Top 25 Online Influencers: The Pulse of HR

If your task is to read the HR market, these are the voices and topics dominating the conversation.
Top 25 Online Influencers: The Pulse of HR

Bodega Bay, California March 14, 2012

Top 25 Online Influencers: The Pulse of HR

If your task is to read the HR market, these are the voices and topics dominating the conversation.


The measurement of influence leaves a lot to be desired. , the leading analyst of HRTechnology, routinely asks me “How do you tell the difference between quality and quantity.” His point is that measurement, at its most primitive, is a simple counting of this and that. Fancy algorithms are a layer of sophistication over a view that says, “More is better.”

To be fair, that’s how we measure almost everything. More is better. Bigger is better. Growth is better.

There are only a couple of things that are simultaneously invisible and influential. They tend to have the paradoxical characteristic of being both seen and unseen, everything and nothing. Otherwise, more influence boils down to more.

Still, Holincheck’s critique is brutally simple.

On the one hand, you can point to Brad Pitt and notice that he (or George Clooney) is one of the most influential people on the planet. Is that quantity or quality? Then, my bookshelves are full of brilliant ideas from people you’ve never heard of. Is that quantity or quality. I also have a dreadfully big habit of reading thrillers and mysteries, mostly bestsellers. If you ask the people around me, it’s definitely quantity.

We’re not sure that there are definitive answers. That’s why we took a new tack with this edition of the Top 25.

SocialEars, our partner in this round of analysis, has a feature that identifies the most popular topics in the HR industry. The tool catalogs tweets, blog posts, magazine articles, links and other forms of content. It is designed to focus exclusively on material generated in and around the HR industry. The trending topic function lets the user see the most common word clusters (adjusted so that terms like recruiter and recruiting are covered in one grouping) over a given period of time.

A market is a conversation. 13 years ago, the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto first introduced this idea into common parlance. “Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.”

The SocialEars tool is a starting point for understanding the conversation that is the HR Market. That’s why they call it a listening tool. In a partial answer to Jim Holincheck’s piercing question, the service simply tallies attributes, leaving judgments of worth to its users. The SocialEars tool is a way to discover the market and the voices who live there.

We chose to use the six month window as a baseline for further investigations. The topics covered by the list are the most referenced and written about ideas in the HR Market over the past six months.

There were 125 topics in the overall conversation. We took the top 10 conversations and identified the 25 (or so) most visible participants in each of the topics.

In order, the top 10 threads in the HR Market over the past six m0nths were:

  1. Alternative Dispute Resolution
  2. Wage Garnishment
  3. Service Level Agreement
  4. Unemployment Compensation
  5. Career Podcast
  6. Workplace Bullying
  7. Voluntary Benefits
  8. Americans With Disabilities
  9. Exit Interview
  10. HR Certification

The original idea was that we’d discover a group of people who, rather than being the drivers of the edge of things were representative of the essence the market’s conversation. The operating theory was that we’d find a group of people who represented the pulse of the industry. We were looking to find a way to get at the middle rather than the edge.

We used SocialEars to search each term. The top 25 in each category received a score. #1 got 25 points, #2 got 24, #3 got 23 and so on. We completed the searches, tallied the scores and produced the results.

It didn’t exactly work as planned.

Rather than finding a group of people who were at the middle of the market conversation, we only found a couple. William Tincup, who is a regular presence on our various lists, is at the top of this one as well. He covered six of the ten topics in his work. This was the highest number of ‘appearances’ by any single author.

In some ways, it’s not surprising. William has been on the road for a year and a half, listening to HR all over the world. Somehow, he has gotten more plugged in, polished his standup routine, lost 50 pounds and developed a keen sense for what really matters in the HR conversation. If we were able to measure audio files, Tincup’s score would certainly have been a perfect set of 10 appearances, one in each category.

John Hollon, of TLNT, comes in second with 4 appearances.

While several familiar names appear on the list, the majority of the voices (175 in all) are names that were at least a bit unfamiliar. (You can see those names, and links to their twitter profiles in the spreadsheets attached to the Top 25: Finding the heart of the HR Market.)

Here’s what we found.

While we can identify a large group of people who are a part of the conversation at the center of the industry, there are no individuals who have a complete read on the pulse of things. Currently, LinkedIn has the profiles of over 2 Million HR professionals in their database. The interests of that group are so varied that it’s unlikely, in hindsight, that there would be single players who have a good clear understanding of the industry as a whole.

That means a couple of important things.

If you want to stay on top of the real concerns of HR, you need to track a ton of conversations (We’ve given you the twitter addresses of the people who touched on key conversations at least once, in the aforementioned spreadsheets). You might read this influencer or that for personal fulfillment. But, if your task is to read the market, there are a lot of competing voices and stories.

It also means that you need a way to stay on top of the changes in the conversation. It’s possible, and we’ll explore this in a future Top 25 list, that there are some people who are really good at anticipating the moves in the market’s conversation. The current idea is that they’ll show up in searches that cover a narrower time frame.

Generally speaking, all 175 voices in the spreadsheets have a hand in shaping the conversation that makes our marketplace. They are worth your attention.