Table of Contents
Our List of the Top 25 Influencers in Talent Management generated its share of controversy. The measurement and assessment of influence is in its very earliest stages. Much of what you see in our various list projects boils down to experimentation This article includes a dialog with Marc Effron who helped us create the initial input for the Talent Management project.
The way that Traackr (our technical partner in the project) builds their lists is by beginning with a list of key words. We work to make sure that the key words are representative of the general area we are investigating.
That list is spidered, those results are analysed by machine to determine the top influencers. Influencers are scored on the basis of reach (size of audience including traffic, social networks on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook), relevance (degree to which their content matches the key words on the list) and resonance (number of mentions and inbound links).
We put Marc Effron (who you might remember from the TOP 100 project) in charge of developing the list of keywords. Marc is one of the clear definers of the science of Talent Management. We’re indebted to him for his help.
Once the process was nearly complete, Marc was given access to the list and offered the opportunity to comment. The dialog that followed is illuminating. Marc’s feedback helped the Traackr team tweak the final output. I think you’ll enjoy that conversation.
Thanks for letting me review this. Here are my candid thoughts (sorry if they’re too candid). My reaction is that, to our earlier discussion about the narrow focus of TM, this list more accurately reflects “general HR presence in social media” than anything else.
Some names, like Josh Bersin and Joh
n Sullivan seem reasonable (although Sullivan is really more recruiting focused). But others leave me, and probably others, scratching my head a bit. For example, a number are primarily focused on compensation which, while very important is outside what the vast majority of people would refer to as “talent management.” Others just seem not to be actual influencers, but merely to have a high count of on-line interactions. Are they popular? Sure. But influencing the field?
The other challenge is the omission of the vast majority of people who are widely acknowledged influencers in the field. They tend to be the more senior practitioners and consultants, so probably either got to social networking late or aren’t yet there at all. Examples would range from Marshall Goldsmith to Jim Shanley (former SVP Leadership at Bank of America) to Roger Cude (VP Talent at Wal-Mart) to Annmarie Neal (VP Talent, Cisco) to others you might know J.
So that’s my reaction. Curious as to your thoughts
I think your view is spot on. Remember, what this measures is the online influence of the people involved. So, if you were to Google talent management or to wander through the various aspects of talent management online, these are the people you’d encounter.
It doesn’t mean that they are the ‘right’ ones or that they are the most influential over all. It certainly doesn’t mean that their definitions of talent management are the most useful or even the most widely adopted. They are simply the most influential people in the arena online.
The dichotomy that you point out is powerful. I think of it as the sort of disintermediation that has happened elsewhere.
Traditional type experts who are academics or practitioners working in a small environment are not what someone who wants to learn about a topic (Talent Management is just one example) fined when they go online.
While some are indeed outside of what ‘people would refer to as talent management’, they is well within the sweet spot of the search terms you used to define the arena. So, my guess is that ‘most people’ is a group of folks who are focused in their expertise and not fundamentally visible online.
There are all sorts of issues with this (fairness and ‘rightness’ are not on the list). I think that you and I might do well to continue this conversation over several emails and publish it along with the list.
This is the complaint that many people whose empires were overturned by Google make. All you can see online is what’s online. Its relative importance is a mathematical function. This is in spite of what seems right. Ultimately, the more traditional experts will understand that their feudal empires are being taken from them by a new crop that uses the Internet more effectively.
What do you think?
Thanks for the thoughts on this John. I definitely agree that it’s not an issue of fairness or rightness — let the popularity chips fall where they may. My concerns would be in two areas:
- The talent management area is the last, best hope for HR to redeem its tattered reputation in many companies. To do that, we need to ensure that we advance fact-based thinking and practice (the original goal of the NTMN) in the TM area, rather than follow the “shiny object” path that HR has often followed. The “no one knows if you’re a dog” nature of the net means that popularity can easily be interpreted as fact-based authority, when it could just as likely measure entertainment value, fad idea or even just ease of use of a site. To use a tired phrase,
HR’s entire existence is at an inflection point. On one side lies true business influence and on the other side lies the end of the function within 5 – 8 years. If on-line popularity will be what influences thinking in HR, then our odds are 50/50 at best.
2. The accuracy of whether this measures total influence on thinking is another concern. One interesting fact I learned from my publisher editor at Harvard Biz Press is that HR professionals are one of the largest buyers of professional books. While overall book sales are falling precipitously, HR pros continue to buy. This one fact suggests that if someone wants to learn about HR topics, on-line might not be their only resource or represent what influences them. I could suggest that “total number of influencing interactions” would be a better measure of Top Influencers. This would be the total of size of your social network (could be facebook, linked-in, twitter, etc.) + number of people you spoke to about HR issues during the year (HR conferences or gatherings) + number of people reading your books or articles. To say that one blogging post equals the influence of someone reading one of Ulrich’s books seems to miss what influence is.
Those are my thoughts for now!
I am afraid that the question is larger than ‘popularity’. Your arguments echo the hopes of all of the institutions that have been disrupted by democratic publishing and communications systems. While I agree with you that today’s universe of online influencers is not a representation of the complete set of influencers, dismissing it as a popularity contest misses the point as well.
Something is happening that isn’t getting mainstream media attention. It isn’t being noticed by the ‘academy’. The professional associations barely acknowledge it.
The center of influence in all professional associations has shifted. Where it once was the province of single personalities with ideas that just happened to all be book length. Today, expertise is becoming democratic.
I am not saying that Dave Ulrich is not a powerful influence on HR. He’s in the same class, in my opinion, as Frederick Taylor… a powerful, important historical influence. It’s just that things have moved on and a new generation (of which you are a part) is taking the mantle. I’m sure that this coming generation will venerate their ancestors every bit as well as their ancestors did.
Meanwhile, smart people who actually work in the field are generating an action-based view of the arena from their work and publishing it as they go. To suggest that this isn’t ‘fact-based’ is as silly as suggesting that all of the books purchased by HR professional are. The net does require that its users be able to distinguish among competing authorities and not everyone is skillful in that arena. The medium through which information is distributed is hardly a guarantor of fact, reliability or validity.
That the profession will increasingly depend on information obtained online from authorities who work primarily in that medium is a foregone conclusion. I’m less sure than you that it heightens the risk of HR’s demise. What I am sure of is that lists like this will increasingly approximate the real sphere of influence in the industry. Five years from now, this sort of ranking based on the facts of the Internet, will be highly evolved. The nuance that the current results admittedly lack are rooted in a couple of things:
1. The techniques of measurement and definition of influence are in their infancy. It takes repeated hard work to iron out the sorts of issues we are discussing. Your comments and concerns will get seen and incorporated in the rapid evolution of the measurement of professional influence.
2. The organization itself is changing rapidly as the result of the same dynamics that are changing the nature of expertise and influence. Whether there is a role for HR in its current form is subject to debate. Certainly, many of the people who emerge as online influencers think that a revolution is brewing, imminent and going to happen because of social media. Another serious subset of the people on this list are actual revolutionaries in the profession.
Thanks for your help pulling the list together. It’s not possible, currently, to measure all influence everywhere, It’s useful to remember that this measures online influence. The question, as we’re debating it, is ‘how important is that?
May 13, 2010; 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CDT
Webinar Description: Recruiting is on the edge of a disruptive transformation. It’s happened in every related industry, from publishing and telecommunications to database structure and development. There is broad agreement that disruption is imminent. There is little agreement about what it looks like.
John Sumser, widely regarded as the premier analyst of recruiting technologies and futures, will present the results of the research he has been doing with Pinstripe sponsorship. The Five Scenarios project looks at possible futures and their consequence on the shape and content of recruiting efforts.
In this webinar, you will learn about scenario planning and how it compares to other ways of developing a strategy. You will consider several alternative views of the future. You will come to understand the places where change is most likely to impact your organization and recruiting practice.
- Scenario Plaiing
- Five Scenarios
- Vulnerabilties and Opportunities
- Do It Yourself Scenarios Kit
- Audience Participation
John Sumser Bio
John Sumser has been chronicling and forecasting the evolution of Recruiting for over 15 years. As the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the HRExaminer, he is exploring the careers of fast track professionals in the HR and Recruiting universe. He routinely advises Recruiting Departments and Recruiting suppliers.
May 13, 2010; 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CDT
It is possible to know everyone you intend to recruit five years in advance. Not only is it possible, it’s the most strategic form of recruiting. By clearly articulating your requirements, you can transform Human Capital Acquisition from a reactive game into a proactive offensive strategy.
The problem with the term “Human Capital” is that it perpetuates the notion that human beings are interchangeable anonymous widgets. People who are treated as if they were capital, start to behave like capital. They move to the source of the highest return as quickly as possible without regard to loyalty.
Most recruiting happens in response to a variety of ”surprises”: Attrition higher than the forecast; the unanticipated departure of a key contributor; unanticipated success in a new market; failure to adjust to changing conditions; the final release of “new” requisitions. Although the precise details of any given hiring requirement can never be perfectly predicted, they can be anticipated with a high degree of accuracy. What is often called “Strategic Recruiting” is really just a common sense approach to things that can be known about an organization.
Reactive processes are compounded by tools that work against effective recruiting. Applicant Tracking Systems, by and large, create overwhelming pools of data that inhibit clear decision making. They provide solid legal defenses and organizational buffers to cope with large volumes of data. They very specifically do not improve recruiting results.
The goal of workforce planning is to adequately predict the hiring, training and retention requirements of an organization.
Workforce planning can seem so complicated that it never gets done. Visionary systems suggest that a combination of scenario planning and deep skills assessment can lead to a decision-making framework. I favor the back of the envelope school of thinking. That is, some level of planning is far superior to none at all.
When you have a department (or company) focused on the accomplishment of a single, repetitive task (even if it varies in the way that customer support tends to) there are sound, repeatable tools for workforce sizing that can and should be broadly applied. The techniques are so easy and powerful that precision can be measured in fractional percentage points of accuracy. A spreadsheet, attrition rates, forecast growth curves and a few variables will turn out excellent products in these cases. The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (www.swpp.org) is a good source of tools.
In more sophisticated settings, organizational dynamics and political issues complicate the problem. Ultimately, good workforce planning is an iterative (and ongoing) process. Bottoms-up estimating will always be modified by top-down concerns. Workforce Planning is, after all, a planning conversation. Learning to engage the organization in the give and take of planning is at the heart of successful implementation.
Knowing your needs and the issues that affect them is one half of the planning equation. The other, equally important facet, involves understanding your labor market. It is both possible and desirable to know, by name and other contact information, all of the people you could employ within your market. Narrowing it down to those you want to employ comes later.
Although it may seem overwhelming at first (particularly if your organization is in an extremely large city), you should be able to identify the people who are likely to become a part of your workforce, the various sources (schools, competitors, adjacent industries) from which they will emerge. It’s a matter of reviewing the data you already have to determine those sources and the degree to which you rely on them.
This is one of the best uses for an applicant tracking system (ATS). What you are looking for is quantitative data describing the schools, competitors and adjacent industries that supplied you with your current workforce. The very best source of that information is company records. The most likely central repository is the ATS. Data from your existing workforce can show the labor supply patterns.
(Remember the searches you have done in the ATS. They will be useful as you begin to mine for potential employees later on in the process.)
Once you have a solid list of supply points (again, that’s schools, competitors, adjacent industries and other organizations), you can start to ask some pretty interesting questions like:
- What percentage of last decade’s graduates from Community College X did you hire. What percentage of which majors? Are they going to continue that level of supply over the next five years?
- What percentage of your engineers come from competitors? What percentage come from colleges? Will both sources continue to be viable over the next five years?
- Where do your program managers come from? What’s happening in those institutions?
- Where do your technicians come from? What’s happening in those worlds?
Ultimately, you need a supply point by supply point assessment of value and likelihood of continuation? This is the very same exercise that purchasing departments engage in when they plan for the availability of critical materials or subcontractors.
In fact, you might consider collaborating with them. One person’s labor supply is another person’s subcontractor. Being well versed in the labor supply includes understanding the sources for the entire organization’s supply chain.
State funded Economic Development Councils and Boards are great places to find the right data. Each of the members of the Employment Supply Chain, from Universities to Customers and Vendors, from Regional Government to Competitors in transition, members of your chain know the answers to your questions. Building a comprehensive picture of your labor supply, its causes and conditions is a critical step in learning to manage it.
Our sponsor Pinstripe, Inc. designs, builds and delivers high-performance talent acquisition and management solutions. Pinstripe’s innovative approach to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) integrates sourcing, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and engagement into a complete, end-to-end solution. Pinstripe on-demand hiring solutions are tailored for specific clients across a spectrum of industries including financial services, healthcare, technology, telecommunications and other major industries. For healthcare organizations, Pinstripe Healthcare works with clients to attract the best available talent so they can deliver high quality patient care and reduce overall labor costs.
Top 100 v1.64 Josh Bersin
Josh Bersin is living proof that you can create influence from whole cloth. In seven and a half years, his eponymous company, Bersin and Associates, has come from nowhere to extraordinary industry prominence. His small team is increasingly responsible for the way that HR sees itself.
In 2001, with 20 years of marketing experience (mostly in high tech), Bersin and a couple of collaborators launched their soon to change the industry analysts shop. Bersin and Associates “provides research and advisory consulting in enterprise learning, talent management, leadership development, and strategic HR. The company focuses on trends, best-practices, benchmarks, and technology solutions which drive strategic business impact.”
It’s a strange place for a guy with an MBA from Haas, a Masters Degree in Engineering from Stanford and an Engineering Degree from Cornell to end. That’s the profile of a typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur, just not in HR. When you talk with Josh, it’s easy to see him in engineering roles.
That’s really the heart of the company. Rigorous analysis in astonishing volume is how the world knows Bersin and Associates. The company produces a flood of insight on an expanding range of HR topics. If you want to understand the common benchmark practices in the industry, you go to Bersin for the documentation. With over 800 reports that span the HR Industry’s silos, there are few more cost effective ways to understand how the industry is run at the baseline.
The company has seven analysts who conduct research in Training, Performance Management, Leadership,Talent Management and various aspects of Talent Acquisition. The research covers benchmarking, best practices and problem solving. In addition, There is a consulting and strategic services component
Josh is passionate about Talent Management. “It’s a business problem, not an HR problem,” he says. “I’m interested in the three questions that are on the minds of the top 30% of HR leaders and practitioners.
- How do you improve productivity?
- How do you lead for the future?
- How do you make performance management work?
In this market, everyone is in transformation. No one is left untouched. HR has an enormous opportunity to demonstrate its real value.”
We talked for a long time about the value of benchmarking. As most readers know, I thin benchmarking is a silly way to approach a problem. The only guarantee you get with benchmarking is that you are a follower.
Bersin, as you’ve probably guessed, disagrees.
“It doesn’t make sense to be great at everything. Particularly in a resource constrained environment, you have to pick your battles. Real differentiation means doing most things well enough and focusing on the key areas where you can make a competitive difference.”
The company, tries to deliver on this promise. A very high-touch approach to its customers (who are all ‘subscribers’) differentiates the firm from other analysts who seem to price their services based on the lack of availability of the key personalities. Not so at Bersin. Over the time I spent getting to know them, the players were all productively engaged. Bersin himself seems to have a particularly brutal travel schedule.
In this case, the essence of influence boils down to:
- Willingness to take big risks (no experience as an analyst before launching the firm)
- Deep commitment to quality of the product
- Astonishing volume (if you sign up for their RSS feed, you’ll get buried)
- The ability to build an egalitarian team in a company that carries your name
- A profound willingness to listen.
At the root, Bersin’s product is a method for listening to the HR profession. Nobody does it better.