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    Entries in influence (9)

    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    Numbers never lie - but they change how we behave

    Full disclaimer: I am not much of a fan/user of Facebook. I check it very infrequently, almost never see things like messages or friend requests in a timely manner, and really only keep my account active for HR Happy Hour Show page purposes. So take that for what it is worth and as preface to what I want to talk about today.

    I caught a really interesting piece on The Atlantic titled 'How Numbers on Facebook Change Behavior', a review of a study conducted by Ben Grosser that attempted to understand just how much that Facebook metrics like the number of people that 'liked' a piece of content or the number of friends that a Facebook user has goes on to influence user behavior on the site.

    I recommend reading the entire piece, particularly if you are a big Facebook user, but I can give you the short (and maybe kind of obvious) conclusion in one sentence: You (and most everyone else) are more likely to 'like' something on Facebook if lots of other people have 'liked' that same thing. 

    From the Atlantic piece:

    To keep its 1.3 billion users clicking and posting (and stalking), Facebook scatters numbers everywhere. While it collects many metrics that users never see, it tells users plenty of others, too. Facebook tells you the number of friends you have, the number of likes you receive, the number of messages you get, and even tracks the timestamp to show how recently an item entered the news feed.

    And these numbers, programmer and artist Ben Grosser argues, directly influence user behavior by being the root of Facebook addiction. In October 2012, he set out to find exactly what Facebook's metrics were doing to users after noticing how much he depended on them.

    He did this by creating a browser extension, that when activated, 'hides' the numbers from Facebook. Instead of seeing the little red number alerting you to the count of notifications you have, you are just informed that you have notifications. And you won't see the that '18 people like this' but rather that 'people like this', that kind of thing.

    Grosser then examined what happened and recorded the observations from some of the 5,000 or so people that installed the tested the 'numbers hiding' extension.

    And again, the findings were probably not terribly surprising. People tended to report (and demonstrate) that when visible the Facebook numbers fostered more competition, (more likes the better), manipulation (removing posts that did not have enough or any likes), and probably most importantly, homogenization, (liking posts that many of your friends had already liked).

    Why am I writing about this, as a self-declared non-user (essentially) of Facebook?

    Well because everyone else uses Facebook, so what happens there sort of matters in a big-picture sense and I find that important to keep in mind. But also, for what these kinds of findings might mean for the systems and tools that we use in the workplace as well.

    Wouldn't it make sense for savvy (and admittedly unscrupulous) organizational communicators to not just message their workforces, but to imbue in these messages a sense of importance and value by gaming the system with additional 'likes' or upvotes or 5-star ratings - you get the idea? The kind of activity that gets restaurant owners in trouble on Yelp for example.

    It really is not that much of a stretch, and I am sure this happens all the time, for companies to post on their blog or in their LinkedIn Group and then have a few dozen employees immediately 'like' the post, this setting off what they hope will be a snowball effect once other readers observe all of these 'likes.' And note, I am not talking about scammy 'like farms' or purchased Twitter followers or YouTube plays. I am talking about real people taking actions and reacting the actions of others.

    Is that really a bad thing or not, I suppose I am not sure.

    But we have always known, even in the age of Facebook that popular doesn't necessarily equal quality.

    I wonder though, even in the communications from our friends and colleagues, if we should also realize that popular doesn't always equal popular as well.

    Happy Tuesday.

    Wednesday
    Jan232013

    The 2nd Annual Tim Sackett Day Honors the Great Paul Hebert

    First off - Happy Tim Sackett Day!

    What the heck is Tim Sackett Day you might be wondering?

    Let me take you back to a similar cold, windy, snowy January day just one year ago when a rag-tag band of Human Resources bloggers joined together to honor one of our own, one of the often unsung HR heroes, toiling in the trenches, working day-in and day-out to improve the workplace, one step at a time. The idea was to recognize and praise the type of HR, Talent, or Recruiting pro that all too often goes, well, unrecognized in an era where 'Look at me' sometimes trumps, 'See what I have accomplished.'

    Last year, the inaugrual Tim Sackett Day honored, well duh, Tim Sackett. 

    For the 2nd Annual Tim Sackett Day, the HR blognoscenti honors one of the stalwarts in the world of motivation, incentives, and influence -  none other than the amazing Paul Hebert.Paul Hebert

    If you know Paul then you won't be surprised at all by the decision to single him out for this type of recognition. He is, for me, the single most knowledgeable, well-informed, experienced, and level-headed thinker, writer, and implementer in the world of influence, behavior, recognition and rewards.  

    He has forgotten more about what really works to drive change in organizations that most of us will even know.

    And he won't hesitate to tell you if the latest buzzwords are BS, that often times you actually don't need, or are not ready for his services, and that influence, rewards, and incentives have to be connected to the needs of the organization to truly be successful.

    But beyond all that, past his insight and expertise, Paul is simply and unequivocally one of the most giving, considerate, and thoughtful people I've come to know in many years. 

    Have a question? Paul is there to try and help.

    Have a new project or endeavor? Paul is there to support.

    Want an intelligent conversation, or just a laugh? Paul is there to advise, educate, and commiserate.

    Quite simply, Paul is one of the very best people I have ever met, and I am proud and honored to call him a friend.

    Lately, Paul has been fighting a brave and courageous battle against cancer - you can learn more about Paul's situation here. I know you join me in praying for a speedy and full recovery for Paul.

    So congratulations to Paul for this great honor, and congratulations as well to all the great, hard-working, unsung, but essential HR and Talent professionals that do their part, every day, to try and make all our workplaces better, more meaningful, and more important.

    Happy Tim Sackett Day! 

    Note: You can participate in the festivities today on Twitter - use the hashtag #TimSackettDay 

    Friday
    May252012

    VIP Parking: 200 Yards from the Door

    Spotted recently at the far side of a giant supermarket's massive parking lot:

    Maybe this is a common practice and I just never seem to park far enough away to notice?

    But common or not, it was the first time I have ever seen one of these kind of 'Gentle nudge that you'd probably be better served walking a little bit rather than circling the first few rows of spaces waiting to swoop in like a vulture once someone clicks their remote door unlock'.

    There were two interesting things I noticed when I saw this sign - one, that in a pretty crowded lot, that the space was indeed empty; and two, someone had left an empty shopping cart on the grass right next to the space, (you can see one of its wheels peeking out in the corner of the picture), rather than return it to the cart corral that was about 50 feet away.

    Doing the right thing - walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, parking an extra 100 yards out when lots of closer spaces are free, having a side salad instead of the onion rings, is still stubbornly, maddeningly, and definitely harder than it should be. I think most of us know the 'right' choices to make, and we even want to make these right choice, at least most of the time. But as we see from the constant stream of research and news about America's continuing problems with obesity, (a recent example is here), the problems persist.

    I really feel for the folks whose job and really life's work is to make or at least try to influence the rest of us fatties to make the right, or at least the better choice a little more often. As I saw from the abandoned cart left next to the 'park way out here because you know you could use the walk' sign, getting people to change or at least try to change is very, very tough.

    I hope you have a great long holiday weekend!

    Monday
    Jan232012

    Checking it Twice - Happy Tim Sackett Day 

    Happy Tim Sackett Day!

    What the heck is Tim Sackett Day? 

    Let's take a step back and try and explain.

    In the last couple of years, more or less tied to the growth and increasing importance of social networking, online reputation, and emerging consideration, (and attempts to quantify), digital influence; the Human Resources and Recruiting world has seen a plethora of published influence lists, rankings, and other measures of (variously), popularity, importance, influence, quality, and so on.Tim!!!

    While the relevance, accuracy, and importance of any of these kinds of lists can certainly be debated, to me, several enduring truths have emerged from their publication and the subsequent analysis, self-congratulation, hand-wringing, complaining exercises that invariably follow.  And these truths are as follows:

    1. When any new 'Top HR or Recruiting' list is published, there are only three possible reactions:

    A. Hooray! I made the list!

    B. How come I didn't make the list?!?

    C. WTF!!!! How did (insert the name of the person you perceive to be slightly less popular/intelligent/influential/good looking here), make the list and I didn't?

    2. For those list named to the newly published list, a round of (fake) congratulatory tweets, Facebook updates, re-tweets ensues. While these updates usually take the form of 'Congratulations Person X for making the list!!!', they can be safely interpreted as 'I am on this list too, and don't forget it pal.'

    3. For anyone not included on the latest list, more of less equal parts of indifference, interest, and genuine enthusiasm for those lucky folks that were included. Actually, when I think about it, I take back the 'equal parts' bit. Most people, especially busy people with a lot of responsibility don't really notice these lists at all.

    4. Last, and probably most importantly, no matter what the latest HR or Recruiting list attempts to measure or rate, chances are VERY likely that Tim Sackett will not be included.

    So while Tim's exclusion from these lists has become an ongoing inside joke in the (pretty small), world of social media and HR, it also raises a few questions about these kinds of lists, what they represent, and if they matter. Since to me, Tim is really exactly the kind of HR and Recruiting pro that should be recognized on these kinds of lists, and the fact that he never seems to land on any of them, while incredibly amusing, is still kind of curious. Tim's a pro, and has been for a long time.

    I think it was this kind of thinking that inspired Laurie Ruettimann to enlist a few of Tim's friends to create Tim Sackett Day. While we are paying tribute to Tim, while subsequently making fun of him, I think the larger point is that there are scores of smart, powerful, influential, and simply indispensible HR and Recruiting professionals out there that do not get the recognition they deserve. Maybe because they don't have time to read and re-share dozens of HR blogs every week, or they don't obsess over chiming in to every Twitter chat, or don't have that touch of narcissism to possess them to blog or heaven forbid, show up to speak at HR events.

    They are just out there, every day, grinding away. Doing their part to keep the trains running, help their organizations, communities, and families. Just like our boy Timmy.

    So while we congratulate Tim today, mainly for never having being recognized, we also recognize all of the great HR and Recruiting professionals today. For Tim is really all of you.

    Only shorter.

    Congrats Tim! 

    Note: 

    You can follow the fun today on Twitter - search for the hashtag #TimSackettDay

    Also, Tim will be a guest on the DriveThruHR internet radio show today at 1:00PM ET - you can tune in at this link - DriveThruHR with Tim Sackett

     

    Monday
    Oct102011

    On Being Radical and Making Choices

    Much of this weekend's free time was spent grinding through the ridiculous backlog of Google Reader items that had built up during the five days I spent in Las Vegas last week for HRevolution and the HR Technology Conference. Of the many thousands of items I at least title-scanned, and the hundred or so I actually read - this was by far the top piece of the lot, from the Scientific American 'Context and Variation' blog, a piece called 'The three things I learned at the Purdue Conference for Pre-Tenure Women: on being a radical scholar.'Old-school radical.

    At first glance I was tempted to pass by the piece, I am, after-all, not pre-tenure, nor a woman. But for whatever reason I decided to read the piece by Kate Clancy, and was immediately glad I did, because in the length of a standard blog post, Ms. Clancy manages to to touch on not one but two interesting and massively important ideas that transcend the purely academic context in which she writes, and are applicable and worth contemplating in the broader world of work.

    Take Number One - Lots of jobs require ridiculous amounts of time, effort, energy, and commitment to succeed.

    And to get ahead you often need to 'beat' the other person that wants that title/money/prestige just as much as you do. But if the 'external' demands on your time and your competitor are unequal, (in Ms. Clancy's case she is a parent of a young child), then you are heading into the competition with constraints and pressures that can make the battle seem not worth fighting. I know the whole 'kids vs. career' tradeoff is not a new issue, but Ms. Clancy does a great job of recognizing the issues without asking for sympathy or special treatment. From the piece:

    We sit some more. We talk some more. About how we can’t compete against people with kids but a stay at home spouse, about how we can’t compete against our peers without kids at all. He is in a department where people show up early and stay late. You can find a third of the faculty in the department at any given time on the weekends. I’m in a department where folks work from home as often as they work from the office, but they are still getting stuff done. And it feels like they are all getting more done than me.

    Pile the ubiquitous Mommy Guilt on top of this, the culturally conditioned guilt that says not staying at home hurts my child despite the intellectual knowledge that good daycare, and the kind of quality investments I make with my daughter, are hugely beneficial, and there are few hours in my day to sleep.

    It's the grind most of us, even those of us not chasing a major career objective like academic tenure, but simply trying to do more, better, more innovative things have run into. The more commitments and obligations you have outside of work, the tougher your fight to the top, (or even the middle), is going to be. Neither Ms. Clancy nor I have this figured out yet by the way.

    Take Two - On traditional measures of success and influence.

    In the Human Resources/Talent/Recruiting space we've had our share of navel-gazing debates about influence, and the challenge of assessing online influence compared to more traditional forms. Lance Haun led a popular session at HRevolution about this topic. While the debate continues, there seems to be little doubt that blogging, social media, and even non-traditional and 'unconferences' like HRevolution and others are chipping away at the established ideas about influence and perhaps even authority in our industry.  In the Scientific American piece that focuses on the world of academics, Ms. Clancy wonders about the continued reliance on publication in academic journals as the standard of relevance, achievement, and influence in her field.  Again from the piece:

    But are peer-reviewed publications, read and cited by only by a select group of those peers, the best way to assess influence and importance? They are certainly no longer the only way. My 2006 paper on iron-deficiency anemia and menstruation has been cited by six other papers; my 2011 blog post on this paper has been viewed tens of thousands of times and received almost sixty comments between its two postings.

    Boom. The entire 'old school vs. new school' measures of influence argument summed up in two sharp sentences. Again, neither the Scientific American piece nor I profess to have all the answers for this, but it is clear that even in the stodgy world of academia there appear to be calls for change, or at least dialogue about how these newer (they are really not all that 'new' anymore), can and should impact the industry in more significant ways. Ms. Clancy want to be, as I suspect many of you do, to be more 'radical', and more true to their interests and passions in the face of slower-moving organizations of power.

    I hope you take a few minutes to read Ms. Clancy's entire article, for me it represents some of the best and most thought-provoking content I've run across in quite some time.

    Have a great week!