Is Social Compensation in your future?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonylwong/I’ve been watching Robert Scoble’s (@Scobleizer) coverage of the Enterprise Social Networking space, and am intrigued by one of his views that has been brought up at least twice recently (Yammer interview, Convofy interview). Robert believes someday (soon?) we’ll be compensated based on our contributions to the company’s enterprise social network (ESN). What’s not clear is exactly what that means. Does it mean our bonus will be calculated based on value we create? Is participation compulsory? Will we be judged solely based on our contributions? I believe there are many challenges and risks that must be dealt with before this type of compensation model is considered.

When evaluating employee performance, objective setting is possibly one of the most demanding and daunting tasks of the Performance Management Process (PMP) for both the manager and the employee. In my career, I’ve always been told objectives must be meaningful and objectively measurable. These individual objectives ultimately must tie into departmental and corporate objectives. Is this PMP process a good one? Probably not, but let’s explore what some of the challenges of using ESN’s to compensate employees.

Value is subjective – One man’s treasure is another man’s garbage and ultimately many of the dynamics in a corporation’s politics will make providing anything but quantifiable hard business value (increase revenue or reduce cost) soft and fuzzy. For example, the really great thing you did, helped a person who your boss disdains. What is the value of that?

Not everyone is on-line – What about the people that do not feel comfortable being on-line? Are we telling these people they must change or they provide little or no value to the company? Last year at the Enterprise 2.0 conference my former colleague Kathleen Culver and I talked about the dark side of Enterprise 2.0. We identified that false experts could be the most vocal in a company because the true experts are in a lab, out in the field or doing things that are not on-line. I believe we need to accept and celebrate that people will continue to be different and not everyone will participate in ESN’s.

Privacy is king – It’s really easy to claim “Privacy is dead” (especially here in the US), but having worked for a global company (Alcatel-Lucent), what is clear is that the EU has a different view on the concept of privacy. In countries like Germany, you are not allowed to re-purpose data collected on employees. Additionally, you are not allowed to use this data to measure an employees performance. This would require a different system to measure these employees creating an “us and them” feeling within a company.

While these challenges are significant, I do believe that the concept is worth exploring. I see opportunity is having Social Business Tools/Platforms providing employees the statistics to support their company’s PMP. Providing features like endorsements and strong individual analytics will go a long way toward having employees use this data to support them meeting and exceeding their objectives.

As we look at the longer term impacts on ESN’s inside companies, it’s important to remember social business is about employees feeling empowered. If at some point instead they feel they are being measured, the tone of the contributions as well as the quantity/quality will also change as people’s focus shifts from collaborating to meeting objectives.

What do you think? Will we ever be compensated for our contributions? What other challenges do you see?

Greg Lowe

Greg constructively challenges the status quo to achieve real change in organizations. With a background in IT, communications and collaboration, Greg is passionate about making technology usable to make people’s jobs easier and changing the way companies do business. He does this by demonstrating value through building business cases and leading organizations to develop and support new behaviors, by working with leadership to help them understand how and why to leverage social business systems within their enterprise to achieve better business outcomes. He also writes and speaks about strategies and tactics that can be employed by companies to drive success in the Social Business space.

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5 Replies to “Is Social Compensation in your future?”

  1. We already ARE being compensated for how we behave online! It’s just that it isn’t so explicit. The past four job interviews have ALL brought up things I’ve done online. Employers are ALREADY Googling potential employees. Their reputations online ARE ALREADY affecting their compensation.

    In Yammer there’s a leaderboard. You don’t think that leaderboard gets looked at by bosses? It sure does!

    But let’s look further.

    Who gets a CEO job? Who is forced into entry-level jobs? I bet the guy with a Klout score of 80+ will get offered CEO jobs a lot more often than lower-scored folks.

    Already I find I’m getting offered jobs based on my online reputation and these are highly compensated jobs, not entry level ones.

    I’m not alone, either, based on my conversations with other people who have great online reputations.

    Also, who do you want as CEO? Someone who can get on stage and speak? Someone who can talk to media? Someone who has a good reputation?

    All of these require participating online and doing a good job of it.

    Every company I’ve visited has had “the guy” or “the girl” who knows everyone and who gets shit done. Almost always these folks use social media well. They tend to be so important to the company they are given proactive raises and other compensation to ensure they won’t leave and go somewhere else.

    It’s just a matter of time before we pay people based on their reputations online. And it’s easy to filter out the simple loud-mouths from the folks who actually add real value to the company.

    1. Robert: I think you view is a little myopic. The person who gets the CEO job will not be based on clout score, it will be based on past success, how well you work your off-line relationships, how well you lead the company and many other success factors and they will ultimately judged on stock price, not their clout score. Perhaps in startup land on-line clout may be a bigger part of it but in large enterprises, there are many other more tangible elements that will measure peoples’ success.

      I will be honest, my position at Yammer is at least in part based on my network, so I definitely relate to what you are saying, but to be transparent, I hope to have a greater impact in the company based on what I know, not just who I know.

      It’s fascinating that you are using others that have a good on-line reputation for your argument. I’d be more convinced if you talked to people who don’t have or don’t care about their on-line reputation for their take on your view. I’d encourage you to reach out to a large company’s CEO or Sr.Executive and float your theory of Social Compensation by them and see what they say.

      With that being said, happy to have the discussion over a beer. I find the conversation fascinating.

  2. Robert: Yes, there are always those people who “get shit done”. But I have to say, they are not always the people who are the most vocal about it. Often, they work behind the scenes to make things happen. They are connectors, facilitators, and the like.

    Greg: I hope that like other things, contribution is one measure of the importance of an individual to a company. One more way to judge their value and determine how to compensate them. I, too, got my current role based largely on my contributions in our internal online community. However, sometimes the important stuff is done in the trenches and posted online by an assistant. Does that mean the assistant (person reporting) is more important than the guy doing the work? I sure hope not, or we’ll run out of things to report.

  3. There’s a lot to be said here Greg, you’re right about that. Consider this quote, “Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.” That comes courtesy of our friend Albert Einstein. Based on Einstein’s personality quirks, does he strike you as someone who would be an active Tweeter, Facebooker, RTer, Foursquare check-in-er? If Einstein were judged purely on SNA mapping, my guess is he’d look much like a loser. Someone in jeopardy of being expendable.

    What is Einstein’s contribution to the greater society? Higher than anyone’s Klout score, I’ll bet. This should not be hard for the socialmediarati to grok.

    The notion of tying contribution on social networks to job performance has come up before. I think it’s more likely to apply to the thinking in HR circles around the 360 degree evaluation (where peers weigh in on your value to the organization), than a measurable metric that could just signify banal quantity over quality.

    That said, there is considerable evidence mounting that the best CEOs are good listeners and employ native social intelligence. Social networks provide an unparalleled facility for honing that skill.

    One more note on this per Scobleizer’s comments. I’ve found observing this space for a few years, ” ‘the guy’ or ‘the girl’ who knows everyone and who gets shit done” tends to also be highly ambitious and shall we say, a social climber? That individual is typically looking for the best opportunity to leave the company because it’s self-interest that drives them. Companies may be better off rewarding individuals who are tightly knitted to the vision of their company and its founders. They know how to network effectively to achieve the company’s goals.

  4. Greg – very thought provoking post. I’d like to think that some time in the future our online contributions will form an important part of how our performance is judged – but I think you are right to be cautious about how much for a couple of reasons
    i) not all value is created and shared online – more and more of it is – but still most of it isn’t and some of it will never be, and that’s OK, and that part needs to be rewarded too.
    ii) as you say, value is subjective. This means we will need better ways to measure online value than numbers of postings, hits or retweets or klout scores. We need to find ways to measure the business value of online contributions, and we still have some way to go to find good ways of doing this, especially in the government/not for profit world I work in.

    And a reality check for Robert Scoble 😉 in my area of work I know many of my colleagues feel that greater klout and visibility online or on Yammer might actually be detrimental to them as it is not seen as being real work valued by management so they are seen as spending time interacting online instead of getting on with real work (like those TPS reports). also the more you are out there the more chance you have to publicly mess up – so it might be easier to keep a low profile. I think this is slowly changing – but we’ve got a ways to go.

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