Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 Ideas for Your Next Social Network for Employees

Since attending Dreamforce in early September, I've spendt a lot of airplane time pondering the future of social enterprises, especially social networks for employees. Whether we’re talking about co-workers or customers, the objective is still the same – successful attraction and retention. The primary difference may be the importance of aligning your own people around the mission so that they can better serve your customers.

The first step is to have richer information about your peers available at your fingertips. Why do you need to go to LinkedIn to find out that the new hire you just met speaks fluent Mandarin (and six other languages) and has 15 years experience in the public sector? Thankfully, we have profiles built into Chatter.

Compare Chatter, though, to the poor people who work for enterprises where employee information is limited to a couple of fields in Outlook. Click on an email address and you can find out who they report to and who they manage. If you’re lucky, you might even get a current phone number. This is only slightly more useful than name, rank, and serial number.

In the interest of increasing employee satisfaction and productivity, here are seven ideas formed during my frequent Boston-to-SFO round-trips.

1. Create your own V2MOM.

If you have spent any time around salesforce.com employees, you may have heard us talk about “V2MOM.” While it many sound like the prototype for a new Tesla engine, it’s actually an initiative Marc Benioff started back in 1999 in the formative days of the company. It stands for Vision (what do you want to achieve?), Values (what are the attributes you need to be successful?), Methods (what are the key strategic imperatives?), Obstacles (what are the roadblocks?), and Measures (what are the key metrics?).

At a previous employer, we attempted to do something similar with a Balanced Scorecard. This was a quarterly/annual exercise driven by the COO. The primary obstacle was a lack of buy-in. This is not the case at salesforce.com. Every employee will be expected to create his/her own V2MOM before the start of the new fiscal year. These will be posted on Chatter. Trust me, it’s a powerful exercise.

2. Use “Chatter boards” for collaboration and transparency.

Last week I was one of several hundred employees invited to participate in a three-day company offsite. The sessions were also broadcast globally so that other employees could participate via their laptop or iPad.

Flanking the stage were a pair of over-sized monitors displaying Chatter posts on the presentations. The extended audience was able to see the 2,224 comments (based on 1,027 original posts) and 3,404 “likes” generated by more than 800 physical and virtual attendees across all departments and geographies. If you posted an idea, you received instantaneous feedback – not all of it positive. Comments are still coming in. Now, that’s an employee social network!

Note: If your company is not ready for that level of transparency, you might want to point that out in your V2MOM under “Obstacles.”

3. Create an alumni network to help attract talent.
Did you see the article in The Wall Street Journal (October 24) on “boomerang employees”? As the adjective suggests, these are the people who are looking to return to a previous employer after having discovered that Nirvana was the name of a band, not a better place to work. Why focus on those who want to come back? In many cases, they want to bring some talented colleagues with them.

As the newspaper pointed out, alumni networks are not a new idea. McKinsey & Company has maintained its program since the 1960s. While it didn’t say how many people have rejoined the management consultancy over the decades, it is a very safe bet that this network has been a good source for new business and talent referrals.

Using Siteforce and Chatter, you could have your own alumni net up in a very short time. Now you have a new V2MOM entry under “Method.”

4. Host a Virtual Job Fair.

Speaking of recruiting, have you ever thought about hosting a virtual job fair? No, I’m not talking about picking a HR avatar for Second Life.

Last month The Wall Street Journal (October 31) wrote about how companies like Procter & Gamble are using virtual career fairs to find new candidates. Last month, P&G hosted 900 potential employees across Western Europe. Job seekers were able to chat with representatives from a wide range of departments.

While I’m not aware that we have actually built virtual job fairs for our customers, we could help you create your own using Siteforce and Chatter. Chatter would be especially useful for capturing the dialog with your future employees.

5. Develop a network for your Baby Boomer employees.

While Baby Boomer sightings may seem relative rare at salesforce .com, this is not the case at many other companies. Take a look at the U.S. Federal Government. As many as half of all employees will be eligible for retirement before the end of the decade. The same is true in the utility industry.

If your company is facing a potential brain drain because of near-term retirements, now is the time to start building a network of their skills and contact information. You may also want to begin thinking about compensation plans should your bring them back on a consulting basis. Again, Siteforce and Chatter can help you.

6. Create a recruiting site for military veterans.

As you may be aware, an estimated 41,000 U.S. soldiers will be returning from Iraq by the end of this year. More will be coming back from Afghanistan in 2012. Unfortunately, all will be coming home to a tough economy and 9% unemployment. Can you help?

The U.S. Senate recently passed the Returning Heroes Tax Credit. This provides up to $5,600 in tax credits for hiring veterans, and up to $9,600 for disabled veterans.

7. Leverage prediction markets to tap the “wisdom of insiders.”

Over the last few years, a lot of attention has been paid to The Wisdom of Crowds. But, are you doing enough to tap the knowledge of the people working for you?

Many of us once worked for a company where a senior executive made a bold, aggressive announcement that a brand new product would ship by a specific date or that an overly ambitious project would be completed within a Mission: Impossible timeframe. If Las Vegas had offered odds, we would have bet everything against a favorable outcome. Ah, if only management had asked us.

What if you were to allow any of your employees to wager on the likely outcome of major business decision? Chances are that they would be more accurate than your senior executives. Many companies are deploying prediction markets to help create more accurate sales forecasts, improve project and portfolio management, and provide better risk assessment.

As for me, I’d bet you could see one or more prediction markets on the AppExchange within the next 12 months. Any takers?

In the meantime, I welcome your feedback and ideas.


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