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Talent Management Influencers’ List: Add a Grain of Salt for Flavor
by Kelly Cartwright
[editor's note: I asked Kelly, who is this week's Top 100 Influencer and a seasoned player in the Talent Management scene, to respond to the most recent Top 25 list. Here are her thoughts.]
I find lists irresistible. Even on the busiest day, it’s impossible not to stop for a moment and click to a “Top Ten or Top 100” list. It’s curiosity. It’s human nature. If you agree with the results, you feel smarter and somehow validated. If you disagree, you can indulge in the belief that you know just a bit more than those who rank the best places to live, healthiest fast foods, or worst Super Bowl commercials. So of course HRExaminer’s recent Top Online Influencers in Talent Management is worth a look. It’s well-intentioned, thoughtfully executed, admittedly imperfect, and at the same time very useful.
John Sumser serves up the list with his own grains of salt. He questions whether talent management has any meaning. He looks at assumptions underlying the rules of influence today (“If you want to be a thought leader, thought is less important than volume”). He acknowledges that today’s situation will not remain forever (“But it’s going to be with us for quite a while”). In a field where list-makers often take themselves and their opinions very seriously, there is a refreshingly honest perspective at work in the HRExaminer effort. It does not pretend to lay down the law; rather, it is simply engaging in the conversation. I’m happy to add to that conversation, and I’ll start by asking, does visibility = influence?
As a talent management consulting business leader, I spend most of my time working with our consultants and our clients. From the client perspective, I know that there is a clear business aspect to what influence really means. I would ask, “if someone is highly visible online as a talent management thought leader, has that person caused organizations to make decisions based on their knowledge?” Does the work of the influencer shape companies’ initiatives, drive their budgets, or support their technology decisions? Is the influencer changing how money is spent? For many of the online influencers, the answer is a definite yes. But not all cases. Visibility is only as useful as the credibility to back it up. Visibility, longevity, and quality of thought leadership are all important. These are the characteristics that support the logic, and the business cases, for setting strategies and budgets.
I’ll sprinkle a second grain of salt regarding the definition of talent management. It’s true that many buzzwords grow in meaning until they become so general that they stop meaning anything at all. Talent Management has not lost its meaning, if for no other reason than that there is still much room to grow and much work to do. Companies are still spending money and making strategic decisions based on a very specific idea that disparate functions of HR need to work together if they are to deliver business value. Companies are working hard today to bring those processes together under the umbrella of one function and they are still referring to that function as talent management. This may change over time, as all things do, but talent management today is a term and a discipline that is very much alive.
Finally, I would question the idea that a “top” influencer is even possible to identify. Many of those who achieve prominence as online influencers are researchers, analysts and industry pundits. This is not a bad thing at all. Many major strategic decisions and initiatives are launched on the basis of the business case rooted in the research of an industry thought leader. Their visibility, however, is only part of the picture of what influence means. The decision makers and executives who commit to talent management strategies are just as important, and so are the people working at the line level who bring those strategies to life. The questions I bring up about influence are not new. John asked them himself back in February 2010 in his post “Reconsidering Influence.” It’s worth a look.
So, why are we so interested in an influencers list? First of all, it’s a list (and lists are irresistible)—and it’s a good list. It does a great job of keeping score. If we can objectively measure electronic and social media visibility, we certainly should do so. For those who simply want to learn, this is a place to start. Even for those who are seasoned veterans, there are more lessons to be learned. Did you know that Tom Hood of the Maryland Association of CPA’s is a top online influencer in Talent Management?
Explore a little bit and you can see why. Our industry is always more than we think it is, and we should appreciate the influencers who show us that every day.
Top 100 v 1.74 Kelly Cartwright
The HR Industry is maturing. Fifteen years ago, the space was a wild west sideshow. As the emergence of software standardized administrative practice, HR became increasingly intelligible.
Although the older institutions have failed to keep pace with reality, that’s hardly a surprise. HR evolved from the payroll department to a digital information infrastructure in a very short time. Lacking the traditional educational pipelines of other industries, the field matured ahead of its vendors and academic institutions.
Part of the problem people have with HR is that generalizations almost always fail to capture the operating reality of a particular company in a particular market. HR is the organizational function that manages Human Capital in much the same way that the Financial Department manages money. Slowly but surely, we are evolving companies that provide tailored offerings across the silos of HR.
Kelly Cartwright is General Manager of The Newman Group (TNG). Founded by Ed Newman in 1999, TNG is one of the preeminent companies providing talent acquisition strategy, services and solutions.The company was acquired by Futurestep (part of Korn-Ferry) in 2007. Faced with the always difficult chore of operating a founder’s eponymous company, Kelly is focused on the branding and strategic opportunities for TNG as it completes its integration with Futurestep/Korn-Ferry.
Kelly represents the way that the industry is growing up. In a universe where men lead a predominantly female workforce, she stands with the small group of other women executives. In some ways, the HR industry and its vendor ecosystem offers an amazing opportunity to demonstrate effective management and development. The glass ceiling may be a little thinner in our universe. She’s a peer among pioneers who demonstrate the integration of roles across life aspects.
Kelly’s influence in and on the industry stems from a lifetime of roles around the business. She’s worked on all sides of the staffing equation from ATS providers and pure staffing firms to technology problems solvers like TNG. Along the way, she has worked with a large number of the other influencers in our Top 100 list.
“As TNG emerges from its initial post-acquisition phase, we’re deep in the throes of internal change management. My job is to help unlock the synergies within Futurestep/Korn-Ferry. We’re listening hard to our customers as change seems to be the single consistent thing across the customer base.”
TNG competes with Knowledge Infusion, Deloitte, Towers, Hewitt-Aon and other large providers of strategy and integrated solution. “We help businesses identify problems and then implement affordable solutions” This means that Kelly’s view of Talent Management and Talent Acquisition is extremely pragmatic. “We can’t afford to have brilliant theories that fail in execution.”
Cartwright and I spoke about the things that are changing the face of HR at this moment:
- The way that organizations are tying performance and compensation changes the way that you manage performance. New managerial styles are emerging as our organizations become consumers of Human Capital. The ever moving performance bar ( a management approach introduced by Wal Mart) creates an ever intensifying cycle of performance demands and skill up leveling. Like the river that is never the same twice, hiring for similar positions is not the same thing it used to be.
- Technology makes new things happen. Take competencies for example. Now we define them, use them as recruiting benchmarks, measure our results against them and solve for gap analysis.
- Organizations are increasingly putting people with vast experience (but not in HR) into HR slots. This simultaneously makes the function more relevant and condemns us to reinventing the wheel.
- More and more organizations are doing workforce planning.
- Information overload is driving down productivity. More voices is a good thing. Too many more voices is just cacophony.
It’s early in Kelly Cartwright’s career. Expect to see her emerging as a lifetime power player.
As I was leaving Las Vegas after the HRDemo show, I stopped into the little oxygen bar by the gate. Vegas always leaves me feeling spent and a dose of O2 is my favorite treat on the way home.
The Oxygen bar is a clever little operation that always has something to sell. As a part of the session, the ‘bartender’ demonstrates a variety of stress release devices. Mostly, they are heated pieces of plastic that give a nice massage. There’s a little bit of overpriced aromatherapy to be had as well.
This time, they were pushing a TENS device (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). A TENS device delivers electrical current to your skin as a way of stimulating muscles and relieving stress. The feeling is a little wierd but the tactic works for tight muscles and some kinds of pain relief. They wanted $200 for the thing.
In what will be an increasingly common occurrence, I sat at the counter and looked up the price of the device on Amazon on my iPhone. (You can get one for about $85.) Needless to say, I thanked them for the offer and headed off to the plane.
We are entering a new era. It is possible to know things quickly that used to be the basis of retail economics. In the old days, stores offered low prices to attract traffic and made their money by marking up other things. Now that you can comparison shop while in the store, there’s another economic shoe to drop in the retail business.
The web makes it easy to measure a vast range of things. Stuff that could not be seen is now easily measured. The web seeks out friction and noise and tries to minimize them. The web makes it possible to compare discrepant pieces of information on the fly as a part of decision making.
This is the force behind the business world’s increasing emphasis on analytics and dashboards. The theory is, if you can measure it, you should (and that’s probably true). What’s less clear is the way that measurement distracts us from the important things. The ability to measure creates a false sense that you actually know what’s going on.
You can not measure the present to predict the future.
I was talking with the North American rep of an international firm that is trying to break into the Enterprise Market in the US and Europe. He told me that his company was only going to invest in marketing activities that could be validated by data before they spent. They were not going to chase wild geese. They wanted to be sure that their money was well spent.
I laughed really hard. If I’d been drinking something, it would have come out my nose.
Measurement tells you everything you need to know about the past and maintaining the status quo. Data tells you a lot about what happened but is only marginally useful for telling you about what could happen. It can only narrow your choices to proven tracks.
The problem with following tried and true marketing tactics is that they don’t work. The most fundamental truth of marketing is that every new idea wears out quickly. Marketing is the hunt for the edge, not a desperate struggle to find predictability. If you want predictability in marketing, you probably shouldn’t be in the game.
The greatest marketers begin with an hypothesis and then test it to death. They look to see what works right now. They know that the time will come when this particular hypothesis wears out. That’s when they chuck it all away and start over.
It’s how you build an employment brand, sell software, develop new products, keep your business agile and generally stay alert when everyone else is going to sleep.
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In The Know v 1.45 HRDemo Roundup
Earlier this month, I hosted a new kind of conference in Las Vegas. The HRDemo Show features vendors demoing their software. It’s a new format for our industry and offered some significant insights into the state of the market and the differences between vendors.
- What Katherine Saw
From Brian Sommer, one of the analysts at our Summit comes a set of observations from Katherine Jones who was also a part of the Analyst Summit.”Full-length live demos gave the audience a chance to compare the user interfaces of the talent management products shown, which varied from “busy” to cartoon-ish, from data-laden pages to clean and clear. In addition, the audience could ascertain performance differences as well. Some solutions took a long time to render metrics – too long for real-life use—while others (such as Workday) positively screamed as SaaS performers with impressive sub-second response times.”
- HR Demo Show and Keyser Soze
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. The same holds true for truly innovative HR (and all business) systems. If I have to click through a jabillion login systems, remember 40 passwords and learn to navigate an unfriendly UI that’s based on a legacy system, I’m not only likely to believe your SaaS exists, but hate it.”
- A New Model In HR Conferences: HR Demo Show
Sarah White is an aspiring tech analysts who focuses on making the complex extremely simple and intelligible. “Most conferences are built around 2 spaces – the conference/learning area and the expo hall. Attendees arrive at the show typically with a focus on one of these areas and the other is more secondary. The traditional sessions are about adoption, use, what other companies are doing (All important!) and the expo space is where you pick up pens and swag as you get attacked/approached by vendors looking to have you see 3-4 minutes of their software. HR Demo Show decided to combine & refine that model and make it all about the technology.”
- The Truly Night and Workday
Kevin Grossman’s recap notes that SuccessFactors and Workday make an non-glamorous thing like HRTech glamorous.
- The best Companies in HR are …
Willing to take risks and make investments. You can see it in their demos and their interfaces.
- Tektonic Award Winners:
SharedXpertise, the producers of the HR Demo Show announced the winners of this year’s Tektonic Awards. The winners were determined by a rigorous process that included a written customer feedback survey, industry analyst and independent third-party evaluations and a review of each vendor’s software functionality. Here are the awards:
Overall – Workday
Talent Management/Recruiting – Job Search Television Network
Performance Management – SuccessFactors
Compensation/Payroll/Benefits – Ultimate Software
Learning – Saba HR
Social Media – Monster.com
Vendor Management Solutions – Beeline
Workforce Management – Lawson
Workforce Planning – Aruspex
HRMS – NorthgateArinso
- TweetReach For the HRDemo Show
The BlogSquad generated over 3.6 million social media impressions during the event.