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    « In Memorial - Firefighter Thomas Hetzel | Main | All candidates are equal, some just a little more equal »

    Who knows what around here?

    A week or two back over on the PsyBlog a post called 'Why Groups Fail to Share Information Effectively' caught my attention. The post cited a 1985 research study that found that people trying to make decisions in groups spend most of their time telling each other things that everyone in the group already knows.

    This of course leads to ineffective decision making, as people tend to withhold information known only to themselves that may hold the key to solving the problem and making the best decision.

    One of the remedies that the PsyBlog piece offers is to make members of a group aware of each other's expertise, so they know (broadly speaking) what everyone else knows. In 1985, there were really no technologies available to organizations to support this 'expertise awareness'. 

    Today the problem might be too many options that support finding and contacting 'expertise' in an organization. Software tools that support expertise locating and store employee talent profile Flickr- Omnosinformation seem to by multiplying by the week.

    Here are just some of the options available

    Core HRIS - This seems like a no-brainer, right?  All the necessary 'core' and demographic data for employee profiles should be a part of the HRIS. And job and assignment history, and potentially information on past performance and training might be in the HRIS. But most HRIS lack really detailed and granular information on competencies, projects an employee participated on, and thinks like interests, goals, and other unique and distinguishing attributes. After all, the main function of the HRIS is to make sure the employees are paid properly, administrative tasks like transfers, salary adjustments, and benefit enrollments can be entered efficiently.  The HRIS vendors do have plenty of opportunity in the talent profile area, but most have not focused heavily in this space.  Recently the Oracle HRMS 12.1 release was expected to include a more robust Talent Profile capability and this does give some indication of what is possible in the profile realm from the core HRIS vendors.

    Talent Management Systems - employee profiles that are part of integrated talent management systems can give insight as to the expertise of employees by focusing on key elements like competencies, performance history, and training and development taken. Profiles built inside Talent Management systems might lack some 'core' data from the HRIS like educational background, resumes, and job history however. Some good examples can be seen from Halogen Software and SuccessFactors.

    Corporate Social Networks - Software for internal corporate social networking from vendors like SelectMinds, Nobscot, and Jive all have the 'profile' as an essential element of the solution set. In most of these applications, the employees themselves create and maintain their own profiles, and the accuracy and reliability can vary from employee to employee.  The key in these types of tools is for the organization to arrive at the optimal blend of 'professional' vs. 'personal' data in the profile. Some research suggests that it is actually very important to allow and even encourage some levels of strictly personal content like hobbies and other outside interests as they can serve to make employees more approachable and provide a means for new members of the organization to make introductions to more seasoned employees.

    Collaboration Platforms - Wikis from Socialtext, community platforms from Tomoye, and Neighborhood America make the employee profile accessible, searchable, and valuable for expertise locating. One of the strengths of housing employee profile data here is that skills, interests, and background can also be combined with specific information on projects the employee has worked on, links to work content (blog posts, wiki pages, white papers, etc.) and visibility to the employee's main connections in the network.

    External Social Networks - some companies might consider leveraging external network information that employees have posted on LinkedIn or Facebook. The argument being that since such a rich repository of information exists on these networks that the organization could simply exploit what is already there, and work to enhance the corporate presence and engagement with employees there.

    Connecting employees in search of information to the right colleagues that are likely to possess the needed answers as efficiently as possible is increasingly important in today's environment.

    Lots of choices, and not easy for the organization to come to the best decision as to 'where' expertise and profile information should be maintained and leveraged.

    Are you using expertise locators or talent profiles in your organization?  If so, what type of system are you using?

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Steve, perhaps without meaning to do so, you've made the case very clearly for the importance of integration across the HRM system of record (SOR), talent management applications, and all things social. We don't need multiple, different and even conflicting profiles of work and workers, nor can we afford the overhead of keeping multiple, different and even conflicting profiles synchronized, correct and up-to-the-minute. Once upon a time, there were HR systems and payroll systems built on quite different data models and architectures, and under the control of different parts of the organization. Eventually we got integrated HRMSs in which payroll was a using application of the data foundation created by the integrated system of record. When those HRMSs, some of which were ERP/HRMSs, didn't innovate rapidly enough in talent management or all things social and when even the innovations that they did deliver couldn't be used by an installed base for which legacy upgrade cycles were too expensive and lengthy, the talent management and all things social vendors jumped in to fill these unmet customer needs. But we are again faced with all of the same data duplication and reconciliation issues of those earlier forays into separate HR and payroll systems, only now the price isn't merely administrative inefficiencies and broken admin processes but rather the inability to address fully our organizational goals. Your blog entry makes the case as clearly as I've seen it anywhere for getting back to the basics of integration. But we must do it much more cleverly than before via modern integration tools and, most importantly, an agreed industry HRM object model for those most often shared elements -- the person object hierarchy, the organizational objects, KSAOCs, and the interconnections among these critical objects.

    September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Bloom

    I am currently at a company that uses our intranet to house employee bios. These are then searchable for specific skills, degrees, client expertise, practice groups, languages,etc. It works for us, but from a HR standpoint, I'd love to have a system that incorporated the HRIS data, performance data, and the skill data all in one place.

    September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrish McFarlane

    Naomi - Can I make your comments my post? You explained the issues in a far more intelligent manner than my attempt. Your articulation of the critical nature of this issue is spot-on. I was inspired to write the post simply from seeing vendor after vendor and solution after solution all incorporating their own idea of the talent profile in some manner. Certainly larger organizations already possess many of these solutions in house, and may soon be struggling to see the return on their investment due to the integration and duplication issues you so correctly describe. Thanks very much for your insights, I will make sure that I instruct my next class to read this comment carefully.

    September 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Trish - Thanks very much for your observations. You hit a common point I think, that you have a solution that meets some of the organizational objectives, but is missing key data elements that would truly benefit the firm. A very difficult, yet important issue for sure.

    September 10, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

    Steve, the best ideas always "come from the table," which sounds far more romantic in the Spanish language original of this expression. I have so enjoyed "meeting" and learning from you through Twitter, and I'm looking forward to doing so on calls and in-person as those opportunities present themselves. Perhaps, in my "next" incarnation, I could do more speaking directly to students. Thanks for the shout-out. Naomi

    September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi Bloom

    Thanks again Naomi and I definitely want to follow up with you on our earlier discussions on having some involvement with my next class. It would be a fantastic opportunity for myself and the students.

    September 11, 2009 | Registered CommenterSteve

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