From the work I’ve done over the last decade I firmly believe that social network analytics (SNA) has the potential to uncover insights that can be beneficial to both the individual and the business; however I don’t feel that attaching a label to someone, by way of an absolute numeric score, is the way forward (at least inside the enterprise). Not only does it result in gaming of the system, but I believe it inadvertently incentivizes behaviours that are detrimental to the effectiveness of a social business. We want a situation where collective value is incentivized over personal gain and having people compete over personal reputation scores is not likely to meet that objective.
So what’s the alternative? Well lets go back to basics and ask the simple question; What are we actually trying to achieve from the analytics? I believe that we are trying to improve business outcome through maximizing the potential of our workforce and there is no reason to believe that turning people into numbers achieves this objective, or at least I’ve yet to be convinced of one. One alternative, which at first glance sounds totally insane, is that we generate the analysis, make the scores relative, and then don’t show them to anyone except the individual. Ok, Marie is officially certifiable :) but this isn’t as insane as it sounds.
We deliver the analysis through two dashboards:
- Personal Social Dashboard: This provides an individual with a personal report which shows them how they are doing against a set of dimensions; Activity, Reaction, Eminence, and Network (for example). It gives them a percentile measurement so that they have an approximation of how they are doing (when compared with their peers, division, geo), gives them a temporal view of how they are improving over time, evidence in support of the analysis, and a set of actions to help them understand how they can improve. It’s objective is to help them become more impactful and hence they are the only ones that need to see it. This removes the need to game the system and turns the focus to more of personal improvement. This could even support setting of personal or business objectives which could be measured over time so that this becomes a type of social learning tool.
- Executive Social Dashboard: If no-one except the individual gets to see their detailed scores, does this mean that management get nothing? Nope! They get lots of value through the executive dashboard which rolls-up the analysis so that they can see how their organization is doing in aggregate. It lets them understand how their teams interact, are they insular or outward looking, are they eminent, what topics they care about, and how do they compare with peer organizations. This gives management the benefits of having an analytics view of their social business, without many of the negatives. Ok, it prevents them from clobbering employees over the back of the head with influence scores, but it also addresses lots of privacy and employee rights concerns that different countries have around the use of workforce analytics.
I’m not suggesting that this is the only way to go, or even that its guaranteed to be successful, since much of what I’m describing is still in the experimental stages. This is a journey that we are all taking together, and one that requires us to think first before we jump. As I say on my blog bio “The untapped potential (of social analytics) is huge, but dangerous in the wrong hands“. We need to be very careful what we measure, because if we are not careful we will get exactly that :-)