Talent Management

Organisational Structures versus Social Networks

Cuboid series 2

The fundamentals of organisational structure have been the focus of attention of late, particularly as we see the emergence of social environments in the workplace, and the power that they can yield. Jamie Notter, co-author of Humanize has made a strong case for organisations to move from being “Machines” to more “Human Like” in order to tap into the values that social environments can bring to the workplace. The “Human” principles of collaboration, openness, trustworthiness, courage and a sense of belonging are instrumental and well aligned to the success of social environments and social media tools.

I get that, and agree a new work environment is necessary to create a social enterprise, but there are some flaws in the notion that social enterprise is a necessary replacement over hierarchical structures.

Lets look at the Arab Spring movement that used social principles (and tools) to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. What we observed was the power of a networked group in achieving a goal of ousting a dictator, but in the end the new Egyptian president was far from being a representative of the people who orchestrator the social uprising, nor did he have anything to do with the movement. The movement itself was seemingly chaotic – there was no formal leadership, but assumed a life of its own, to which individuals were absorbed into.

Recently, one of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, made this comment, which sums up nicely the view that I hold:

“Networks may start revolutions,but they can’t finish them. Our job is to remind Millennials of the importance of hierarchies as well as networks.”

So, I think the future organisational design model does need to change – but it’s not a complete replacement of existing hierarchies with a mass movement mentality. The future need will be to understand how to leverage the power of the collective but still allow for purposeful and clearly identified leadership. It’s also  far more fundamental than simply installing a Social Media tool such as Yammer or Jam into your organisation, and as a leader hoping that you have ‘done enough’ – absolutely not! there will need to be real shifts in “who speaks”, “who decides” and ‘who acts”.

Finally, as a lover of HR technology, it would be remiss of me to not add a note that the link between HR system’s Org Management solutions/modules and social media tools is a major gap that needs to be addressed. While we have seen vendors integrating SM tools into their HR solutions, they have not truly understood how the Org management tools need to changed in order to create and support the new working environments.

Is your HR System geared for Work 3.0

I’m not normally one to jump on the acronym band-wagon, but ‘Work 3.0’ is definitely emerging as a real issue for many organisations ~ especially from an HR strategy and systems perspective. One of the messages from Work 3.0 is the notion that the workforce will be made up of lots of people providing specific skills to resolve specific outcomes, based on an on-demand working model.

The growth in crowd sourcing on-line businesses that essentially allow prospective employees to bid for a piece of work,  is a good indicator of this trend, although I would hasten to say that the growth of these businesses are not an indicator that organisations are shedding full time employees to be replaced by on-demand services. I think there will be a far more gradual shift to a on-demand workforce through natural attrition and opportunity. Practically the type of work suited to crowd sourcing is fairly limited and is currently best suited to outputs that are clear-cut and easily definable, and where the risk is low. As we see technology improving in terms of speed, collaboration capability and the ability to create a sense ‘closeness’ and ‘trust’, we will see the opportunity for jobs outside of the low risk category growing.

Let me cut to the main point of this blog – your HR system and its capability to manage an on-demand, and physically dislocated  workforce. There are a number of challenges that immediately spring to mind:

Hiring: Hiring someone to do a piece of on-demand work is simple – A line manager can go on-line, place a work requirement, wait for responses, select the resource you like and away you go. Of course this is reminiscent of ‘cowboy’ recruitment we have seen in the past and has a wide range of risks. So how will HR departments manage the hiring of these types of resources ?

If your organisation doesn’t have a sound practice to hire and manage contractors currently- this is a signal that you are going to have problems in Work 3.0 environments too. HR systems need to assist in managing the  process, provide tools to validate employee/organisation fit, manage post work assessment (performance management) to name a few. In my view I haven’t seen any HR or Talent tools stepping up into this space. We should also not assume that current system  functionality in Hiring, Assessment and Performance management can simply be extended to this new category of employee – it has very different requirements.

Classification of the employee: One of the basic HR functions is to know how many people work in your organisation – in many organisations this only means people paid through the payroll system. In my view this is a misrepresentation of the total workforce and its associated cost. The reason provided by HR is often indicated as a lack of system capability to track contractors who are paid through invoicing to finance. Work 3.0 will further exacerbation this issue, and HR organisations need to quickly get on top of this so that the workforce count if properly represented.

Data sharing: Crowd sourced employees will want to share information with organisations and want their employer to feed them information back – this data could be stored in commercial social networking tools such as Linked-in, Facebook, the crowd sourcing platform or their own personal database. The ability to share information between a corporate HR system and external and individual social / cloud tools is a new concept for HR vendors, but will become a prominent need in the next few years.

Payment: How you pay a crowd-sourced employee or on-demand employee can be challenging, particularly if they are in another country where you don’t have a physical presence. Its not so much the movement of money that’s the issue, but rather compliance to local tax regimes.The recording of time against a task will also be an important area for development and integration.

Hyper specialization: Crowd sourcing or on-demand working will give rise to the concept of hyper-specialization. Activities will be broken into a multitude of tasks in order to take advantage of an on-demand workforce. For a line manager, this brings in new dynamics to manage a team of people collaborating on a common output – Line managers will need new tools to help co-ordinate work across tasks and teams of physical and dislocated employees. Some HR systems do a decent job in supporting project environments, but its not the norm, and in future they need to provide better end-user management tools outside of the ‘Project Manager’ type tool mindset – tools that will facilitate teamwork, team management, performance management, completion tracking and communication.

Strategic Workforce planning and Talent Management: The on-demand workforce will provide new opportunities to manage the ‘supply’ side of long term talent management needs, which could ease the fears around the ‘war on Talent’ – however most workforce management tools are geared towards the traditional employment model. Workforce planning tools are emerging as an important components of an effective HR environment, particularly in the area of predictive modelling techniques. The crowd sourced employee adds an unknown layer into this equation that will need to be understood in order for WFM tools to be put to best use.

We are heading for an exciting time in execution of work in our workplaces, but we do need HR systems to start providing tools to better manage this future environment. What are your views.

Creating Value in Human Resources | Presence of IT

…But there are so many inspirational stories about people who have become really successful, but are not regarded as gifted or highly intelligent. In his book, “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell shows that success is often influenced by a range of factors, including where we are from, the opportunities we had, the amount of time we put into our passions and that in all cases successful people don’t get to where they are alone – they always have been helped along the way.

Creating Value in Human Resources | Presence of IT.

Influence vs Environment : an HR Employee Value Proposition

I’ve never done it before! – sat on an idyllic beach, looking out over the deep blue sea, working on my laptop. Well her e I am in the 5 star Hilton Hotel in Kuwait, sitting under an Arabian tent, scattered with Persian carpets and low, comfy couches, looking out over the calm Gulf waters, intermittently spoilt by a large oil tanker passing by (and reminding me of the riches of this region)

Amazingly I’m not on Holiday either – but have a few hours to waste before heading off to the airport for my 15 hour flight back to Sydney. All of this got me thinking about the importance of the work environment – Here I am being highly productive (done 2 presentations, answered some mails, reviewed a client document and managed to write this blog), spurred on by something that is causing me to feel almost euphoric . Would I have got so much done at the office? – Definitely not- too many distractions and people. Would I have done as much sitting at my home office – More than the work office probably, but still would not have felt as relaxed and keen to do more as I am at the moment.

If I were a Talent director, considering my Employee Value Proposition, then recreating this relaxing influence (note I said influence, not environment) would be a real winner. Imagine having staff feeling so relaxed and highly productive – the creativity and energy would be mind boggling.

We’ve all heard about the Google work environment – is this an example of a relaxing influence (which is what I am experiencing) or a relaxed environment (spatially inviting and culturally aligned to a sense of freedom). I think the two (influence and environment) are different, although I concede that the immediate environment has an important role. Knowing a few people who work at Google – they love their work environment, but after the mystique fades, they are not significantly less stressed or more productive that people I know who work in highly structured and rigid organisations.

Perhaps this has been a moment in my life that “The Planets all Aligned”; I hope this is not the case, because I would love to have this happen to me every day. I don’t know the whole answer, but perhaps it has something to do with me being able to create an experience that suited me – maybe organisations need to provide a framework for operating that allows people to create their own experience. Food for thought – I do know that next time I’m in Kuwait – I’ll be back under my tent with my laptop.