one way forward: focus on the success of your failure(s)! Essentially, learn from them, don’t make the same mistakes again and continue through that learning and sustainable growth path. Yes, I know, there won’t be a way back!

Fascinating and exciting times, indeed!

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Social Business in 2013 – An Opportunity (Open Business)

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloAnd, finally, after “Social Business in 2013 – A Challenge” and “[…] – A Commitment“, here’s the last article of the series, where I will be focusing on “An Opportunity” for Social Business in 2013 (and beyond), more than anything else by touching base on a deeper level on what I covered at both of those blog entries and what I have been experiencing and reflecting upon myself over the course of the last year or two. This piece would also highlight a shift of focus and purpose for yours truly with regards to the overall theme of Social Networking for Business. Yes, indeed, this is the so-called blog entry I have been talking about (Both offline and online) over the last few months about where to next …

And with that I mean, mainly, where will I be moving along with my own efforts as a Social Business evangelist from here onwards as an opportunity to continue to grow, learn, explore, reflect, and share that huge new opportunity Social Business has got ahead, if it would want to succeed in today’s, more complex and uncertain than ever, corporate workplace environment. Indeed, a shift of focus away from that technology fetish, vendors’ speak, Sales, Marketing & Communications, Digital (Technical) Thought Leadership and so forth and diving right into what I have been sensing is the major key towards completing and realising that Social Business transformation we keep aiming at, but fail to deliver fully. Time to step up, level up the game, shift gears and go right to the heart, the core, of how businesses have been run over the last few decades in order for Social Business to thrive: Human Resources. Or, better said, the metamorphosis of Human Resources into Human Relationships.

That’s what is at stake over here. In previous blog entries I have reflected on the fact of how I keep seeing how more and more businesses seem to stagnate in their adoption efforts of becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise after the first or second year of deploying social technologies behind the firewall (Never mind the external side for a minute… More on that one later on…). It’s what some folks have called that lovely honeymoon period where rather Sales, Marketing or Communications have been taking the lead in jumping the shark and deciding to, finally, dive into the world of Social. And, yes, businesses eventually do. Knowledge workers ultimately adopt and embrace as well a much more open, public, trustworthy and transparent manner of collaborating and sharing their knowledge. And the raw benefits have been demonstrated time and time again. Have you noticed how little we see nowadays in writing that awkward, old, now obsolete, conversation about the ROI of Social Media? It’s gone! Nowhere to be seen anymore! Nothing. Zipped. Nada. Why? Well, mainly because everyone has stopped questioning the value add that social technologies can bring up to the day to day business operations and how they can help improve overall business performance. It’s there. It’s now a given. It’s just a matter of figuring out the How, so that you can incorporate it into your overall business processes and corporate culture.

But there is something else. It’s what I call Human Processes. The ones that are driven by humans AND for humans. The ones that are not spoken, perhaps not even written about much anywhere, but that everyone understands they are a key part of the corporate culture to the point that they are the ones that rule how businesses operate. Essentially, Human Resources.

In practical terms, something much more mundane that I suspect is going to become the main, key focus for most businesses over the next few months, if not already: Employee Engagement. But all along with a slight new twist added to it; it’s a two way street that needs to work in both directions: Employees to employer and employer to employees. Right now, it’s a one way only street (Employees to employer), one where employers are saying that employees should even be lucky to have a job, to be loyal to the firm, to have work to do. Well, that may well have been the case over the last 50 years, but we are now past way beyond the threshold to admit it as how businesses should operate in this, more complex, inter/ hyper connected, networked 21st century than ever. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. And that’s where Human Relationships kick in. HR’s own transformation to start facing AND do something about what I feel is their number #1 business problem to solve over the next year or two: reduce the huge % of disengaged employees we have got across the corporate world and for which no-one seems to be doing much. Or, anything at all, really. Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga 

And that’s where Social Business kicks in. That’s where some of the main key mantras behind it need to become a reality for HR to provoke that business transformation we all sense is almost there, but that it keeps escaping us through our fingers. It’s now the right time for HR to step up, level up the game, and get involved in becoming the centre of that social business transformation, specially, with regards to those key human processes. Key themes like openness, transparency, trust, recognition, (digital) reputation, empathy, equity, meritocracy, democracy, authenticity, engagement, participation, constructive criticism, knowledge sharing, collaboration, learning, connectedness need to become part of HR’s new speak. And not only just speak, but do as well, leading by example, learning by doing, diving into the conversations they keep saying that have been watching and monitoring from afar to judge employee’s sentiment, but that time and time again they have neglected to dive into the conversation, because they feel they still rule the corporate world, i.e. the knowledge workforce and therefore they don’t see a need for it. Really? Ever heard of Talent Management or Talent Wars? Ever read about plenty of research done around the huge %s of disengaged employees at work? That’s not what I would call ruling the corporate world. Quite the opposite. Indeed, more like destroying it altogether to no avail. 

I remember when back in the day, nearly 10 years ago, when I first started blogging, both internally and externally (Nearly 8 years ago for the latter), one of the themes I decided to go for as its own category was Social Computing, then Social Networking. From there onwards Enterprise 2.0, followed by the Social Enterprise and, lately, Social Business. That was all part of what I felt was the evolution of social networking in a corporate environment. Well, as of today, and while I move on shifting my focus into that where to next … I have created a couple of new categories. One of them is just a renaming activity from a previous one. The other is an entirely new category that I will be using to post articles on that particular topic from here onwards. It will also mean how, after 6 years, I’m starting to sense it’s time to move on from those fully loaded monikers of Social Enterprise  or Social Business, since, you know, they eventually mean something completely different altogether and it’s probably a good thing to move on anyway.

That’s why Social Enterprise / Social Business from here onwards, for yours truly, are going to be Open Business, following further up the superb piece of work that David Cushman did in setting up the stage of what Open Business is all about during the course of last few months. You may want to go ahead and start readingThe 10 Principles of Open Business“, or “Introducing Open Business“, or perhaps check out the Open Business Council to find out more about it and you will see how for a good number of years this blog has been permeating through plenty of the vision David shared across with that new concept of how businesses should operate. I know it’s not new, for sure, I mean, openness has been there all along, but if you read further into the principles that David shared across about this topic you would see how we still need to do plenty of work about it. And that’s essentially what I am planning on doing from here onwards.

Gran Canaria - Risco BlancoI would love to read your comments on this blog post about what you think Open Business would mean to you and whether you would feel it’d be something that could stick around and help us evolve the conversation around Social Business and look for that specific purpose and focus without getting confused along the way anymore by stealing terms and concepts, because we just couldn’t find anything better at the time. Oh, and in case you may not have noticed it will also mean I’m finally getting rid of that fully loaded concept of Social, which I know it’s kind of a taboo word for plenty of people out there since it has got plenty of various other different connotations than just work, like goofing away, slacking off, or just simply avoid doing work.

I know it’s going to take me a bit of time to adjust and stop using Social or Social Business, so I would ask you to bear with me along the way while I get to adjust accordingly and I get to explore further along what an Open Business is all about. That’s essentially what I am planning on blogging further along from here onwards as well. 

Finally, the new category I will be using on this blog from here onwards is Employee Engagement, more than HR 2.0, HR Transformation and whatever else. It’s going to be that focus area for me where I plan to write down articles, and share some interesting readings I have bumped into over the course of time around Employee Engagement itself, but as a two way street: from employers to employees and from employees to employers. It’s going to be an exciting journey, one where I plan to learn quite a bit on how HR operates and how we can *all* help out provoke that transformation from Human Resources into Human Relationships. I am hoping you folks would be helping me out adding further up into the conversations by sharing your insights, first hand experiences, know-how, skills, ideas and so forth on HR becoming the main driver of Social Business, errr, I mean, Open Business and help us bring forward that huge opportunity Open / Social Business has got ahead of us all over the next couple of years … Oh, and if you feel I’m way off base and heading into the wrong direction, let me know, too! Like I have always said, I do care a whole lot more about the journey than the final destination, so if I’m about to start the wrong kind journey, better to know well in advance, don’t you think?


[This blog post series was inspired as a follow-up from the recent article I published at CMSWire under the heading “Social Business in 2013: A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Commitment” and I am going to hereby take the liberty of quoting the last piece on An Opportunity to see the context of where it all comes from and where I will be heading next … Hope you folks will also join me along the way on this rather anticipated and incredibly exciting journey! 

The opportunity for Social Business in 2013 and beyond is going to start with a challenge. A business problem. Actually, the biggest problem the corporate world has faced in decades, which despite the rampant use of social networking tools, we still haven’t been able to solve accordingly: employee engagement.

Recent research studies from Deloitte have confirmed how over 70 percent of our employee workforce is disengaged or totally disengaged at work. This is while we have witnessed and experienced the rampant adoption of social networking tools behind the firewall.

How can that be that the surge of social technologies has taken the business world by storm, yet seven out of 10 employees are totally disengaged with their day to day work? The answer is rather simple. We have been missing a huge opportunity in the wider adoption of Social Business within the enterprise.

We have seen where social technologies have been rather successful in communications, marketing, sales, learning, retail, consultancy, research, knowledge sharing, collaboration, customer service and so forth. Yet there is one group that has not been affected by this rampant adoption of social networking tools for business, and which could very well be the main reason why knowledge workers are not engaged at work.

Without this group being involved, we are not really provoking the (social) business transformation we would have wanted or hoped for. I am talking about HR and their new transformation from being Human Resources to becoming Human Relationships.

That’s the huge opportunity for Social Business in 2013 and beyond. Help address employee disengagement across the board by having HR drive, right at the center, the transformation of how business gets done through Social.

There are plenty of implications here, but one that’s going to become key is the one around Talent Management, especially, when your employees are disengaged, finding that new opportunity to be rewarded, recognized and motivated and more, thanks to the meaningful, purposeful, engaging work they may have eventually landed in.

This is the chance for HR to demonstrate that Social Business has never been about having the coolest tools, or the most impressive working business processes. This is going to be the final opportunity for HR to be back at the forefront of facilitating something we have been missing for decades: employees owning their work, taking more responsibility, making the right decisions, earning their merits and (digital) reputation, to eventually become recognised for what they do best — their job(s).“]

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