HRExaminer v3.28 July 13, 2012
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Online Influencers in Employment Law
We’re continuing to mine the social universe for clues about and insight into the subject of influence. Since we began the HR Influence project back in 2009, the world has become more sophisticated on the topic of online influence. Where reach, relevance and resonance were once acceptable limits on the conversation, things have changed in interesting ways.
Our early models of influence made a critical assumption; that all people use social media in the same way and for similar purposes. If that were true, then all utterances in social media can be stuffed inside a relatively simple formula. As the marketplace conversation about influence grew in its understanding, those limits became very apparent.
You can not tell what tweets, facebook postings, blog entries or other social media instances mean or infer. You can only count them. Some people have lengthy conversations in Twitter, some broadcast. Some writers publish every day, some weekly, some erratically. Some believe that a network is measured by the number of members, others think it’s all about quality and relevance.
To date, there has been little in the way of effective study about the myriad ways in which people use social media. Generally, tools that attempt to measure influence, the spread of ideas or buying habits among connected people arrive at divergent conclusions. Anyone who has participated in our industry’s debate about influence is aware of the range of motives and understandings that dot the conversation. So, tools that claim to measure influence are all limited by the bias of their assumptions about behavior in social media.
That means its really complicated to try to figure out the answer to a question like “Who are the most influential lawyers in HR?”
While LinkedIn could help provide the answer to the question “Who is a Lawyer?”, the service runs a tight universe from which useful information rarely escapes. Deep analysis of the social graph tends to operate outside of the purview of the former PayPal mafia. Good answers have to be constructed from information that is at least somewhat readily available.
So, for this version of the Top 25 in HR Law, we’ve focused on the people who speak about the law and HR. These are the people who regularly write, facebook and tweet about the fundamental legal issues in the industry. Some of them are lawyers and many are not.
To do the research, we used the services of SocialEars, the service from HRMarketer. The SocialEars HR edition is a database of content and data about the authors of the content. Sources range from Twitter, Facebook and blogs to a host of online publications and business periodicals. Rather than focusing on purely social media forms of communication, the SocialEars approach attempts to paint a clear picture of what’s available to be read, who wrote it and who is talking about it.
The SocialEars data collection and algorithm development process involves a complex cycle of data acquisition and analysis. One of the questions they try to answer is “If I want to be heard on subject X, who should I be sure to talk to?”.
More so than any of the other ‘influence’ measurement schemes, SocialEars acknowledges that authors move around at the same time as the industry conversation changes. They steadfastly refuse (in spite of a lot of prodding) to try to measure ‘influence’. Rather, they work to identify the key voice on a given subject at a given time. An author registers in their system if they cover a specific topic in a specific time frame.
Mark Willaman, SocialEars CEO says, “In addition to providing an author’s TFF ratio, LinkedIn network size, Klout and Peerindex scores, SocialEars scores authors on an extensive combination of factors, the primary two being their engaged reach (e.g., the extent to which other people share their content, thus lengthening the conversation) and the popularity of their original content. This calculation includes our own proprietary listening, conversation and social quotient that factors in author-reach, conversation depth, content type, quality and relevance.”
We generated a list of keyword phrases that seemed to generally cover all of the important topics in employment law (see below). We then segmented those keywords into nine categories. We limited the search to the last 90 days. Each keyword phrase was sifted, scored and aggregated into the nine categories (see the spreadsheet for full scoring details). The results are published as the Top 25 list. Additional scoring and Twitter handles are available in the spreadsheet.
We made one additional decision in the final scoring. SocialEars tracks both publications and people. At this point in the application’s development, content can be attributed to either, not both. Since this is a list of influential people, we removed periodicals from the list.
The distinction between people and periodicals is fading pretty quickly. There are no unnamed authors in the Harvard Business Review, but few of them publish regularly enough to impact social media. Over time, we’ll get clearer about the role of periodicals.
Of the Top 25 on the list, slightly less than 35% are practicing lawyers. About 15% are content curators (like William Tincup and Brian Wempen). Curators are critical parts of the ecosystem because they help people find content by tweeting links to content they think is important. The other 50% are split between the editors and publishers of industry magazines and consultants who specialize in specific aspects of the law.
There is a ton of legal information and opinion online. As you can see, most of it is not generated by lawyers. This is predictable and bears a strong resemblance to the way that lawyers work in HR.
Generally speaking, lawyers decide things. HR promulgates those decisions. When the lawyers legislate (they love to create policies), the HR folks enforce and educate. When the lawyers litigate, the HR folks spread the lessons learned (when they are transmittable).
So the fact that one in three of the top 25 voices in Employment Law is actually a lawyer is what you’d expect. A lawyer’s ability to communicate and discuss is circumscribed. HR folks are not bound by the same set of issues.
- John Sumser
Founder and Editor in Chief, HRExaminer.com
More AboutSocial Media Influence
What we measure in the online influencer lists is pretty simple. We’re trying to figure out whose work is most likely to turn up when you search for specific topics in the niche. The measures help answer the question ‘who should you talk to about x?”
This is extraordinary influence in a very specific way. When new people come to find out about the area, these are the faces they’ll encounter. Popularity and quality (two things which seem to bear little relationship to each other) are not what we measure. You can’t, really.
Along the way to figuring this out, we’re hoping to understand how ideas spread. That would be another level of influence and we don’t have that one yet. Again, the spreading of ideas might be split into the popular and quality piles. Again, they are likely to bear little relationship to each other.
What we’re not doing is measuring some comprehensive attribute of a person. Rather, the lists adress the question ‘who is influential to new folks on the topic of x?”.
There are other equally important aspects of influence that should be a part of the toolset of any HR professional.
- Herding cats: HR folks are staff people. They do not have authority. That means that there are very few things they can tell people to do. Influence is the way you encourage people who don’t report to you to do the things you need them to.
- Staff Development: There are few place in the HR mishmash that have greater long term effect on the organization. Every bit of attention paid in training and mentoring employees pays a huge benefit for the firm in loyalty, improved decision making and effective work habits. Influence is what happens when you change the organization by improving the people who work there.
- Hiring: Setting a high bar for quality and fit makes sure that the culture is always upleveling. HR is uniquely suited to drive this leverage across the entire organizarition.
- Firing: Jettisoning people who aren’t suited to the company can be a drawn out and expensive process or a straightforward execution. When HR cultivates a culture of expectation clarity and rapid decision making in this area, the team always gets better.
- Ooops and Aw S#1&: The current issue of Vanity Fair talks about how Microsoft destroyed its culture through the use of stack ranking. Influence is not always positive (just ask your mother). It’s possible for HR to be involved inand responsible for catastrophes.
- Outside Help: HR can be the gateway through which external influence and commentary flows through the organization. It can be the source of clear critique. The HR folks at Microsoft who championed stack ranking were pretty influential. Imagine the influence of the guy who stopped it in time to save the company.
Influence is far more than a few words and links in social media. But, if you are not figuring out how to harness this new form, the others will be decresaingly likely to work for you.
The list of Top 25 Voices of Employment Law came out, and it was only about 35% lawyers. A handful of the people I expected to show up were there, but many more were missing. Where were they? These are people I really respect . They write about employment law a lot, and have both broad and deep knowledge of the subject.
It turns out that’s partly why they didn’t show up on the list. We picked key words across the spectrum of employment law, including topics that HR deals with way more than lawyers, like benefits. And the Social Ears algorithm then searched the key words across the internet, including blog posts, social media, and anywhere else they showed up connected to that person.
Since most lawyers write blog posts on firm blogs, and don’t have either the time or tweetbots to push out multiple links to multiple posts, the list was compiled based on what they wrote over the last 90 days.
Also, lawyers have to be careful about what they write online. They can’t really write about their own cases because of their ethical obligations to protect client confidences. That requirement lasts forever–even after the case is done. They also can’t write about cases they are currently involved in, because they can’t disclose their strategy and analysis.
Then, they have to watch out for things they write coming back to bite them in later cases. Lawyers have to protect their ability to make the best legal argument for their client at the time–even if that means taking a position different from the one they took in the last case. It might be because the situation is different. Maybe they are simply on the other side this time. But the last thing they can do to their client or themselves is have the lawyer on the other side quoting their blog post to the judge to support the opposition. I’ve seen it happen. (I’ve done it.) It’s not pretty.
Lawyers also have to be careful about giving specific legal advice online. What they are talking about in one situation might not apply to a different scenario. They don’t want people to rely on what they are saying and then do or not do something because of it–at least without talking to an attorney about their specific situation.
So mostly, lawyers write about published cases, new laws,or opinions by agencies like the EEOC or the NLRB.
So when you take a 90 day snapshot of employment law blogs, you’re going to find many lawyers talking about the same latest case or guidance (or lack thereof) from an agency. Others are going to be talking about deeper or more specific issues than would normally be picked up by general key word searches.
The people who came to the top of the list are people who gather content across a wide swath of sources from employment lawyers, vendors, HR practitioners, news sources and the many great bloggers in the HR arena.
For example, William Tincup (No. 4 on the list) is an extremely smart guy who knows a boatload about what makes people tick, marketing, business, music, and cigars. He has an intensely curious mind and consumes lots of content to stay on top of trends and issues, including employment law. He also has a tweetbot on crack. But if you walked up to him and asked him whether firing someone after they came back from a stress leave is legal, he’d shrug and tell you to call his friend Jon Hyman, the employment lawyer. Tincup is many things, but he’s not an expert on employment law. And he’d be the first one to tell you that.
Influencer lists measure who is talking about particular subjects and how often they say it. They give you a great place to start if you want to know more. But it’s a snapshot. No one thinks that the picture of you making a duckface at the party is a representation of the real or complete you. Influencer lists are no different.
by Dr. Todd Dewett
Most individuals do not reach their potential. One key explanation is lack of self-awareness. So much time is spent trying to teach professionals how to obtain self-awareness. Interestingly, what is missing from the discussion is what to do after obtaining increased self-awareness. Typically, people don’t like to look in the mirror, so they turn their head. For the brave who decide to look, here is a bit of progressive advice. I call it next level honesty.
Next level honesty is grappling with a reality that we often initially resist due to our fear of tension or conflict. For example, Zappos pays new employees $1,000 to quit after the first week if they are not loving the job and honestly committed. Instead of allowing them to stay on indefinitely with only modest commitment while sucking up resources, they bribe them to leave. That’s next level honesty.
I challenge you to follow this example and find an individual version of next level honesty. I’ll give you one suggestion to get started: your resume. The standard resume is often a pile of embellishments and half-truths.
My first bit of advice: stick to the facts and tell it straight. Next, strive to stand out not by distorting reality, but by taking honesty to the next level. Think about every interview you have ever endured. In each one you talked about things on your resume. Then what? Predictably, you talked about things that are not on your resume. The most common example: instances of failure or the experience of conflict. You have never completed an interview without addressing these issues. Why then, don’t you step up to the plate and own this reality? Add another section to your resume: Lessons Learned!
Don’t wait for the interviewer to ask those sometimes uncomfortable “off resume” questions. Supply them with the answers on your resume. In the “Lessons Learned” section you can list and explain the tasks, projects, or roles you have encountered in the past that resulted in great learning moments. Remember that teammate with whom you butted heads so often – Phil? Don’t list him by name, but he goes on the list. After his name, put “positive relationships at work are vital, but sometimes you have to learn to work with folks you don’t like.” Then be willing and able to talk about Phil and how working with him made you a stronger professional.
Here is a good one that goes on my resume from one of my college internships: “Jimmy Dean Foods: learn how to say no / manage your time or it will manage you.” During the course of the internship, my supervisor suggested that I needed to work on fewer projects at one time to ensure the quality of each effort. It was great advice. I was overly swamped, it was my fault, and I need to learn how to focus and sometimes say “no.” I owe her big time. Understanding how to aggressively manage your time is a strategic skill for any professional and I am grateful to have learned that lesson so early.
So think about two to four examples you might include in the Lessons Learned section of your resume.
Then, think about other possible personal targets for your next level honesty. Is it something you decide to share with your boss about a project? How much you will disclose to the candidates you interview for spots on your team? I promise that when you approach next level honesty with positivity and obviously needed prudence, it will make you more real and approachable tot hose around you. Take the risk.
Welcome to the next level.
I love the name. In a sea of look alike offerings with names like JobZombie, CareerPotty, EmploymentAsphalt, TalentMagnate and 10,000 other indistinguishable variants on the words Talent, Career, Employment or Job, Zao comes out of the chute with differentiation. You pronounce it “Zow”.
With 11 employees (mostly in Israel), Zao isn’t the smallest startup looking to make a name in social recruiting. It’s certainly one of the most focused players in the current generation. (A generation in social technology related firms is something under a year). Zao is 90 days old and making great strides.
You have to parse through the me-too crap to get at the company’s real value. Zao is another in the herd of players who propose to deliver incentive based referral programs harnessing social media. That means that they are following the path blazed by H3 and Jobster in years gone by. All of the processes have been patented and (we think) purchased in the recent flood of investment money flowing around the industry.
In a world where reinventing the wheel works as a fund raising juggernaut, it’s nice to notice that there are some lessons learned from the past. Hans Gieskes, the founder of H3 tried to encapsulate what he and his team learned when they shuttered their operation.
His key points:
- You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him/her drink. Only 4% of people are actual “connectors” (see Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point), perhaps proven by fact that fewer than 4% of LinkedIn’s members are in “500+” category. No wonder that in traditional ERP programs only a fraction of employees actually take part and score (multiple) rewards. It’s great that hundreds of millions of people have a LinkedIn or Facebook account, but 96% of them will never become successful networkers regardless. So all these referral recruiting solutions are wasted on the majority of employees/people.
- Real “connectors” make incredibly prudent and balanced decisions when it comes to referring a job or a candidate: they will only make a referral if they truly believe they’re doing the right thing for both people on each side of the referral. Whereas a financial reward can certainly add urgency to a referral request, money will not corrupt their decision, as we saw at h3.com where $10,000 rewards never resulted in resume spam and never yielded bad candidates. It’s not about financial rewards; it’s about prudent people carefully managing their social credit balance sheet to first of all help people whose relationship they value.
- If we accept that only a small fraction of a company’s employees are true connectors, and in the same light that only a fraction of our personal networks are true connectors, then it’s obvious why referral recruiting solutions advocate that non-employees should be able to make referrals and earn or share rewards. Resulting back-office issues should not be underestimated, and indeed are a genuine concern for HR managers: W-9, 1099 IRS reporting, etc.
In other words, referral programs harness the energies of a few very specific types of people. While automation can reduce the complexity of referral programs, it is unlikely to significantly increase the yield of those programs.
There was something about the conversation I had with Ziz Eliraz, Zao’s founder and CEO. There are few things more refreshing than talking with a man who is driven by his vision of a better world. Elriaz is very happy to build Zao by being frugal and working through word of mouth. This is different from most of the startups I talk to who are interested in rapid growth and changing the world tomorrow.
In the conversation, we stumbled across one of the areas that no one has seemed to touch yet. Using referrals to staff the entire business ecosystem. The approach would have some chance of succeeding in the supply chains of companies like Cisco, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Boeing, Bechtel and the usual stacks in most major MSAs. While Zao has no interest in solving the problem, Ziv is the kind of guy who generates that sort of insight in a conversation.
So, if we were betting on the entrepreneur, we’d bet on Ziv. If we were betting on the concept, we’d bet against him.
Here are a few of the other competitors.