Table of Contents
August 24, 2011 (Bodega Bay, CA)
It’s easy to forget that the HRExaminer investigation of online influence began over two years ago. Before there was traackr, klout, or other tools that measure influence, we were trying to figure it out. The idea wasn’t very original. Influence was at the root of Google’s page rank algorithm.
In the absence of a central government (where power and authority are the dominant modes of getting things done), influence is how the world goes round. Before there was a consumer internet, media flowed down very constrained channels. Who held influence was obvious. The difference between celebrity and trend setter was narrow. What was good for Hollywood (or Detroit, or NY or DC) was good for the world.
In the past generation, hierarchical broadcast communications have declined in importance. In their place are a mosaic of micro-celebrities. Fame is now a niche based phenomenon. The world is full of people who are unknown in their home towns but famous on one of the thousands of rubber chicken circuits.
Like patients with an unusual disease, we are left to fend for ourselves in a sea of quacks and know nothings. The hungry professional trying to find the state of the art has to sort betweeen competing and conflicting voices to get to the bottom of their question. What was once decided by the limitations of broadcast publishing is now a matter of individual importance.
The Top Influencer Project (which includes algorithm generated lists and the top 100 Influencers) makes few claims about the value of a given person’s insight or wisdom. In fact, all the lists do is point out who is easy to discover. This (admittedly very simple) view of influence boils down to”if you’re looking for the people who are most visible (in search engines, social media and online generally) in this specific arena, these are the people you are most likely to encounter’.
Our Top 25 Recruiting Influencers are the voices you are most likely to hear online. In a search for Recruiting expertise, their voices are the loudest and most focused. The list is built using pure automation (see the methodology below).
For sure, there are other important voices. However, they are less likely to be discovered in search engines or through online word of mouth referrals. They belong to an earlier generation of thought leader who used publishing and trade shows to build a personal reputation. As those old fashioned approaches fragment, their influence wanes.
The measurement of influence is a critical concept for people in Recruiting and HR. Within an organiztion, knowing who is and isn’t influential is a critical part of getting things done. Being able to weild influence personnaly is an essential skill for any staff employee. And, HR and Recruiting are both staff jobs.
Beyond the organization’s walls, the measurement of influence is a key to building high fuinctioning communications and referral systems. Communicating through influencers is a way of amplifying a message. Any sourcing strategy that does not try to maximize the use of influential network members is only half a strategy.
Like any neighborhood, the fact that one kid is more influential than another tells you nothing about relative moral fiber or whether they merit the influence that they have. In general, influence, merit amnd integrity have only loose correlations. It takes a disciplined learner to see the difference between flash and insight.
Today, we’re witnessing the ealiest and most primitive uses of information technology that will shape the future. Our lists (and most search enginees) are vlunerable to techniques that game the results. We live in an age where the easiest answer to discover is the one with the biggest marketing budget.
That poses a problem for anyone who has to make personnel decisions. That a person is easy to discover does not tell you whether they’d make a good employee. It may even be the case that there’s a somewhat inverse relationship between discoverability and value.
One of the surprises of our info-dense millieu is that more data means more subtle decisions. Influence is a real factor in any search (for information or people). We all have to evaluate the relationship between influence and value in each hiring decision we make or influence.
In the online world, influence changes pretty dramatically over time. People come and go from their jobs. New people master the techniques of online publishing. Our lists are compiled with the least amount of human intervention possible. Determinations of influence are made through automated measures. In this edition, my name was pulled out of the list because it didn’t seem objective enough to keep me on it.
The method invloves a dramatic (very large) spidering of the web for content related to Recuiting. All of the material that includes prioritized key words (see the image on this page for the keywords) are collected in a single database. It is then compared and contrasted with the data in the social graph. In order to really quantify the dimensions of online influence, we measure three key variables:
- Reach: A measure of the audience size (number of eyeballs) for each individual. Traffic.
- Relevance: The degree to which content associated with the individual matches a cloud of keywords prepared for the analysis
- Resonance: The number of mentions, inbound links and participation found for each individual.
There is nothing more important than having the payroll on time and accurate. Unless your firm is very young and very entrepreneurial, the morale impact of bad payroll processing is an unthinkable option. Profound diligence and precision in this purely administrative challenge is the minimum requirement.
The same is true of benefits administration, vacation scheduling and monitoring, sick leave consumption and a host of other tasks routinely performed by the Human Resources Department. Risk taking is simply not a part of workplace conflict resolution. You don’t want entrepreneurial spirits delivering the news of the layoff. Policy manuals require consistency, not innovation.
Meanwhile, acquiring talent demands out of the box thinking. A good recruiter doesn’t get permission, she asks for forgiveness. Spot market performance in the labor business looks more like a trader’s pit on a commodity exchange than it resembles a staid and reliable procedural office.
The idea that the Recruiting function lives exclusively inside of the HR Department is a slightly skewed version of the truth. The obvious tension between an administrative function and its entrepreneurial sibling has had a series of consequences in organizations over many years. Even in the most rigid organizations, Recruiting is only partly an HR function.
Most Contingency and Executive Search Firms bypass the HR function and its associated recruiters as a matter of course. From the hiring manager’s perspective, this sort of Recruiting is clearly separate form the HR operation. Typically speaking, talent acquired from outside sources is accounted for as a material purchase rather than as an HR cost.
In large engineering firms, contract labor is also acquired through the purchasing department. The “temp to hire” construct is a method for bypassing all that HR has to offer except the final approvals. Executive Search, temps and contract labor are all end runs on the HR Department.
For hiring managers, Recruiting is usually a range of options. Only some of them include the HR Department. The details are often a function of market and industry factors.
In large project environments, for example, (like the defense, security, military and aerospace industries), a large proportion of Recruiting happens as customers become employees. This form of Recruiting is accomplished by senior leaders in Project Management roles. HR is a last stop, a rubber stamp.
It’s simply a mistaken view to suggest that Recruiting is somehow constrained to a prison within the walls of HR.
The variations are regional, professional and industrial. In the federal government (US), the personnel department has far reaching powers. Recruiting is handled through carefully designed structures that prevent nepotism (referral networks).
In heavily unionized environments, on the other hand, the union itself is the source of a lot of the Recruiting muscle.
HR Departments and their relationship to the Recruiting function vary significantly in each of the categories. Size (micro, small, medium, large and huge) is an additional factor.
Generalizing about the relationship between Recruiting and HR is great fun. It rarely, however, hits the “truth gong” (that’s the resounding sound you hear when something is so true that you can not resist it.) The truth always contains a large chunk of paradox. Good theories, on the other hand, are logically consistent but rarely true.
Recruiting is the membership gateway for an organization. We all spend time thinking that it’s a formal and rational process. Really, though, it’s part rites of passage, part initiation ceremony, part courtship, part mating dance. The underbelly of Recruiting is less than elegant and subject to a range of myopias that include forms of illegal discrimination.
Recruiting is the front end of the membership process. It’s rhythms and peculiarities are the way that a culture weeds through potential players and settles on the “right” ones. A big part of the reason that discrimination in hiring requires regulation is that it’s a natural consequence of the Recruiting process. This is why many organizational subsets take matters into their own hands.
Recruiting is the way that people join the tribe.
It is one of the riskiest things an organization does on a routine basis. The right members can guarantee viability and longevity. The wrong choices can produce instant death.
There are a range of “sub-tribes” in an organization. Depending on the size of the overall entity, they can be departments, divisions, business units, wholly owned subsidiaries and so on. Hiring, recruiting and retention practices always vary in these “sub-tribes”. That’s part of the way that they keep their identity solid. The rationale is always something like “there’s deep and important technical understanding involved in our special ceremonies”. Really, it’s the most primitive form of quality control and risk management, having a trusted insider running the operation.
So, what is HR’s role?
When Recruiting is well nestled in the HR department, it is a form of risk management. HR is really, really good and providing and maintaining order. It helps the organization maintain the proper defensive posture in a variety of regulatory environments. It promotes discipline and routine, the very essence of business success and mature organizations.
Recruiting lives in HR because HR is a sheriff and Recruiting wants to be a cowboy. HR is usually the best sheriff in the operation (only finance is ever better at it). This is the nature of the tension. Recruiting is all about growth and development, HR is for process oriented stability. The two complement each other.
The reason that the marketplace provides so many alternatives is that this is not always the best way to do things.
Marketing that works well has the net effect of reversing the flow of the phone traffic and lead generation. With no clear marketing strategy, the enterprise is forced to identify every potential sales target by name and then reach out and create the relationship. The hard work of physical lead generation is a part of building or rebuilding a business. Marketing, when executed effectively, is all about making the prospect of doing business with you so attractive that the normal dynamics of promotion become inverted.
It is an offensive game that deteriorates at the moment that it shifts to the defense.
Recruiting, as currently practiced, is a defensive and reactive process full of promotional techniques. Placing an ad on a job board, hiring a staffing or search firm, and, filling a requirement after it is identified are all reactive behaviors executed in defense of a set of circumstances that happen out of the control of the recruiter. The industry that has grown up to support Recruiters and other HR professionals.
The problem with promotion as a development tool is that it makes people want to run away. Promotion, as demonstrated by the cold call or the surprise demonstration, introduces the ‘prospect’ to a strange thing and asks that s/he consider it without regard to schedule, quality or need. The presence of fear in promotional tools is precisely the reason that cold calls and direct marketing approaches have such low rates of closing. When you reach out cold to a prospect, your batting average falls rapidly.
Attraction, on the other hand, gradually and interestingly introduces the prospect with no threat of immediate sales pressure. Usually, attraction oriented tools and processes give the prospects something of value well in advance of the sales pitch. Advertising is much more about attraction, through increasing brand awareness. Advertising takes time and focus. It operates on different rhythms than the direct approach. It is friendlier with a relaxed pace. Community development is an even longer path.
Now, of course, you have to beat the bushes to get started or restarted. Recruiting in an early stage enterprise has a higher promotional content than a mature operation should have. But, promotion as a development tool is best left to fly by night operations. The question is why the Recruiting industry has avoided the more productive approach of building attraction into its basic processes.
The answer lies in not understanding that the acquisition and maintenance of Human Capital requires a solid infusion of regular capital. Since the question is rarely understood in those terms, Recruiting is treated as an expense rather than as an investment. Recruiting is an investment and always requires an investment at the front end. Technique that attract candidates are the best ways to convert so called passive seekers into active seekers.
LinkedIn, for all of the magic associated with its IPO, has managed to deploy the single most conservative development policy in the social media swamp. With an API that allows only the most limited access to data and an API enforcement policy that is whimsical at best, the $7 Billion company is proving to be slow to adapt to the market. (An API is data interface used to integrate into a software platform.) Stodginess, inflexibility and an unpredictable roadmap are combining to force developers to create missing functionality without any guarantee for their investments.
In place since November 2009, the LinkedIn API has been a boon for services that want to have a twitter like relationship with the social media giant. If you want to post to LinkedIn or read what’s there, the API has been a tremendous gift. Sadly, LinkedIn is a business intelligence tool and not a particularly useful communications platform. Most serious users want to use their data. Most serious development teams want to visualize and make sense of the data.
MyPhilter, from the Hank Stringer machine in Austin, is a great case in point. The application delivers an obvious (and missing) chunk of simple functionality. With MyPhilter, a user can organize LinkedIn contacts into categories for further consideration. A simple process loads the data. MyPhilter tracks the categories. (You can have up to five custom categories.)
That’s a pretty big “Duh!” (as in ‘Holy Crap. That makes LinkedIn a lot more useful.’)
MyPhilter organizes your connections into standard business categories and allows you to modify and improve the sort. Moving people between categories is a drag and drop exercise. It’s the equivalent of G+ circles or Facebook lists.
Being able to categorize your connections is the first step in turning LinkedIn into a useful marketing or project oriented tool. Categories facilitate targeting. Sorting and organizing the rolodex, common in almost all other manifestations of an address book, is finally possible in LinkedIn.
Imagine that you are actually using the LinkedIn to look for a job or do recruiting. Knowing which of your connections are in the right place and then tracking whether you’ve contacted them or not is as simple as moving a contact from one folder to the next.
Take a look. If you want to use the tool, the promo code is PHANTASTIC. This will give you access to functionality for a trial period. A one year, all you can eat, subscription is only $19.95.
This is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” innovations that will certainly become an instant part of the landscape.
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