The Cluetrain rides again

Almost 10 years ago Chris Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Rick Levine published a book that was going to change the way we saw the world, The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The basic premise in the book is that markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, and honest, sometimes even direct. Basically you can’t fake it.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to engage in a corporate monotone of mission statements, product strategies and , marketing brochures.

However everything is now changing. People are connecting, and working together. The Internet is enabling these conversations and there is nothing corporations can do to stop it.

With the book are 95 theses that summarise everything into a nice simple message. Yesterday I was re-reading them and wanted to share them with you all. So I created a quick slideshow, enjoy!

HR Technology Best Practice

Over night I received the results from Cedar Crestone’s 2008-2009 HR Technology survey, while I am yet to digest the full report, a quick review of the document and the assocaited press release reveal some interesting facts. Oh, the statistics are mainly North American focused but if history has shown me anything they predict a general trend for Australian organisations.

Some of the interesting points:

  • Use of administrative applications are obiovusly mature, however the results are showing an initial movement from in?house to software?as-a?service (SaaS) solutions. Now is this driving vendors or are vendors driving this move, not sure.
  • Talent management applications are very important and that these applications are helping organisations deliver higher financial performance.
  • The Employee Self Service and Manager Self Service trend is still deliverying value and reducing the size of HR departments and improving transaction cycle times.
  • Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 is still the arena of early adopters, with the biggest area of usage being recruiting and branding. The survey shows that organisations using these tools had double the sales growth of organisations that did not. This reminds me I really need to push/define my Enterprise 2.0 services more.
  • A final theme change management is the one key differentiator towards achieving a successful HR technology project. Which is good news as this is another key services of Inspecht.

Some points emerged in the results that I want to cover further.

those taking an integrated talent management approach strongly outpace organizations with a best of breed approach on operating income growth nearly three times (13.1% vs. 4.8%)!

Now it is important to understand the definition of integrated; “If two or more of the talent management applications are from the same vendor as the underlying HR management system, they were designated as having an “integrated” talent management approach.”

This little nugget seems to go directly against previous research reports that we shoud be moving towards a Core HRIS vendor and a Core Talant Management vendor. Could it be ouch for folks like Taleo who are heavily pushing their Unified Talent Management approach? Or one could say the Cedar’s history as an ERP implementation consulting firm might bias the results? I don’t think so.


Today’s talent management tools from best of breed vendors tend to focus mainly of recruitment, preformance management and sometimes compensations management. What they miss is learning management, which is key for developing one’s internal talent pool. Could this missing link be the key to why organisations who have a fully integrated environment are returning greater financial results?

Another result showed that organisations with comptency management achieved significant sales growth. Comptencies form the core of being able to manage your employees, aka talent. With separate systems it is very hard to have a consistent comptency framework so most organisations either do it very poorly or not at all.

Some further reading and analysis of the full report is in order.

Social media can drive employee engagement

When your employees know that your customers hate your company it can turn any work place into a toxic cesspool of dissatisfaction. Who wants to work for a company that is always seen as doing wrong and having to justify oneself?

Telstra might be one of those companies. Now I have no research to say that employees within Telstra are dissatisfied, however it must be hard for many of them to keep smiling in the face of all of the criticism.

Update: While I was writing this post Mike Hickinbotham from Telstra was commenting on my other post. In the comment he indicated Telstra is trying to build a culture of anything is possible. A fantastic culture to build and if they succeed it will be a great example of cultural change within a large corporate. It is also a great example of them engaging with the blogosphere as part of a social media strategy.

Now allowing your staff to engage with customers through social media is an activity that will help them become engaged.


Well let me refer to my old mate Hertzberg again. Specifically his Motivators and Hygiene factors. Remember the motivators are Achievement, Recognition, Work Itself, Responsibility, Advancement, and Growth. Breaking down the wall between your staff and customers addresses each one of these areas which in turn will drive a more engaged workforce, and eventually return greater shareholder value.

By using social media you break down the wall, or at least punch holes in it so people can see through, remember to succeed with social media you need to act like a human, not a corporate robot. Below are my thoughts on how using social media will effectively addresses each one of Hertzberg’s motivation factors.

  • Achievement – What is a better achievement than actually having happy customers by working as a team?
  • Recognition – Is one of the key drives of employee satisfaction, so what better way to get recognised than by your customers in public for doing a good job?
  • Responsibility – Being a public figure requires responsibility, this is in addition to the responsibility of engaging and solving customer issues.
  • Growth – Allowing employees to use social media to do their job means many will have to grow into more public roles. This growth externally will more than likely allow them to have a unique insight into your customers wants and needs, making the employees more valuable internally as well.
  • Advancement -The additional responsibility and growth will lay a foundation for further career advancement both internally and externally. The external advancement should not be seen as negative. What is better than having a great employee go to another organisation and be a shining example of how well your organisation develops employees. It might even turn your company into an employer of choice!
  • Work Itself – Once people start using social media to get their job done, the work itself becomes easier and more friendly. This is in part due to the other factors but also because humans by our very nature are social creatures.

I have focused above of solving customer issues, but the same holds true for developing new business relationships, creating sales opportunities etc.

I note that Telstra does have a blogging environment, I wonder if the employees involved feel more engaged than they did before have?

The business value of social networks

Tuesday night I was on a panel for the NSW Knowledge Management Forum with three others, Laurie Lock Lee, Tania Maley & Jodie Miners who was roped in as Tania was running late. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant before the event given Laurie has just completed a PhD in the value of social capital to enterprises!

However in preparing for the discussion I reviewed Laurie’s blog and previous work and found I should be able to contribute positively based on my perspective of social networking for HR.

Over the next hour and a half the four of us discussed all sorts of topics, including the value of social software to business! I suspect we could of kept talking for another hour or more. At the end of the day it came down to four high levels of value, recruitment, retention, sharing knowledge amongst silos and leveraging the hidden networks within an organisation. This is a vast simplification of things but a good summary.

From an HR perspective there are several specific areas where leveraging social networks through social software adds value to businesses. Many of these areas are very specific and small but they all add up to larger benefits.

  1. Driving employee engagement
  2. Leaveraging disengaged talent
  3. Sourcing of passive talent
  4. Candidate relationship management
  5. Background checking
  6. Team development
  7. Learning and development
  8. Self service support forums
  9. On boarding

I’m not going to cover all in this blog post, as that would take a long time. Instead I felt I might cover the major factors driving my list; that of Mark Granovetter, Frederick Hertzberg, Emilio Castilla and Alex Edmans. There is also the work by Watson Wyatt on corporate communication, while I feel it is important there could be an element of commericla biasis in their studies.

Mark in 1973 as part of his book “Getting a Job” (and paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties”), documented that 56% of participants in his studies found their existing job through a personal contact. Granovetter also found that 55.6% of the connections were made through “weak ties” who were seen “occasionally” (more than once a year but less than twice a week), and 27.8% “rarely” (less than once a year). These “weak ties” are more likely to professional contacts rather than family members or social contacts.

Research by Professor Emilio Castilla from MIT Sloan School of Management found that employees recruited through employee referral programs can have a higher performance over employees recruited through other means. While Professor Castilla’s research was for a single call centre, the findings have been confirmed further by organisations in the US and Australia.

Frederick Herttzberg in 1959 released a book called “The Motivation to Work” where he divided workplace factors into two groups. Motivators and Hygiene. The Hygiene factors of Job Security,Salary,Relationship with Peers,Work Environment and Company policies were needed otherwise people will complain. However along the would not motiviate people to want to work. Whereas the motivators (Achievement, Recognition, Work Itself, Responsibility, Advance, Growth) were all required for employees to feel engaged.

The work published in 2007 by Alex Edmans, Business Professor from Wharton School, found that happy employees do in fact drive company performance. He measured an annually rebalanced portfolio of Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” from 1998 – 2005. Companies on the list returned 14% during that time compared to 6% for the overall market.

The Watson Wyatt reports on communication found that organisations with “most effective” communication programs provides a 91% total return to shareholders from 2002-2006 compared to 62% for “least effective”. Improved communication effectiveness is associated with a 15.7% increase in market value and effectivly communicating organisations had an employee engagement level 4 times that of least effective.

Thoughts from Web Directions 2008

On Thursday and Friday last week I attended Web Directions South 2008, my first web only conference in a while. Overall it was a good event, but like most conferences there were some up & downs. Probably the biggest two downs were the opening Key Note and the lack of coffee on arrival on Friday morning. The biggest ups were Mark Pesce’s closing Key Note and David Peterson’s Semantic web for distributed social networks presentation, followed closely by August de los Reyes from Microsoft.

So did I get an ROI for my $1,500 investment (conference fees, airfare and miscellaneous expenses)?

Yes, in several areas a few of them are:

  • I got to meet a large number of people face to face for the first time after communicating online with them for so long.
  • I meet a large number of new people, I tried to average 5-10 new people per day.
  • Mark Pesce’s talk, as always, was inspiring.
  • David Peterson renewed my hope that FOAF and the Semantic will infact become a reality.
  • Laurel Papworth reinforced that yes social media can make money.
  • Surface computing is cool!
  • Data visualisation done well is also cool!
  • There is lots of cool tech stuff going on in Melbourne, just not sure why I had to go to Sydney to find it.
  • I learnt a fair bit on presentaion style, what works and what really doesn’t.
  • Connections with several people that might turn into paying business, which is great.
  • Finally there are a lot of books I need to read.
The telling fact is will I come back next year. Probably yes.

Need to learn about web 2.0, come to university

If you are in Australia, and interested in learning about Web 2.0 then you should get yourself to Sydney on September 23 and attend the Web 2.0 University being run as a extra session at Web Direction South. The Web 2.0 Executive Bootcamp session is being co-hosted by Jeff Kelly & Stephen Collins and is priced at an amazing AUD$450 conference attendees / AUD$550 standalone compared to the regular US$895.

What will you learn?

  • Exploration of the latest ideas, business models, trends, and techniques behind Web 2.0
  • Review of proven, actionable methods for creating new online products and service
  • Step-by-step strategies for using Web 2.0 techniques
  • Review of the 7 major patterns of Web 2.0 applications
  • The structure and business models of Web 2.0

All in all a great offering.

Do you have a Knol?

A Knol is a unit of knowledge, well according to Google that is. Their new information source has been moved into public Beta. Basically Knol is sort of like Wikipedia but each entry is authored by a single individual who has complete editorial control. Google provides the following outline in the help:

So what subjects can I write on?

(Almost) anything you like. You pick the subject and write it the way you see fit. We don’t edit knols nor do we try to enforce any particular viewpoint – your knol should be written as you want it to be written. Of course, Knols are subject to Terms of Service and Content Policy to ensure a good experience for all users and compliance with applicable laws.

What if someone else has already written an article on that subject?

No problem, you can still write your own article. In fact, the Knol project is a forum for encouraging individual voices and perspectives on topics. As mentioned, no one else can edit your knol (unless you permit it) or mandate how you write about a topic. If you do a search on a topic, you may very well see more than one knol in the search results. Of course, people are free to disagree with you, to write their own knols, to post comments and ratings.

Can I collaborate with other authors?

Of course. For each knol you can choose to write on your own or collaborate with other authors.

An interesting experiment, as mentioned by Mashable is might just end up like Squidoo but it could also turn into something completely different. I could also see the format working internally to organisations for building content. Some organisationa have not yet got their minds around wiki’s allows anyone to edit, where a tool like Knol might be used as a stepping stone towards wikis.

Generation V podcast

Yesterday while I was in the middle of my PRINCE2 course I ducked outside (literally outside in the freezing Melbourne wind) for 30 minutes to participate in The Scoop podcast for MIS Australia hosted by Mark Jones. The topic Generation V, or generation virtual. I was a little uncertain what to expect as the fellow guests are in my mind fairly “heavy hitters”: Gartner VP Stephen Prentice; The Project Factory head of virtual worlds Gary Hayes; and Talent2 CIO recruitment specialist Paul Rush, oh yeah and me.

The podcast starts off with a discussion on virtual worlds but then moves into identity, reputation and trust, we then discuss some fo the impacts for enterprises and recruitment. The podcast ends with all four of us providing tips for CIOs listening to the podcast.

Social networking sites in Australia

It seems that Australia’s have fallen in love with social networking sites, in particular Facebook. In February this year Hitwise released a report on “What are Australian’s doing Online” and after using the internet for search (10.8%), social networking and forums (8%) are our second most popular past time even more so than News & Media (6.75%).

So what social networking sites do we like? Well Facebook, MySpace and Bebo of course!

What is really interesting here is that Facebook alone has had a 11-fold increase in traffic in the 12 months to May 2008. Facebook is now ranked as the 4th most visited website in May 2008, up from 6th in April. Not only is traffic increasing so in our engagement with social networks, where on average we spent over 28 minutes on the sites, compared to only 11 minutes across all websites.

Based on the above results yesterday’s post where we found that in a US survey 40% of Generation Y’s expect to have social networking sites in the workplace is not surprising we are seeing these sort results in Australia. So why are these tools becoming so engaging?

“The increased user-engagement on Facebook is due to the proliferation of third-party applications; particularly ones that serve a useful function, such as travel planners or book-sharing programs. Additional features for connecting users, such as ‘People You May Know’ has also helped increase user traction on Facebook” said Sandra Hanchard, analyst at Hitwise.

I would suspect that Australian web users are becoming attracted to user generated content, others opinions, folksononmies and collaborative working. This is unfortunate for most organisations as they have neither the management or technical infrastructure to support these new working methods.

Social media and Generation Y

A recent report from Microsoft and Insurity in the US found that 71% used IM and 77% used social networking sites on a daily or frequent basis, with over 2/3rds of them belonging to 2 or more social networking sites. But surprisingly 15% said they did not belong to a social network site. While this might not be news what their views were of access in the office might surprise you.

Over 75% say they would expect to have or use the following within a professional workplace:

  • web-based searches (80%)
  • office productivity applications (79%)

However less than 50% would expect or use the following:

  • social networking sites (40%)
  • company provided virtual meetings (42%)
  • personal instant messenger (45%)
  • mobile or smart phones paid by company (48%)
  • Wikipedia or other Wikis (49%)

Now while less than 50% wanted access to these tools can your organisation really afford to “turn off” these potential employees given the current shortage for talent?

For IT department that lock down every piece of technology, 91% said having more access to innovative technologies would influence their decisions in taking a job. Only access to flexible work schedules or location was considered more important to these respondents. To make things even worse for the average IT department the ability to work with newer, innovative technology was ranked more important than than:

  • being able spend time on outside charitable efforts (70%)
  • being able to work with people their age (71%)
  • opportunities to work on collaborative team projects (72%)
  • and the ability to telecommute or work from home (77%)

Now what about a workplace that provides access to these basic tools but also has collaborative tools to enable blogging, social bookmarking, tagging and other Enterprise 2.0 tools? I suspect they would attract Generation Y candidates, don’t you?