Influence in HR and Recruiting

Later this week, we’ll be introducing the first installment of the Inluencer Lists for 2012. You may have noticed that we took a nearly six month break from following the horse race. It seemed like a good idea to sit back and reappraise.

Since the last published list, we’ve been doing a lot of listening. (It’s a pretty powerful way to let influence flow though you.) The topic of influence is grabbing a lot of attention at conferences. That’s what we hoped for in the beginning of this influence project, over two years ago.

HR and Recruiting professionals have very limited access to authority, resources or direct power as a means of getting things done. Those elements belong to line management. HR is a staff function. Staff functions have to use influence as a primary mode of accomplishment.

There’s that word again.

Defining influence is a class A Philosophy project. There are nuances upon nuances. Influence is one of those ideas that describes situational dynamics. It’s present in the popular culture these days because marketers are interested in using networks in social media to turbo charge sales results.

The most important distinction is that power is the ability to cause things to happen. Influence is the ability to increase the likelihood that something will happen. Power evokes command and authority. Influence is gentler and more environmental. Power includes force. Influence has almost no force. Power distributes resources. Influence affects the distribution ratios. Power acts. Influence implies.

While all relationships contain a blend of power and influence, hierarchies run on power and collaborations operate on influence. Power directs. Influence suggests. Power is the direct path, the interstate highway. Influence is more subtle, like the wind blowing through a wheatfield or the latest fashion.

Who Cares?

The reason that influence matters in the public sphere is that ideas flow like fashion or the wind through the wheatfield. Knowing how to give an idea its largest possible audience allows the market to make decisions. Knowing how influence flows through the marketplace helps people with ideas understand how to reach the people who might need those ideas.

As the forum gets more private (deeper in a niche or behind a corporate firewall) understanding how influence works in a specific context gives change agents the ability to succeed more efficiently. Accumulated influence is how most technology decisions are made. It’s how HR Policies evolve. It’s how best practices come to be accepted.

Understanding the mechanics of influence is essential for the effective operation of a Human Resources Department. It’s critical for understanding industry dynamics. It’s necessary for the promulgation of ideas in the market or the organization.

The Influence Project.

In 2012, we are going to work closely with a new service called Social Ears (more about that later). Over the course of the coming year,the way that we define and measure influence will be on display as we try to figure out what it means. To maintain some level of balance, we’ll keep slogging through the Top 100 Influencers project.

The work will focus on the things that are possible to learn and measure online.

Here’s the first sample of the work.

Imagine that you had access to the last one million pieces of content generated by the top 1,000 or so sources in the HR – Recruiting Universe. Imagine a word cloud built on the past 90 days subset of that content. You’d have a visualization of the trending topics in the overall category that includes HR, Staffing, Recruiting and the rest of the silos.

Here it is (It’s a routine product of SocialEars):

Trending Topics in HR - Recruiting 4th Quarter 2011

Word cloud of the trending topics in HR - Recruiting 4th Quarter 2011


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