HRExaminer v3.30 July 27, 2012
Table of Contents
My last update here on HRExaminer offered an idea that obviously wasn’t too new or too radical due to the number of comments and links that showed me brighter minds than mine had already considered it.
The idea was to create a measure of “employee value” that a publically traded company could use to differentiate itself from its competition when determining stock value. My rudimentary suggestion was to find a way to create an “asset class” for the past, current and future employee contribution to the company’s success.
The idea (at least mine) sprung from the fact that many companies take into account “brand value” when looking at mergers and acquisitions and list that as an asset. My point was that if you can value something as intangible as a brand you could value something as intangible as “employee.”
You Can’t Do That
I love that response because it means that I might just be on to something. Many of the comments focused on the fact that you can’t count something as an asset unless you own it and because employees aren’t owned, then the concept falls flat. They are right. Accounting rules say you can’t list something as an asset, in the purest sense of the word, if you don’t own it.
The discussion died down – mostly because I think people got tired of me saying I didn’t really care if it couldn’t be done today – but we should continue to think of how it COULD be done. I’m stubborn that way.
SHRM Following Similar Lines
Then I see a post by Kris Dunn at the HRCapitalist.
In Kris’s post he talks about the effort that SHRM and a few hundred HR pros are engaged in to bring standardization of employee reporting metrics to business (emphasis mine, I’ll get to why in a bit.) Kris pulls a quote from business week article that says; “A group of 600 HR managers, academics, and advisers are drafting guidelines for standardizing measures of workforce diversity, turnover, job training, and the like. They are also drawing up a template for how companies should report such information to shareholders. Those involved in the project argue that companies and investors would benefit if a single set of metrics were used to gauge what they call “human capital.”
So HR pros are looking at the same idea – find a way to value employees.
Detractors are saying it would be too transparent and open up information that competitors would want. In addition, the HR Policy Association is saying these “rules” would create a heavy administrative burden on companies to comply – likening it to the costs that Sarbanes-Oxley created.
Marketers Wouldn’t Care
I’m a marketer by trade and training, with a little psychology and statistics thrown in and my first thought is this…
If I can create a point of differentiation between me and my competition that increases my company’s ability to generate sales, profits and lift the stock price I’m going to do it. Rules be damned. In fact, I DON’T want standardization of reporting – I want to OWN the metric. Me, my company, us.
To me this sums up the problem HR has at the table:
Marketers look for ways to drive competitive differentiations. HR looks for ways to create rules.
If HR truly wants to impress the C-Suite – find a way to value your employees, the employee onboarding processes, your employee training structure/method, your employee reward and recognition strategy and tie it to company performance. Advertise it, market it and let everyone else argue over whether it is right, wrong or indifferent.
Marketers created the brand value idea to help finance people get more money out of an acquisition. Marketers created branding audits to determine brand value. And they did that WITHOUT someone’s permission. Marketers didn’t go to the American Marketing Association Marketing and ask them to create rules by which they would find brand value. They did it themselves, marketed it and iterated as they went along.
Want to know why HR doesn’t get the same respect as Marketing and Sales in the boardroom? I think this juxtaposition is why.
Marketers look for ways to differentiate or die.
HR looks for ways to legislate – and ultimately die.
What’s Up, Mo?
UpMo Releases Freemium Edition
If you ever have a chance to meet Promise Phelon, you will be blown away by the force of her charisma and determination. In Silicon Valley’s all male culture, a woman leader is a rarity. A dynamic woman leader is so unusual that she gets the Yahoo CEO job. A dynamic, young, black woman leader is much harder to find than a California Condor.
Phelon is leading UpMo through a radical navigation of the startup process. Originally conceived as a consumer oriented career management site, the company began to focus on internal mobility (moving from job to job in the same company) earlier this year. Investors and partners (watch this space) got a glimpse of Phelon’s view of the future and started getting on board.
Recently, UpMo launched it’s Freemium edition. The idea is the contemporary replay of the Trojan Horse. By getting enough individual employees to sign on to the service, UpMo hopes to create a beach head inside of potential customers.
At the heart of this new initiative is UpMo’s new offering: the mobility index. Based on the common sense notion that one’s ability to move around the company is a function of the sheer volume of opportunity for people like you. So, if the company’s employment pages indicate a need for many mechanical engineers and you happen to be one, you are more mobile than someone with different credentials and no jobs.
While its early incarnation is an overly simplistic view of the problem, UpMo is really on to something here. In a world of rapid feedback in large volumes, employees are looking for clues about whether to stay or to go. There are a ton of variables that can be combined to create a really meaningful assessment of one’s prospects within a company. UpMo is making a great first move in an area for which transparency hasn’t yet been invented.
Of course, the question opens a Pandora’s Box. The way that mobility really works (in most organizations) involves more political savvy than technical qualification. If you’re working within the realm of the anointed fair-haired child, your upside is significantly greater than if you are associated with the recently fired CEO. If you are good at leaping from one regime to the next, your prospects are excellent. If you want to excel within your technical discipline, your prospects are limited. While this important arena can be made visible, the risk is that the truth will be unpalatable.
An organization’s ability to predict the attrition of key players would be better if there was a clear way to measure mobility. Recruiters from other companies would need to make relative mobility in the new gig a part of the discussion. Knowing that my options are greater in Situation A than they are in Situation B is extremely useful.
The distribution strategy involves creating mobility environments for companies. UpMo has committed to building out environments at the rate of one or two a day. Employees of company X will have the ability to begin to measure their mobility within the company. The UpMo Mobility Index only makes sense in companies where UpMo has created a measurement environment. They’re working on obvious targets.
Looking back at the Trojan Horse strategy, it’s possible that UpMo can create enough buzz so that they can deliver on this increasingly common approach to the sale of Enterprise SAAS tools. The jury is out on this one. HR is not famous for being persuaded to buy tools just because employees are using them. In fact, I can’t think of an example where it worked. Most end up like Salary.com who had a slow move into the enterprise business because of the ways that employees use their product.
All in all, UpMo’s Mobility Index points the way forward. As the social contract continues to evolve, employees will have clearer and clearer views of their real opportunities. This is the beginning of what it will look like.
With my degree firmly in hand, I entered the workforce in 1979. The jobs available to a middling liberal arts graduate were few and far between, I tended bar and took seasonal work as a Santa Claus. I found the early keys to my future running small camera stores in Washington, DC.
To sell cameras in that era, the customer had to feel confident that they could master the operating instructions. Today’s photographers are comfortable with the fact that technology makes most of the operating decisions. Then, it was all manual. The trick was getting the customer to the point that they felt comfortable with moment to moment decision making.
It was life changing.
In short order, I fell in love with technology and joined the Defense Industry. Over the years, I learned to code software (with punch cards at the beginning), taught introductory computing courses as the PC entered the workplace, became a certified engineer (in lieu of a degree) and began to run Research and Development projects.
I got my first PC in late 1981, the 68th machine off the IBM assembly line. I got my first email account in 1982 and was working in online communities around the defense industry by 1983. In those days, PCs were for business and mainframes were for real technology.
In large scale technology, I was involved with the first interactive video disc project (a hyper-linked training program for aircraft maintenance in 1984), high density decision making display architecture, hardware-software integration and the design of logistics systems for frigates. I organized, wrote the spec and managed the team that built the first multi-facility supply chain management tool in the mid 1980s.
In the early 1990s, I left corporate life to move to California to run a struggling non-profit called the Point Foundation, home of the Whole Earth Catalog (the print precursor of the web). Point was involved with the push to make the Internet (a Defense Industry initiative) into a part of daily existence. It was home to the WeLL, a pioneering online community. Point was a mecca for futurists, science writers, culture expanders and explorers.
While at the Point Foundation, I saw the very first copy X-Mosaic, the first web browser. My reaction, embarrassingly, was to ask “Who would ever want a graphic interface to the internet?” A few months later, in an early conversation with the founders of Yahoo, I famously said, “You can’t possibly make money with a web index.”
In my first project after the Point Foundation, I started to document the emerging job board market. My company, interbiznet, produced the first reports offering market and technology analysis of any form of HR on the net. We expanded rapidly into Applicant Tracking Systems and the related data associated with the Talent Acquisition process.
Over the intervening years, I’ve worked the bleeding edge of technology and data in the HR environment. From demographics and compensation databases to a variety of Peoplesoft projects, I’ve been monitoring the full spectrum of HR Tech.
I chose to focus in HR for a number of reasons. While in the Defense Industry, I spent many evenings in a Master’s program in Organizational Development dropping out at the thesis phase. It turns out that the real cost of technology is never the technology itself. The learning curve and relative fit of the solution to the organization are the primary drivers of Technology cost.
That means that the companies who produce the solutions are at least as important as the solutions themselves. Any competent analysis of solutions has to include an assessment of the fit between customer and supplier. To say that this is missing from the game today is to engage in dramatic understatement.
I’d love to hear your Tech story and I bet HRExaminer readers would as well. Please post a link to your own tech story or just write a quick one up right here in the comments area.