For most large organisations, it’s an absolute pain to keep your staff directory up to date. Staff profile data tends to be spread far and wide across different systems, be they human resource data bases, email directories, payrolls and the like; with no single up-to-date repository one can rely on. Believe me, the journey is worthwhile for many reasons. In this post we are selfishly addressing our SWOOP customers and prospects.
SWOOP is founded on the science of social network analysis (SNA). Value from SNA is achieved by identifying the relationship connections between individuals. The follow-up core value then comes when we can understand the groups that these individuals belong to. We often hear organisations talking about their ‘barriers to collaboration’. These so-called ‘barriers’ are regularly defined by staff attributes, collected in the ubiquitous staff directory. Having conducted in excess of 100 SNA projects globally over the past decade or more, these are the so called ‘barriers’ that our clients have been most regularly looking to break down:
1.Formal Lines of Business
This is by far the most popular ‘barrier’ to traverse and it represents an organisation’s formal hierarchy. Within SWOOP it is our default attribute on the Enterprise tab:
Within SWOOP you can identify your formal structure at multiple levels. The example here shows the ‘Department’ at the highest levels in the hierarchy. But the pull-down menu can be selected to expose any attribute that exists in your staff profile. For example, a lower level attribute may be business units within each department or perhaps even teams within business units.
Not only does the matrix show how internally a unit is connected, but importantly, how externally the unit is connected with other units. Organisational performance can be measured and assessed by simply looking at the internal/external interaction balance. The graphic above shows networks from a variety of contexts. If you have a retail business with independent retail locations, you may be mostly interested in how internally connected and cohesive each shop is. If you are a process-centred business like a manufacturing or pharmaceutical business, these cross-unit interactions represent your value chain. Importantly, it can identify units that are contributing, or not contributing, to that value chain. If you are a network or franchise business, it will be the strength of the inter-unit interactions overall that will reflect the strength of the network.
If your networking patterns are not consistent with your business context, then your barriers to collaboration are winning!
2. Geographic Location
Our next most popular profile attribute is geographic location. Despite having more electronic means to connect remotely than ever, co-location is still the most dominant factor in building close and trustful relationships. How often does location creep into your organisational conversations? Location X versus Location Y, Head Office versus Regional Offices, Country/Region X versus Country/Region Y. Relationships do tend to cluster around geographic locations for this exact reason. If you want to build true enterprise-wide collaborations, we need to understand who the key cross-location brokers are, that can help to achieve this.
We have regularly found that mergers and acquisitions can easily generate ‘geographic silos’, at a time when rapid integration and relationship formations, between the newly merged entities, should be at a premium. Identifying the cross location brokers is key to bridging them. Some of these key brokers could be influenced to take on a broader geographic broking role, beyond their department or business unit focus.
3. Organisational Role / Competency
Nowadays, titles can mean little. The roles, and the core competency that these roles reflect, do matter though. Sometimes the role may reflect the level in the hierarchy e.g. supervisor, manager, general manager etc., or perhaps a core competency e.g. Human Resources, Digital/IT, Legal, Finance etc. Now if you did have these attributes on your staff profiles, and selected it in the Cross-Team collaboration matrix; as you cast your eyes down the diagonals, the depth of colour potentially reflects your depth of competency in that area. Read more about this here.
Looking at the matrix (or better, use the ‘Map’ mode) you can identify cross role/competency interaction levels. Perhaps we might expect some interaction between sales and marketing roles. But what about say HR and IT? Does this reflect a growing digital capability in the HR function? How important are cross-competency interactions to your innovation performance?
When it comes to tracing networks across layers of management, how well are both the horizontal (within layer) and cross level (up, down and diagonally) interactions working? We have seen evidence that Enterprise Social Networks facilitate more diagonal interactions (staff in one business unit interacting with managers of other business units and vice versa). We are excited when we discover the ‘quiet achievers’; the people lower in the hierarchy that make an outsized contribution, through their networks. Our senior executive clients are excited as well, as they are well aware of how communications upward are often ‘managed’. Read about Elvis the storeman and other quite achievers here.
This should be an easy attribute to collect but one that is often overlooked despite gender diversity, or lack thereof, being a key issue for virtually all organisations. We are currently undertaking some important research in conjunction with the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford, looking at how the genders are interacting, or not, in real time. The uniqueness in the SWOOP analysis of gender diversity, and the one that attracted Stanford to us in the first place, is the operational nature of the SWOOP data. Unlike regular survey data, SWOOP data can reflect the unconscious bias, that may or may not exist, between the genders.
If you have a gender diversity program running in your organisation, then providing gender data is a must.
5. Age / Tenure / Employment Status
This final category is a mixture of attributes that have been important to several of the organisations we have conducted SNA studies for. The organisations looking at inter-generational relationships are mostly concerned with the impact of retiring ‘baby-boomers’ and/or the interaction patterns of the emerging Gen X and Gen Y workforce. We can say that the desired connection between Gen Y and the retiring Baby Boomers, to preserve that all important organisational knowledge, is perhaps not as regular as one might have hoped for.
Tenure has become a key issue in these days of short tenure appointments. Most organisations would favour longer tenures over high staff churn rates, which can be both disruptive and expensive. It is the long tenure staff who are potentially the best people to influence other staff to stay longer. So are these relationships being built? I think you may find that long tenure staff tend to relate to other long tenure staff, leaving the more vulnerable staff to fend for themselves. How might you intervene to correct this?
In these days of ‘contingent staffing’ strategies, we see many organisations increasingly relying on outsourced, or contracted staff, for their day to day operations. In theory, these staff are not ‘core’ to the organisation; but many get this wrong. In one SNA study we conducted, we identified several key staff belonging to a recently ‘outsourced’ entity. The arm’s length relationship worked well until a new CEO decided that the relationship should be severed completely, to reduce costs. The upshot was that when an incident arose where that lost expertise was needed urgently, it could now only be provided at an extreme premium! Is your organisation open to similar risks?
Not Just Enterprise Value
Having staff profile data can also help the staff themselves become more effective networkers. We use business unit data to help individuals to assess their own personal networks, in terms of diversity and reach:
Are your interactions limited to your own team or business unit? (Practitioner or Specialist). Or are your connections spread across several business units? (Agent or Ambassador)
Your Next Steps
Hopefully by now you are convinced that you should make more of your staff profiling information available to SWOOP. Here is how:
If you have MS Active Directory and you are on Yammer:
Or if you are on Workplace:
If your Active Directory is not up to date and you want to short cut the process, you can upload a simple csv file:
If it’s the actual content, more so than the mechanics of accessing it, that is the problem; then this may take a little longer. While you may think that getting the profile data in the first place is the biggest challenge, it turns out not to be the case. It’s keeping that data up to date and current that is the biggest challenge. Our friends at Hyperfish are experts in helping organisations do this, so we highly recommend you have a look at them.