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    March Madness - HR Carnival Style

    The latest HR Carnival is up on Kris Dunn's HR Capitalist blog,

    where Kris has set up a 'March Madness' style tournament of your favorite HR blogs.Flickr - Curtis Perry

    My HR Technology Blog is included as well, (but if you are reading this, I am already one of your favorites, right?)

    Please take a few minutes to check out the Carnival, vote for the HR blogs you enjoy, (or give some sympathy votes to me).

    Thanks Kris for hosting and for the great idea for this Carnival.



    Can I get a status on that?

    How many phone calls, e-mails, and meetings are devoted and dedicated to answering the question:

    What's the status of (insert task, project, activity, report, proposal here) Jimbo?Flickr - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    Finding out where an important piece of work stands should not require a formal inquiry or something akin to a press conference.

    But the reality is so many of these 'status updates' are deemed necessary because of the typical tools and technologies that still dominate most workplaces today.

    Project plans with 'percent complete' notations are done in Microsoft Project, and kept on the project manager's PC, or maybe stored on a shared network drive.  But even on a shared drive, they don't do most team members much good, since the license for MS Project is ridiculous, and most team members don't have the software installed anyway.

    Most other important documents are still developed in MS Word, and while pretty much everyone has MS Word, the important documents themselves are being passed around as e-mail attachments and it is almost impossible for 'participants' in the document creation to know they have the latest version. And for interested parties or executive sponsors, not actively involved in the actual creation of the document, well their only hope is to track down the latest version from somewhere, and you had better hope they can get the correct one.

    And in many, many organizations, technical support or development requests (bugs, customizations, enhancements) are still tracked in a bizarre stew of Excel worksheets, Access databases, or in some kind of locally installed 'help desk' package that the real users can't access anyway.

    Think about all the time you spend either asking or answering the question, 'Can I get a status on that?'

    Make a tally of every time and in what situations that question gets asked for a month or so. The topics, processes, and context that generate the most calls for 'status updates' are ripe for the application of technology solutions to reduce these questions, increase visibility (and likely accountability), and improve productivity.

    They may be new project tracking tools, wikis for document collaboration, or a web-based technical issue and help desk system, whatever the particular source of pain is in your organization.  But you know that they are needed.

    Because every minute someone spends updating 'status' is a minute where the 'status' remains the same.  And in 2009, staying the same for too long could mean putting up a 'Everything Must Go' sign in the window.




    Will Employees Use Internal Social Networks?

    Easier collaboration, better communication, 'community' building, these are just a few of the anticipated benefits from the deployment of Internal or Corporate Social Networks. 

    Lately it seems like every vendor, consultant, and tech publication around is advocating the introduction of some kind of internal social networking capability into the enterprise, either as a stand-alone application, see examples here, and here, or from vendors that are including 'social' capability in existing HR products and processes, examples here and here.

    But frequently in these recommendations and 'sales pitches' hard data is lacking to address some of the key questions that HR and business leaders will naturally have about these projects.  Key questions like:

    Will my employees actually use the social network?

    Will social networking be seen as just a 'Gen Y' thing?

    Will the use of the social network improve productivity?

    These are just some of the important questions to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of an internal social network for your organization.

    In an attempt to shed some more 'real world' data on these key questions, enterprise social networking vendor Socialcast released a report of findings from a pilot enterprise project for NASA, the United States official space agency.

    The purpose of the social networking pilot (dubbed NASAsphere), was to determine if NASA knowledge workers would use and apply online social networking in the NASA environment. By purposely inviting a pilot group of users from a wide range of NASA locations and disciplines, NASA was also interested in examining what if any improvements in inter-departmental collaboration would be realized. The pilot would be a two-phase project, with each phase lasting 30 days, (honestly a very short time to make conclusions on the success or failure of a internal social networking pilot).

    The key findings (based on surveys of the participants and analysis of the information created on the network) from the 47 page report on the pilot program:

    • Almost 90% of the invited participants activated their accounts and participated in the launch of the pilot, a total of 78 NASA staff
    • As the pilot moved through to Phase II, the user community grew to 295
    • Users were from all Generation groups, and comments from participants indicated that age was not a factor in someone's willingness or unwillingness to participate in the social network
    • About 82% of the participants said the platform made open communication easier
    • But, only 28% of participants cited improved work productivity in the form of 'saved' time
      • This finding was tempered by numerous comments that indicated the initial narrow user base of the network was a limiting factor for many participants, it can be concluded that as participation across NASA increases, more users would report productivity gains.

    The report is extremely detailed and worth a read if you are interested in testing internal social networking in your organization.  In particular interest to HR and HR leaders is the following recommendation from the NASA project team:

    The human resource organization in private industry is increasing their role in coordinating,
    supporting, and managing tools that enable the workforce to share and transfer knowledge. It is suggested that NASA’s Human Capital organization take the lead on implementing and utilizing NASAsphere as an enabling tool for the NASA workforce, notably taking on the human element.

    This is an excellent 'real-world' case study that concludes that the HR organization is in the best position to lead these kinds of internal collaboration and community deployments. 

    Hopefully, we will see more and more of these projects and more opportunities for HR to lead.





    Friend? Follower? Job Opportunity?

    It seems like everyone is talking about how organizations can and should be trying to leverage social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter,  particularly for recruiting.  Many professional and corporate recruiters have written reams of white papers, given webinars, and created podcasts that aim to educate organizations on the most effective use of these platforms. But the truth is many corporate recruiters are still not familiar with these tools, and are not utilizing them in their recruiting processes.

    Recently a pair of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vendors announced tighter integration with their platforms and the social networking platforms.  This integration can make it easier for 'slower-moving' recruiting organizations to begin to harness the social networking and social media space.

    The first is Jobvite. Jobvite has implemented support for corporate users of the ATS or visitors to the company jobs page to send job information and invitations to apply for specific jobs to contacts in their external social networks.  Similar to the familiar 'Share this' widgets that appear on most blogs and websites, a job listing in Jobvite includes a 'send Jobvite' widget that allows the user to search through Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, e-mail contacts, and also to Twitter, either as a broadcast JobVite via Tivoupdate, or a Direct Message to a follower. 

    Another really innovative vendor in this space is Jobs2Web.  Recently I attended a webinar that described in detail how Best Buy has partnered with Jobs2Web to create a different, and better applicant experience.

    Jobs posted on a Jobs2Web powered site can also be shared with job seekers E-mail, IM, and social networking contacts.  The 'sharing' widgets are remarkably robust, covering e-mail, IM, social networking, social bookmarking (think Delicious and Digg), as well as most of the popular blogging platforms.  This deep, rich and native integration from the corporate

    Jobs2Web via Best Buy

     job site through to numerous and extensive 'public' social platforms is a truly breakthrough piece of technology. Jobvite and Jobs2Web have both delivered impressive functionality that delivers on the true potential of social media and the desire of many HR and recruiting professionals to better leverage this space.

    This native integration from these two relatively smaller vendors underscores and emphasizes the significant functional deficiencies in many of the more established enterprise systems, particularly the ATS modules of the major ERP vendors. For example, the ATS module of Oracle's E-business suite, iRecruitment, does not offer social integration, RSS feeds, or support native social bookmarking.  The 'breakthrough' capability is the ability to manually enter a friend's email address to forward a link. 

    This was 'cutting-edge' in 2002 maybe, but today it is incredibly substandard.

    JobVite and Jobs2Web represent some of the most progressive and innovative functionality in this space, and I would encourage any one looking to improve or enhance their corporate recruitment systems to give them a long look.

    Maybe that next Facebook update you see will be a job opportunity from a friend, instead of a friend request from that guy/girl from High School you only half remember.

    Update : This 'Tell a Friend' widget from SocialTwist is the same one the is used by JobVite and Jobs2Web on their platforms to enable 'social sharing'.

    SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


    Empty your cup

    There is a famous Zen story or Koan called 'Empty your cup' that reads: Flickr - kazukichi

    Nan-in, a Japanese master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

    Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

    The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

    "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

    The point is a telling one, that preconceived notions and pre-drawn conclusions effectively limit one's ability to accept new ideas, consider new approaches, and see things in a new light.

    Since I am a professor of sorts, this koan is one I think about often.  As teachers, it can be incredibly easy to walk into class with a 'full cup', comfortable in the knowledge that your views, your experience, and your insights are the only important ones, and that since you are the 'teacher' it is the student's that carry the empty cups, relying on you for wisdom and guidance.

    But truly, that is an extremely short-sighted, and selfish point of view.

    Each time I have taught, I have become more and more convinced that I learn as much from the class as they learn from me.  In many ways I am simply a facilitator or experienced guide, but the real learning only can come from their interactions with each other, and with the larger community.

    I have tried to introduce more 'community' into my class, by encouraging the students to use Twitter and read and comment on blogs, and in the last session of my most recent class by holding a really exciting 'virtual' Expert Panel discussion.

    Going forward, I plan to emphasize these elements more, and try to de-emphasize my role as the 'sole source of truth'.

    After all, when class begins the next time, I will walk in with an empty cup.