Category Archives: HR

#SConnect15 – SuccessConnect 2015 Sydney Day 1

I think perhaps my photo taken on the way to the airport this morning sums up today pretty well.

An empty road with a whole bunch of speed bumps. I’m afraid that’s what today felt like. It’s kinda weird starting off a conference without hearing the keynote to set the tone. Even with SAP conferences like TechEd we have “pre-conference” days – thanks ASUG! But today was part of the conference, and it didn’t really feel like it.

An example of the bumpy road was having a session today on the new support model for SuccessFactors, but without mentioning the SFXpert program. It was kinda weird – but apparently Mike Ettling will talk about that in the keynote tomorrow, it’s a little confusing.

Moreover, there weren’t an awful lot of people here. Which in someways is pretty good, it means that we’re able to have comfortable conversations, no running around with microphones to ask questions. But it certainly seems that running a SuccessConnect in Singapore may have reduced the number of Sydney attendees. I’m not sure, perhaps tomorrow will bring more people? It was a big ask to get people to come for a whole day for 3 sessions.

But it was a glorious evening in Sydney:


and we’re keeping on going with the saving of Elephants and Rhinos with the corporate social responsibility thing

Would love to know where we’re at with that total – hopefully we’ve got above a few thousand dollars by now.

So a few bumps, a fairly empty road, but the way ahead looks clear, and the weather is glorious. I look forward to tomorrow. I just hope that the panel session with David Ludlow goes well. 🙂

we shall see.


End the annual performance review: APIs to your social influence

Ok, I know, I’ve been writing about ending annual performance review for ages, and people are still doing them.

I actually had a very interesting sit down with Steve Hunt, SVP customer value at SAP where we talked about our differing – but somewhat similar views. I want to do that chat justice with a “proper” blog, today is just a quick response to something else.

My fellow SAP Mentor  posted an interesting piece about some extracts that he’s been using to explain the impact of his social networking and how it is an effective performance indicator for use in his annual review.

One of his comments got me thinking – wouldn’t it be great if not in an annual review, but just in a dashboard we could see something like performance via api

We could visualise the areas of influence in our team, and how much they were spreading that influence. Would this be a help for me as a manager to help understand if the strategies I’m putting in place make my team more effective as doing their job? We could take these feeds from any tool, from email, from Jam, from public social media, obviously with employee consent!

Now you could argue that my team doesn’t need to influence, that isn’t part of their role, but I’d have to disagree. Even if my team worked at the checkout counters of a local supermarket, I want them sharing what and how they do things best. Any team which is not spreading news about what they are capable of doing, and doesn’t share with others is a team which is not reaching its potential.

Perhaps in many situations it will be hard to find APIs that can express how knowledge sharing is happening, how influence is being generated, noting who is chatting about what over the lunch table and turning that into a graph seems a bit of overkill. But where it is possible, this is definitely something I think we should be grasping firmly. Let’s start building this into our talent management solutions, who knows, we might actually start finding out who is “talent” in our organisations and nurture them, rather than waiting annually to see if anyone has been innovative enough to try to capture this info. No more annual review, a constant monitoring and performance enhancement process. I dream, I know, I’ll write about it more in full later.

Right, back to writing Christmas cards and eating mince pies 🙂

SuccessConnect 2014 – Las Vegas – initial thoughts

Mike Ettling shares SAP/SuccessFactors new commitment to inform customers

(Mike Ettling explains SuccessFactors new commitment to putting customers first)

So I’m in the lounge at LAX – the new OneWorld business lounge – it’s loads better than the old Qantas lounge, they have craft beer on tap for a start, which did lead to rather a few posts:

Which weren’t particularly related to themes I normally post on, but nevertheless probably tell you something, I’ll leave this as an exercise to the reader to speculate on what.

So whilst I’m nice and relaxed after a nice shower and looking forward to heading home, I thought I’d capture a couple of things that happened whilst I was at SuccessConnect this week, and hopefully this will also remind me to expand on them at a later time.

Firstly – customer first

The commitment by SuccessFactors to publish a roadmap to customers is a big win. And It’s not just a win for customers. As a partner it’s much easier to advise a customer when you have a good understanding of what _might_ happen in the near future. By making as much of the solution as possible accessible by the upgrade centre rather than provisioning (an ongoing effort) it removes from customers the need to engage an SI partner for what may well be just an administrative task. Allowing customers to attend the same training that partners can attend is also a great thing – so now there is a real possibility that customers can do some of their support in-house.

Why, you might ask, am I cheering this as a good thing? I am one of those partners who previously customers had to rely on to make these changes. Well, it’s really because I don’t like doing boring stuff. If as an SI all the work I do is very simple, then customers can be a little resentful for paying me as much as I would like to be paid. I see this as an opportunity to get rid of the boring work and instead focus on bringing real value through expertise. We shall see, but I’m hopeful that this is the path SAP envisages as well.

SAP a SuccessFactors company?

With Rob Enslin opening the conference, I got a real feeling of SAP being a full part of the conference, and not it being a SuccessFactors as a separate company anymore. That said, all the “Cloud DNA” was still there and it was interesting to see Lars make a guest appearance. The reaction from the SuccessFactors staff to seeing Lars was remarkable, it was all a surprise, and a nice one for most. However, Fiori making itself felt in the UI development pipeline amongst other “Simple” things shows that the “DNA” exchange isn’t just one way.

Dmitri demoing new features

Phased releases

The public announcement of a phase released of functionality, with updates being released a month earlier on the test instances of a customer is great news. This will help extension developers hugely (although ideally I’d like access to the update another few weeks before the customers get it in their test systems, but can work with this idea!) Customers too have the ability to check out any mandatory (although there are few of those) updates before they get deployed. All in all a great step forward to helping customers manage their solutions – and the spontaneous applause from the audience when it was mentioned shows it’s not just me as a developer that appreciates this.

Righto, that will do for now, Mike Ettling’s flight to Sydney has already left, and mine to Melbourne is going soon. I’ll be catching up with him and the team again for the Sydney version of SuccessConnect, but I’m so glad that I was here this week in Las Vegas, it has been great.


Intangibles, appreciating your employees motivates, performance ratings processes don’t

Sorry, here I go again. I just read Steve Hunt’s post:

And of course I’m all worked up. Why? Two reasons.

Firstly, I strongly disagree on the premise that performance management actually achieves improvements for the employees that are being “managed”. This is using Steve Hunt’s own definition of performance management:

Standardized and defined processes used to communicate job expectations to employees, evaluate employees against those expectations, and utilize these evaluations to guide talent management decisions related to compensation, staffing and development.

This has nothing to do with motivating and improving employees. It’s all about figuring out what is the smallest amount you can get away with paying your staff.

A process that can actually help employees improve is by working with them to find out their interests, find out what they want to do and shape their work around that. This isn’t the world of Gen-X and Boomers any more. People are far more interested in making work part of their life and life part of their work. Will they do that if there is a regimented process that is going to measure them against the cookie cutter mould? No, they won’t. Because no employee is exactly alike and no employer that wants to get the best out of their employees is going to manage that by trying to shape an employee to the employers expectation. We need instead to understand the great whole of the employee’s values and use that to motivate them. An employee that is doing what they feel is valuable and feels that the company supports them in this is far more likely to perform well than one that does not.

We have the tools (in a creepy big brother kinda way) to be able to analyse far more than just our employee’s achievement of our stated corporate goals, but also the interests, engagements, networks and influences of our employees. By better understanding our employees, and then aligning our business goals with their goals, we stand so much more chance of motivating and retaining talent.

Remunerate at the market rate for the skills that the employee possesses, if they gain more skills then pay more. Or if those skills have nothing to do with your business, don’t try and hold on to someone who would be happier elsewhere. Likewise, if the desires of the employee do not align with your corporate goals, don’t attempt to force the employee to comply, you are both better off without each other. Have the frank discussion that their desires and your goals don’t align at all. If their goal is to sit and eat chocolate and drink coffee all day and you don’t have a coffee and chocolate tasting role in your company, then it’s probably not going to work out. But it is good to know this – it’s time to move this employee on. Not because they don’t do what they are supposed to do, but because they have no desire to be doing it. Be frank, you can’t get rid of them if they are doing a reasonable job, but they will never be stellar unless _they_ want to do the work.

Now, I’m sure that this approach isn’t going to work in many, if not most, industries. If you have a load of jobs that people will only do if they are paid enough to suffer through, then this approach will not work. In this case fall back on Steve’s approach, just realise you’re very unlikely to develop or retain any talent.

However, if you are in an industry where people (or at least some of them) work because they love doing the work and are enthused about being the best, then I think my approach has some real advantages. Of course you will get and hire bad apples. This is where I believe performance management comes in. You now attempt to manage that person out of the company and ensure that you are not at legal risk by following a clear process. I’m sure there are risks in only performance managing those you’d rather have leave the company, but there are certainly rewards too.

And now to my second point of why I’m unhappy with this article. It was written by someone with the job title Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SuccessFactors/SAP Cloud HCM

If this is what SuccessFactors believes will drive more customer value, then I’m very worried that innovative and alternative approaches to making talent management work are not likely to get a great reception.

I strongly agree with Steve that we need to find out and measure how well our people are doing, but that does not need to be against a defined set of company goals, but against an slightly less well defined set of individual personal goals that the company can hopefully align with and benefit from. I believe that the next step for talent management solutions like SuccessFactors is to help employers with the analysis of who their employees are and what they want. Then use that information to help align both the business’s needs and the employee’s desires. It’s a huge technical challenge but we have to start somewhere. By at least acknowledging that there might be better ways of doing things rather than just dismissing them, we’d be making a first step in the right direction.

Companies that start to embrace the holistic view of the employee rather than the company centric one will, I believe, start to reap the rewards.

I could well be just dreaming, but at least I’ll be dreaming with some of the most motivated and enthusiastic people around who are all trying to achieve their goals in my company.



To rank or not to rank, ‘cos that won’t work in the real world will it?

Following up on my recent post about Stack Ranking:

Vijay was puzzled by how I thought that a system that didn’t rank or rate employees might be extended into larger organisations.

Firstly I’d like to expand on the assumption there that it is easier to do in smaller organisations. Why might that be? The obvious reason is that instead of writing down and ranking employees in a systematic manner you are instead doing this in your head – and that is the basis on which you manage your employees, their compensation and rewards.

I’d like to say this isn’t what I’d like to do, it may well be the case in many smaller organisations where they have rejected the performance review process, but it’s not what I’d want. So some ideas about my blue sky ideal fluffy HR world:

Why do we currently use performance review results for?

  • succession and career development,
  • workforce planning(?),
  • compensation reviews,

I’d suggest that the use of review results in workforce planning is a dubious idea at best, but it really comes down to why we use it in succession and career development. We use review results to rate the behaviours of our employees and to generalise as to whether they are capable of better things. I’d suggest that because a person is good at their current job is a pretty poor indicator of whether they will be good in a more demanding/different job. You will have heard of the “promoted to their level of incompetence” Peter Priciple. This can only happen if one relies on the ranking/rating of the employee’s current job as a predictor of performance in the next. What if instead we were to look at the skills that the employee is gaining/exhibiting in their current role? Do they have the ability to explain a complex idea? Can they present well to executives? Do the work well in diverse environments? Do they speak French? Whatever! but quantify in yes/no answers (any kind of ranking is difficult to assess) the skills that the employee has. Use these skills along with a description of the higher level role (broken down by the skills required) to decide if the employee is ready for promotion, and or needs more training/experience to carry out their current role better. Use that to manage their career progression and training. It’s going to make your workforce planning a lot easier too as you can start looking at how to get from A to B in a realistic way. If the employee is performing badly in their current role, but has all the skills required for that role, either there is a bad mapping of the skills or the employee is demotivated and attempting to address that via a performance review is unlikely to help…

Finally, the old nugget of compensation and remuneration being based on performance. It seems the fairest way of doing things, good performers get more, bad ones less? Fair! However, beyond a certain level, higher pay does not bring higher performance. It may well help keep your top performers from being poached by the competition. But in my experience, top performers are motivated far more by the work that they do, the level of autonomy they have, the respect they command and their ability to pursue their vision than the dollars they earn. Yes there must be a certain base (other people will not respect you – there are cultural mores around higher performers having more cash (unless you’re a Tibetan monk)). But after that base is reached the motivational payback for cash increases diminishes. I know from my experience my team would much rather have the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas each year to attend SAP TechEd rather than take that as a cash bonus. Why? because we’ve got that discussion about salary and divorced it from performance. I expect good to exceptional performance, but I’m not going to mess with your salary if I don’t get it. Why because not giving you a pay rise won’t improve you.

Perhaps this is where Vijay sees my scheme not working in large organisations, perhaps where you know you will be dealing with poor performers and an expectation that performance equals cash, you have to have a system in place. My point is not to refute that, a system must be in place to provide performance management of poor performers, my point is that giving a rating to anyone isn’t really helpful and those things that we use it for can and could be better managed in other ways.

I hope that clears it up a little 🙂

Stack ranking, one of the worst ways to approach an already flawed idea

There’s a pattern here, Vijay posts up something on HR and I feel compelled to reply but end up writing far more opinionated rubbish than I should…

Nice post Vijay! But I will disagree.

Comparative employee rating (also known as stack ranking, vitality curves, rank and yank…) does not IMNSHO lead to useful or helpful results. In the case where enough employees are available to make bell curves a statistical likelihood (which I think would mean a huge number of employees and a huge variation in management and employee prowess which would most likely indicate a failed recruitment process, rather than a diverse company) then the likelihood that it would be possible to accurately compare one employee with another is very limited, Stack ranking only (doesn’t) works when it is possible to compare the employees. Which means the employees likely know each other, which means it’s probably in their own interests to screw each other’s performance. Check out the well publicised story at Microsoft – – under heading “The Bell Curve”.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

As I have previously mentioned I think the whole idea of performance reviews and ratings does nothing to help the employees, rather it just helps identify where good and bad management is occurring in the organisation. When we start linking review scores to payment, it gets even worse. Why? Because employees then start linking (even more strongly than they do already) their salary with their perceived self worth. Then when for whatever reason a large pay increase is not possible, the employee values themselves less. In the worst cases of this I have come across organisations where the employee contracts state that a performance review rating of 5 equates to n% of salary bonus payment, whilst a 4 is slightly less, and so on. The organisations have fixed salary/bonus budgets, so in order to pay out, they adjust the employees’ performance rating down (very rarely up!) so that the budget is met. Excellent employees are told that they are just “good” because there isn’t the budget to pay them if we tell them that they really are excellent.

I believe that there is a place for strongly objective reviews of employees, it’s the dark side of performance management. It’s that work that you need to do to be able to fire a disruptive or underperforming employee without having your arse hauled through the courts for unfair dismissal. Probably not an issue in the US I hear, but certainly a consideration in countries where the law is a little more friendly to employees. However, to drag all employees through a similar procedure when you don’t intend to fire them in the end, is not ideal methinks.

crystal ball


Peering into the future, short and longer term

Given my thoughts (and of course I haven’t a lot to back that up) that the only real positive value of current performance reviews is to evaluate the effectiveness of the management teams, I suggest that we remove the soul crunching and mainly pointless reviews and replace them with alternative ways of checking manager effectiveness. Google appears to have been doing a good job of this with its Project Oxygen and 360 reviews of managers – read the excellent HBR article an excerpt which quotes one of the Google manager which illustrates the value of the program is below:

“I was surprised that one person on my team didn’t think I had regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. I saw this person every day, but the survey helped me realize that just seeing this person was different from having regularly scheduled individual meetings. My team also wanted me to spend more time sharing my vision. Personally, I have always been inspired by Eric [Schmidt], Larry, and Sergey; I thought my team was also getting a sense of the company’s vision from them. But this survey gave my team the opportunity to explain that they wanted me to interpret the higher-level vision for them. So I started listening to the company’s earnings call with a different ear. I didn’t just come back to my team with what was said; I also shared what it meant for them.”

This approach appears to be working at Google. Perhaps too well! A Google full of managers rather than leaders would be almost as bad a place to work as Yahoo for me. However, the concept of 360 reviews providing actionable areas for improvement, I think, is something that isn’t quite so blue sky. This is an idea we’d be better off implementing right now. I think there is a clear difference between “management” telling you that you could do better in areas compared to the team that you manage telling you that you could improve.

Looking to the longer term, I think it will not be far off where we can use data that we would not have considered analysing previously (social network graphs, semantic and sentiment analysis of work communication, external to enterprise group and social sentiment, etc.) to give us hints as to whether employees are more or less productive, motivated, stretched, likely to leave, etc. What is more, predictive analytics will improve in the HR space (hello HANA and comparing huge sets of data across multiple organisations available due to SaaS set up of the HR tools and therefore comparable data sets). We should start to be able to get that data and the predictions about how an employee is going to act in time to do some real time/preventive management (hopefully). This is going to be far more valuable than the formalised soul destroying performance appraisal process happening once every n months.

I’d go as far as to suggest formal reviews only exist because we have this feeling that we need to have something “objective” to use to manage our people. However, in reality the best/happiest/most productive workplaces are going to be those where the subjective views of the employees are that they are being well and fairly treated. I think we can do an awful lot more in our workplace to help our employees be happy and productive. And most of that improvement isn’t going to come from paying our employees more or telling them where on a scale of 1 to 5 they scored this year. Perhaps we like to think that an objective review feeds a subject view, I don’t think it does (or if it does, it’s rarely going to be positive.)

Edit – to try to clarify a few points here I wrote yet another post  To rank or not to rank, ‘cos that won’t work in the real world will it?


Organisational Charts, is there a better way forward?

What does your company’s organisational chart look like?

a) the Eiffel Tower,

b) a bowl of spaghetti?

SuccessFactors Professional Edition – a thought provoking trial

I’ve been trying out the SuccessFactors Professional Edition (SMB market) software recently (and no, this is not a review of it, that’s coming later (maybe).) It gave me a moment’s pause to think. Does the organisational structure at my company actually resemble a tree (an upside down one I guess) at all? The SuccessFactors software has a great organisational structure visualisation tool (far nicer than the Nakisa one IMNSHO), but it’s all about visualising a traditional hierarchical organisational structure.

Different types of structures

At the same time I was thinking about this, I happened to read the supposed “Valve Handbook for New Employees“. On page 4 (I’ve included the link, if you haven’t read it, I can recommend it, fascinating stuff and far more than just the bit I’m talking about here) it describes the structure of the organisation.


It makes a point:

 “Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.”

Like Valve, I don’t see the organisation that I work for being particularly militaristic. I grew up as an “army brat” and therefore have a very healthy (in my eyes) disregard for any kind of imposed authority. Someone telling me that I must do something in a certain way, is almost a guarantee that I’ll try to find a different way of doing it. I try to treat the people I work with like I would like to be treated. Telling someone to do something is pointless, explaining to them why they should do something – that’s more like it.

I’ll digress from my main point here for a little bit, because a random memory has just sparked, and it’s sort of relevant. When I was a new grad starting out in the big wide world of SAP HR consulting all those years ago, my boss at the time hauled me out of the clients where I was shadowing and learning, and into the office. For one week I helped the office admin team file expense reports, collate time sheets and put together invoices After that, although I may never have been the best at getting my expenses in on time, when they did get in, they were very clearly and neatly arranged. Why? because I had learnt that doing so was a simple task for me, but made the life of the admin person so much easier. Because someone had taken the time to show me why I should do something in a certain manner, I was very happy to do it.

Hierarchy and innovation, not great mates

In their employee handbook Valve go on to say:

“But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.”

I’ll put my hand up right now and admit that Discovery is not an entertainment company, despite it sometimes being very entertaining to work here, yet I’ll completely agree with the sentiment of it being an absolute innovation killer to tell people exactly what they must and must not do. To me to provide the sort of environment that people are going to thrive in means everyone having a say and everyone moving forward.

Such a dynamic (yes my description and substitute whatever smanky term you want to use instead) way of doing things cannot, I believe, have a non-dynamic organisational backbone.

So let me try to put that on paper for you

I tried to draw a simple map of the relationships between a few of the employees in our company (disclaimer, I didn’t stop to think too long about who is linked to who very hard here, so if you’re on this chart and I didn’t link you correctly, sorry, it isn’t a real org chart because there wasn’t a whiteboard involved.)


when I tried to add just one more employee (Karsten) it just got far too messy:


My point is, that as a small company, we just don’t fit into the traditional hierarchical organisational structure. And to follow on from the point made by Valve, I don’t think it is in the best interests of our organisation or staff that we do.

Scientific interlude to counter excess HR fluffiness

Another digression (sorry) even evolution (Darwin’s tree of life) isn’t consider a tree these days, it has been recognised that due to the transfer of genetic information from and through viruses and bacteria there is an awful lot of our genome that doesn’t come from our direct ancestors, but from other species. It’s called horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and has been found to play a major role in forming species. To use this analogously, I should suggest that who you are working with, who influences you and who you influence are more important to who you are than the person that you supposedly report to.

Back to HR (or HCM, or whatever…)

Now I don’t think that either Discovery or Valve (or Dawin’s web(?) of life)  are unique in this. I think the days of the hierarchy are numbered, and what is more, we are inventing and deploying the tools right now that will be its undoing.

Tooling up for the revolution

Enterprise social networking, whether using tools like Jam, Streamwork, Yammer, Google+ (we use this a LOT internally, it’s free, simple and powerful!) or even going more external with tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and, so help you, Facebook is clearly in vogue. It should be a simple matter to leverage these tools (along with email ) to find out who is talking to who. From this we would have a clearer picture of who is talking to who, how often and in what formats. We could use this data to help us consult the right people. We already do this in many ways, but imagine having a system that could help us. In the same sort of way that GMail prompts you to include certain people in an email based on your past emails but that would also check the content of your message (I know this sound horrendous to some of you, but I’m just imagining stuff here, not planning for an actual solution, bear with me). The possibilities of how we could capture and utilise the connections between our employees to add value to the business are only just starting to be explored.

I’d push the analogy that I’m trying to make so far as to say that communities of interest are the new org units of enterprise. Although you might not send a leave request to be approved by your local ketchup appreciation group (I used to read the USENET alt.ketchup group at uni for a laugh, how the world has changed! I can’t even find a link to it now.) You are more likely to check that your vacation isn’t going to leave the project teams you are working with in the lurch, rather than checking with the team with whom you are theoretically assigned but haven’t worked with for the last 6 months.

When it comes to handling career goal planning, I think that we need to be encouraging everyone to be part of the process.  (I happen to agree with Prof. Culbert about the usefulness of performance reviews, but strongly believe that goal setting is a great way to understand how to get to the next level, in a positive way.) 360 type reviews (where we reference and review with the people we are working with, rather than an arbitary “manager”) of the goals that we are setting allow ourselves allows us to help ourselves and our teams understand where are heading,  without the soul-sucking negativity associated with most performance reviews. For such a distributed process, there is no benefit to a rigid structure where person A conducts the review for person B, C and D. Again I see great potential in the use of social communication tools to share and organise and optimise these processes.

Full circle

So back to my original musing, what does my organisation look like? I don’t think I know yet, but I think it’s going to be fluid. If I want to be part of a successful innovative company (and who doesn’t) I think it need to be able to change shape depending on how and why I’m looking. And my view of the organisation should be able to change that shape without me needing spend days of constant restructuring.

And to finally relate that to something SAP

Returning to my thoughts about the SuccessFactors Professional Edition product and its use of strict hierarchical structures. I don’t think that these do fit with how many SMB companies are choosing to operate today. Yet, I can see how a SaaS solution that is planning to integrate “social” into everything they do (one of the strong messages from SuccessConnect) will possibly get me there a lot quicker than an onPremise solution will. I hope that by posting this up people will read this and start to think about how we can start to leverage the tooling that SAP is providing to be more creative, dynamic and successful. SuccessFactors people, you have a real opportunity to create something in this space, please let’s build something awesome.

As per always, these are my own personal views, and do not necessarily represent those of the company I work for. I purposely take a line which is at times controversial and contrary to many people’s beliefs. I don’t think I’m correct, it’s just that no-one has convinced me otherwise yet. This blog was originally published at but I thought it really ought to be here too. Partly inspired by Vijay’s blog about talent being unmanageable, and my thoughts on what does that mean about talent being managers. What I’d want to point out is that I see a future coming where out HRIS system may mean the end of people managers as we know then – thus solving the conundrum of how do we manage talent and/or should talent be managers.



References: in a list to make life easier for you

Valve Handbook for New Employees (my own adaption),


Should you be a manager?

A response to “Talent cannot be managed” by Vijay Vijayasankar.

I read Vijay’s excellent post about how talent should be lead and not managed.

It seems to have had a stratospheric response, with lots of people loving it. I had to pause for a moment and wonder why.

My first thoughts – involve a little set logic


Of all the people that are out there in the world, there are PLENTY that are unmanageable. (n.b. I do realise I spelt that wrong in whiteboard sketch, some reason there isn’t a spell check on whiteboards (now that’s a cool idea for a future demojam)). There are also plenty that out there that desire leadership more than they like being managed. Of that group there is a small subgroup that are “talent”. I’ve drawn a bigger overlap with “desire leadership over management” for talent as I agree more with this, but the overlaps aren’t really supposed to indicate % of overlap, more that there is some.

Vijay defines some other things about “Talent”: Loyalty, requirement for trust, lack of scalability, need for direction, these are all other things I could have drawn on the diagram. In all cases, there would be an overlap with the other areas (although not being very good and drawing n-dimensional diagrams on a whiteboard I didn’t attempt it.)

The point I’d make is although Vijay states (and I’d tend to agree) that talent possess these attributes, these attributes do not define who is a “talent”.

However, I’m pretty sure that anyone that read the article would be able to identify with two or more of those attributes. Unless the reader had particularly great self awareness, then the “logical” jump is “if I have these attributes, I must be a talent”. Result – instant warm fuzzy feeling. Next result – share warm fuzzy feeling with as many other people as possible. Result, lots of reposting.

Ok, I’m being a little  😉 cynical here, but I don’t think I completely off. Vijay has written a lot of other articles that have been just as good, and many of them have been less subjective. But perhaps haven’t addresses such emotional areas. This article has had a huge response and I think in part (and compared to his other excellent blogs) it’s because of the group identity emotional response trigger that it pulls.

I’m waiting for his next blog “Actually, you’re not a talent” and see if that gets the same response 😉

But that wasn’t the post title – it was “Should you be a manager?”

When I read Vijay’s post it did trigger some thoughts though, primarily, if someone were to identify with these points and consider themselves a “talent” should they really be in the manager role? Now, in most companies in the world, it’s impossible to rise to the top unless you take on some people management skills. But should we, could we, reasonably expect a “talent” that by Vijay’s definitions, “doesn’t mix with non-talent” to effectively manage a team of anyone other than “talent”? Given how rare “talent” is to find, could we even expect such a team to ever exist?

Do we need to think about special training for our “talent” to make then a little more accepting? Or do we risk taking them out of that talent space if we start burdening them with management responsibilities? Or perhaps there are special “talents” that exist who’s talent is people management? What does it say about the career progression and potential of talent if we can’t make them people managers?

One of the comments that I made on reading the post was:

Management is distinct from leadership – Talent leads, that is clear, but can/should it manage? That’s my question back to you Vijay 🙂

Thanks for such a great post.




Who is this real ME?

This post is a response to the thought provoking post that Raj Sundarason posted on SCN – Identifying the Real Value of ME

In that post Raj talks about how:

“We need to embrace the concept of the “IDENTITY of ME.

Step 1: We need to recognize the different elements of My Identity (ME)

Step 2:  To scale and be successful we must find a way to tap into the value of ME

Step 3:  The Complete ME requires an integrated enabling infrastructure”

That grab of the bullet points of his post does not do it justice – go and read it yourself! But it will work as a nice framework for my response.

Recognising the social or not ME

I would suggest that the layers that make up an individual are very varied. In the same way that we see ridiculous personality profiling:

personality graph1

We can generate similar breakdowns on the factors of their identity:

personality graph2


You should note that these graphs were generated using random numbers in a spreadsheet, and mean absolutely nothing! But I bet you could recognise some people you knew looking at the data there if you looked. And here is where we have to be very, very careful. We take into any discussion about what makes up identity some very strong views of what defines identity is that are heavily influenced by the people that we surround ourselves with. A person who spends much of their time online (like myself) will naturally be more inclined to think about the online social interactions that take place. A person who is never online (yes, there are a few of those left) is more likely to think about person to person interaction. Even what makes up an identity is very much up for debate, is your community credibility part of your identity? (probably) or is it a result of the social and professional contributions? (probably). Whilst the 5 big personality traits are pretty well agreed (although putting them in a radar graph is a complete abuse) the points that make up an employee’s identity aren’t quite so well understood (as far as I know. There are probably hundreds of PhDs in sociology which discuss that and they probably even have some sort or acronym that is universally accepted to represent the different factors… But I don’t know about it so we’ll just assume that it doesn’t exist for the sake of a good story 😉 )

So to my point here. When we consider leveraging the power of an employee’s identity we need to consider that for different people this will need to be achieved in different ways. Whilst I think and agree that in many situations the general result is the same, if a strategy only addresses one aspect of an employee’s identity then the end result will vary wildly in the same way that identities are made up in wildly different ways.

Getting to the value of identity

So how do we actually use identity to give our business value? Well firstly I think we need to consider what we would loose if we do not recognise the value that an employee brings that is above and beyond their mandated position description. Perhaps this is what people talk about when they blather on about “cloud DNA” and how worried they are that Lars is leaving SAP. Personally I think that’s tummy-rot and one person will rarely have such an impact, no matter how strong their identity. But it does give a nice example of how we need to value and assign value to our employees by thinking about their identity in the wider sense.

So the next question must be, if we can see value in identity, how can we grow that value? To answer that question with another, does all identity growth equal value? Certainly in some areas, but not in others. If your employee is a passionate political advocate, they may well be growing their identity but also at some point you may find that the passion/identity conflicts with your business growth. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m quite passionate about environmental issues, I fear for the legacy we are leaving our children in the way that our planet is being abused. It’s quite possible that this will conflict with potential work that my company might partake in.

Identity has value, but it also has risks, leveraging one and recognising the other will take skill. Which brings me nicely to the final point.

Integrated analysis environment

I agree with Raj that by figuring out which parts of an employee’s identity can be leveraged towards business growth a company has the opportunity to create great wins. An employee who feels that their whole identity is supported by the company is going to be far more loyal and likely to produce results/recommendations/inspire others than one who feels that their company just doesn’t understand them.

To this point companies will need to be very careful in attempting to leverage the identities of their employees. Again I will use myself as an example: If my company asked me to start tweeting references to a new solution that we were marketing I would be very resentful. Why? Just read my thoughts on anti-social social media. I would move camp very quickly from feeling that my company was supporting me and was aware of what I was doing that was helpful to a view of “you just don’t understand!”

It’s like the return to work legislation here in Australia, you don’t encourage your employees to return to work, you support them. In the RTW situation it’s due to legal nuances that can stop you getting fined millions of dollars, but in general terms if you can support your employees to leverage their identity for your business cause, rather than putting any pressure (intended or not) then you’re on a winner. Supported employees are less likely to feel that you misunderstand them and more likely to join in (even if it’s not something they would have done without the support.)

But before you can offer support, you’d better understand where your people are and what they do and what makes up that diverse mix of identity in your population of employees. Thus the need for, rather than infrastructure to enable, infrastructure to analyse. Helping your people to be great online bloggers for your company makes no sense if your people aren’t interested in being near a computer once they leave the office. Likewise, targeting your employees to help recruitment at the next trade conference they attend is pointless if they will be avoiding any social contact whilst they are there.

In the race to use the connectedness and influence of our employees towards the good of the company, the first companies that are able to effectively analyse where their employees are at will have a huge advantage. I agree with Raj that we must also measure the effectiveness and dollar returns of the methods and processes that are put in place to leverage the identities, but this is pointless without understanding the base that we are manipulating  supporting.

To the end of analysing the identity make up of your employees, we are entering a phase where social network analysis is a real possibility within a company. Whether this analysis is through scanning email conversations for semantic meaning and the senders, recipients and cc’s used as nodes in an influence map. Or it’s through direct analysis of outside-of-enterprise relations with employees encouraged supported to upload their contact lists into gamified social referal solutions. The challenges with privacy will be the first obvious hurdle, but if Facebook has over a billion users then there are at least a few people who don’t care that much… Look out for the social media disclosure statement in your next employment contract, and I’ll bet your employer will be doing a lot more with your details than just monitoring your Klout score!

Summary to a long winded ramble that could have been composed in a pub on a Friday evening (but wasn’t)

Raj, I hope I added some value/response to your post! In summary, yes I agree, leverage the identities of your employees to a) build a better workplace for them and b) return better result for your company. And yes, I think that companies that will be able to do this will have a huge advantage. But I think the first and more important step is to start understanding who your people are outside of their current work personas. Understand the identities that you actually have, and once you have that information you will be in a better place to start thinking about how or even if you can use that information.