Tag Archives: blog

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 🙂

Lies to Children – Simplification for the sake of easy explaination

simplicityI was so close to tweeting this:

The earth & sun orbit around their combined centre of gravity. simply explanation isn’t the same as accurate, just a lot easier to explain

It even fits in 140 characters, but I don’t think it does justice to the point I wanted to make.

Michael wrote:

and I commented:

Michael replied:

I lol’d.

However, it raises a point I’d like to address, we often hear some very compelling stories about how thing are. One of those stories is about the earth orbiting the sun. If you look closely at the details, what the earth orbits is the sum total of gravitational influence in the solar system. It happens that sum total is pretty much smack bang centered on the sun, but it certainly isn’t always.

The simple story is compelling, and it may even be true for most use cases, but were I trying to calculate the trajectory of an asteroid potentially on a collision course with earth it wouldn’t be.

Likewise if Michael took my story about SaaS meaning the end of upgrades to his business it would be a very compelling and simple one. After all, someone else is managing that in a SaaS world aren’t they?

Look into the detail however and you might find things like APIs that you’re using for integration getting depreciated over time, certainly you’ll hope to find that the UI/UX changes, and so your training documentation will need updating. New functionality will come along and you may well adopt it.

Beware any simple and seemingly logical statement – especially if it comes from someone trying to sell you something.



Twitter tightrope

Influence this you <removed>

Walking on a tightrope with the birds

Recently I passed the completely arbitrary mark of 1000 twitter followers. Yeah! Woohoo! Well done me! (Please note points with exclamation mark are meant to be dripping with sarcasm.)

And around the same time, I unfollowed – shock horror – two folks I had been following for quite some time. Now, I know I’m not the social media guru who can use twitter perfectly with lots of lists, following back people and then analysing where the links in my post have been successful and all that bs. But, I stopped to think about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and whether the same could/should be done to me by the wonderful bunch of idiots people that follow my twitter handle.

Unfollow 1 – Where is my personal space?

The first person I unfollowed, is great at sharing interesting content, and has some really useful things to say about some stuff that I’m interested in. However, they also have a LOT to say about politics. It might even be a political view that I agree with and sometimes I’ve had fun following some of those links. However, sometimes it went beyond fun and started getting nasty. Now, I strongly support people’s right to have a political viewpoint (I have one) however, if I’m going to include you in my feed of people that I want to listen to, please don’t make me uncomfortable by going all extreme on me, regularly.

Unfollow 2 – Wake me up to smell the coffee!

The second person I unfollowed was the polar opposite. They tweeted some interesting stuff occasionally. But generally their sharing of info was following the company line so intently that I never had the view that the stuff they were sharing was more than their company’s carefully edited press releases. I decided that in balance, press releases disguised as personal viewpoints was just a bit too boring, and I didn’t really want them in my timeline.

Walking a tightrope

Clearly, being too extreme is bad, but being too timid, is just as bad. So where one earth does one go? And this is the tightrope I guess that we walk. I’m certainly not pretending to know the answer and if one analyses the question it’s clear I’ve made some perhaps unsupportable assumptions. Is it really that bad if your audience is tightly aligned your viewpoints? If you’re gaining kudos in the eyes of your employer, is that a bad thing?

From my POV

I think in the end, the tightrope you walk is the one of your own making. It’s the choices that you make to go in the direction you want to go and associate with the people that you want to associate with. So for me, that means being slightly (but hopefully not offensively) irreverent, and keeping a T-shaped focus on the stuff I share. What it also means to me is that some things that I do care quite deeply about, for example climate change and the way that our generation is screwing the planet for my kids, I’m probably a LOT quieter about that I sometimes wish I was. Self censoring is a pain in the butt, however, it might just get me along the tightrope I want to walk. Just grab me after a few beers, and then I’ll tell you what I really think. 🙂

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.



Keeping it real

Anti-Social social media

As many of you who might read this know, I like social media. I spend a reasonable amount of my spare time following and trying to keep up with the information that is available about SAP, cloud and HCM topics. Many of these social media discussions (a majority I’d suggest) take place over twitter. Now recently I’ve found a few tweets that have really got me irritated. But before I explain what got my back up, it’s probably worth pointing out that there is a simple option for me, and it’s put the phone/tablet down and walk away. This really isn’t that serious! Secondly, don’t ask me to name names, I won’t and I don’t think it’s helpful anyway, and I’ll get to why not later.

What’s wrong?

I’ve seen two types of behaviour that I’ve disliked. Firstly has been where people have been using social media as a tool to strike up a conversation. But rather than continuing with the conversation, just make a couple of snide remarks and tried to spark up a fire. In some cases these have been extreme storm in the teapot scenarios, where some information misunderstood, or not at all researched or understood has been used to derive wild scenarios that are great link-bait but do not actually help drive the conversation forward. Conversations are two-sided, if you refuse to engage in a manner that engenders discussion then you don’t have a conversation, you have a battle. In battles the only people that win are the arms manufacturers.

The second type of behaviour is where people represent themselves as “individuals” but start broadcasting what can only be described as advertisements for the products that the company that they work for sells. Now this is a fine line as you’d expect people to be interested in and excited about the products that they company that they work for sells. But when it is done across a whole group of employees and sometimes with a common message/format  then it really starts to smell bad. Even worse when people start tweeting info and then add link to some sales website or their company twitter handle when the content of the tweet isn’t about that! It’s like they are branding their tweets! But when they then refuse to engage on the marketing type tweets to clarify details (possibly because some of the marketing bs is actual bs?) it gets really irritating.

The problem.

Well my real issue is that the response I want to give the tweets of the second type would just make me an asinine tweeter of the first type. Keeping it real and respecting myself involves not walking either of these two paths. And that’s tricky. Not to mention frustrating! This is why I don’t what to name, it’s just behaving like a spoilt brat and isn’t doing anyone any favours. Don’t be evil!

My solution – not “the” solution

I believe that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously, it’s one of the reasons I still keep the ridiculous twitter image that I have whilst pretty much all those that I engage with have sensible portraits. To remind myself not to think overly of my skills, abilities or influence, as I’m just a silly looking guy who’s biggest achievement was becoming a father. Remembering what is important and valuable to me then drives my behaviour. Yes I’ll post this up to vent a little, but the anti-social social media that winds me up, hopefully you won’t see that coming from this direction. 🙂

Seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously. Photo was taken at my son’s 1st birthday party.

On building your own brand

Today I was lucky enough to attend a SAP Mentors web meeting where someone from SAP (I’m not sure if they want to be named so I’ll leave them their anonymity) presented about building your own brand.

It was an excellent session, but probably raised more questions for me than gave me answers.


I am lucky enough to be in a position where I directly influence how the company I work for is run. As such I would like to think that internally we do not (yet) have the need for employees to need to raise their own profile in order to get noticed and rewarded. If we end up in that space, we should probably start looking at our talent management processes as a matter of urgency. And if that comes to pass, I will be doing just that. (Hopefully by then using something like SuccessFactors will be a possibility for small to medium businesses beyond what the current Professional Edition offers).

However, perhaps self promotion is needed whatever size your company? Even if there are just two of you! I’ll discount the single person companies, if you don’t know what you’re doing yourself you’re in trouble! Whatever size you are unless you effectively communicate what you are doing to the others in your company, you are doing yourself (and the company) a disservice. But is effective communication about what you’re doing the same as self promotion? I’d guess, Yes and No.

I think there is a fair bit more to self branding – which is why I started writing this blog outside of the SCN space. But I think it’s important not to confuse that with ensuring your company has effective talent management processes and encourages communication.

Anyway, better do some work.