Amitai Givertz | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Amitai Givertz | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Please welcome Ami Givertz back to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Amitai Givertz has over 25 years experience in business with the majority of that time spent in the talent management space where he has held a number of leadership positions. Through his unique brand “disruption,” Ami has helped numerous organizations to innovate and develop their organizations. Full Bio

Meaning and Data in the Social Web

by Amitai Givertz

In the hopes that it may give pause for thought, a selection of notes taken from phone conversations with John Sumser. The social web was our topic de jour.

1. Data? What data?

It can be difficult to make sense of the data that gets reported under “Social Media.” Harder still, accepting it could be useless in the context of traditional HR metrics, or under any circumstances, come to think it. Teasing intelligence from a new data set can leave one befuddled. Correlating things like “authority,” “increased awareness,” “mentions,” and “sentiment” to the traditional metrics like time-to-fill and cost-per-hire may not only be a challenge of Rubik proportions, but ultimately an exercise in futility.

Such are the pitfalls of staying ahead of the HR technology curve, early adoption and social media illiteracy.

An absence of meaningful data can result from poorly designed programs, management oversight, technical problems like gathering the wrong data, or even having no data to collect at all. It happens. While glitches may indicate the pedestrian problems that affect every organization, the greater concern is this: Without the means to quantify performance or predict future outcomes, confidence is eroded in future leaps of faith and good judgment compromised.

For those of us who are used to winging it when there is insufficient data to chart the course, measuring results from social campaigns provides a rude awakening. It is impossible to fly by the seat of your pants when there is no indicator that one is even airborne. In white-out conditions, without an instrument panel that knows the difference between up and down, a corrective ascent may just result in an unhappy end.

2. Curve Balls

Unable to pace internal adoption with the dizzying rate at which the social web proliferates, escaping the gravitational pull of a world in a state of perpetual beta can consume more time and effort than staying in the game. Besides, where else can you get your emotional needs meet with 140 characters or less?

Many who impulsively jumped into the scrum of promiscuous linking did so without proper preparation or guidance. Now, forced to find meaning in a virtual space of auto-generated mediocrity, recalibration is too daunting a task. With little value to assign to “relationships” or “reputation,” it is easier to ride the long tail of diminishing returns in the hope a real crisis will legitimatize the abandonment.

What use are social media metrics now? For the me-too crowd the tools and technology that promised fulfillment in real-time don’t work that well when fashioned after conventional HR technology. Their struggle is in reconciling the fact that their application of Twitter looks like a default RSS-powered job board and the only way to get a thumbs-up on their Facebook fan page is to raffle-off an iPad.

Facing a seamlessly never-ending eruption of indistinguishable hash-tag jobs, tweets go unnoticed. One is reminded that in the good ol’ days you could line the bottom of the parrot’s cage with the Sunday help-wanted ads. The fact that your 1×1 agate ad was lost on a broadsheet didn’t preclude one from the hope that a job-seeker would find it by happenstance. If not, where better for Polly to poop?

Unfortunately, some providers assume that just-above-stupid is the new normal. LinkedIn continues to hybridize a next-generation job board for employers and job-seekers, while recruiters protest that rampant commercialization is squeezing them into network conformity.

Part real-time search engine, crowd sourcing bazaar, content curating machine, company directory and International Kiwanis watering hole, LinkedIn describes itself to users as an network where “Relationships Matter,” while describing itself to investors and developers as a platform. A modest differentiation for what is clearly something that seeks to be all things to all men. For those who may benefit the most from LinkedIn, well, they never go there. As a percentage of the world’s “most desirable” talent 100 million user is not that big a deal. And, supposing we could double that number? Who cares, so what?

3. We’re not in Kansas anymore

For America’s HR homogeny these kind of problem are compounded by an outdated playbook that insists employees are ultimately defined by profile, pay scale, performance, production and potential contribution. The HR playbook has no response for the kind of indiscretions at work that the social web invites from life in general. But then again, nor does the Church.

The social web [and depending on your place of worship] celebrates human experience with an exuberance that is is out of sync with boardroom decorum or budget meeting handouts. And while a KPI in a world of paradigm shift, sentiment remains hard to quantify in dollars and cents. These are the kinds of thing HR now has to contend with. But, steadfast, stoic and risk-averse by nature, HR’s unfortunate stereotype is itself at odds with the type of intrapreneurial champion most organizations need to get their Whatever 2.0 initiatives underway.

Yes, the social web invites risk. Yes, HR needs to mitigate it. This apparently irreconcilable tension presents quite a conundrum it appears that only tweeps, bloggers and unconference organizers are uniquely qualified to fix. It underscores the disparite nature of HR with societal trends. This prevailing condition does little to advance the cause of progress.

Hoping to avoid the potential workplace meltdown this type of divergence portends, Directors and VP of HR are subscribing to RSS feeds and trekking off to former Soviet Bloc countries in droves.

At the other end of the spectrum, the flawed humanity that clocks in for work each day has to resolve a different set of issues than those facing workplace engineers.

A layering of innovations has transformed personal computing. Once a desk-bound activity, today’s portable means for self-service, self-segmentation, self-expression, and self-actualization, comes in a tablet form that is perfectly suited for the occasional poke on Facebook and simultaneous Foursquare shoutouts from any airport anywhere.

But the advantage of widely available and affordable technology has not, as predicted, empowered an Army of Davids as a mobilizing force against the Goliath of work. Ironically, it has emasculated it. As opium was for the masses, so social media is for the herd.

4. Capital Ideas

Unwilling, to risk everything in the cause of noble values, the average person is emotionally and psychologically ill-prepared to unleash the social web’s potential for unbridled individuality, transparency, authenticity, and trust. Such naivety would undoubtedly result in more harm than good.

Everyone who wants to make a living must think long and hard before declaring themselves online. In a workplace environment where human potential is valued as capital, human potential applied to otherwise prohibited pursuits off-the-clock, even in a life gone by, renders the person worthless as an employee, a liability, or both.

Unable to concede the social web’s failure to significantly level the playing field, which he or she takes personally, Everyman congregates where the contradictions of group-think and having a voice are wonderfully blended in the soothing drone of social validation. Personalized homepages and one-of-a-kind avatars further reassures one that Self still matters, if only existentially.

In this incubator of bi-directional communication and content proliferation, mutant-concepts like “authority,” “influence,” “reputation,” and “personal brand” are the standards by which our value is calculated. And, in a supremely ironic twist, this is how HR adjusts its measure of an individual’s “net-worth,” the new metrics of assessment.

When the time comes, and the data is in, getting hung-up on uninspired number crunching will slow down the “social human convergence” we all desire. Surely, now is the time to integrate social network analysis into our planning and decision-making processes. Our newly quantified social capital can then temper the otherwise cynical terminology that describes people as capital, and humanity like animal fat.

At last, with the convergence of personal, professional, corporate and social values is finally consummated — true to its Aesopian nature — the corporation can begin its acquisition of all the value, capitalizing on the intrinsic value of past, present, potential and future employees’ networks. Using their social graph to grow the organizations’ networks exponentially, at last an even wider audience of consumers can be imagined, engaged, bought and sold.

Hello, John? John? Are you still there?

Read previous post:
Retention Doesn’t Work

Hiring and Keeping the Best People is a standard goal in most organizations. Identifying key talent and promoting them is...