On the public Web, Klout has established itself as the arbiter of social media status and influence. SilkRoad, which is part of a new generation of human resources and talent management technology companies, wants to do something similar on the company intranet.
SilkRoad Point is social software designed to rank employees by skills and expertise at the same time that it connects them and get them talking. Currently in beta testing, with general availability scheduled for early next year, Point includes employee profiles that prominently feature a list of each person's top three skills and where they rank on those skills within the organization. The display also shows the upward or downward trend on those rankings. Employees who elect to follow each other on the Point social network are prompted to rank each other at the same time they form a connection.
SilkRoad Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Brian Platz said the idea is to create a fuller picture of the talent inside a firm. "Employers really know they have a limited concept of what employees are doing inside the organization. Our solution is to put the employee at the center of the experience." By introducing the concept of ranking, "Point has become a lightning rod," he said in an interview. "It's controversial, in a way that we like."
In addition to singling out high performers, Point "helps ferret out people who might hide within the organization and not provide a lot of value, either," he said.
The early reviews have recognized Point for innovation. Human resources consultant and writer John Zappe called Point "a different kind of talent (or is it performance?) management product that's innovative and even a little unnerving at first." Analyst Josh Bersin said Point has the potential to "set the stage" for consumerization of employee experiences.
There are a number of other social tools for employee recognition and performance management, such as Rypple, which counts Facebook among its customers. The Rypple approach is largely based on manager and peer recognition, with badges that can be displayed on a profile or in a news stream, as opposed to an explicit ranking.
[ Companies are experimenting with a lot of social software. Read Internal Social Networks Now Important Proving Ground. ]
In the Point system, the rating of votes is also weighted by the individual's influence, as determined by the votes they have received. Managers can also be assigned a greater weight for their voting, Platz said. Since the initial beta release, SilkRoad has refined the software to allow employees to edit the featured list of skills displayed on their profiles. "Some people wound up being ranked high as the employees that others relied on for the best restaurant recommendations, but they didn't want that showing up as thing they're the best at," he said. However, those employees can continue to accumulate influence behind the scenes for being recognized for those less professionally significant but socially important skills, he said.
The system also tracks conversations, as well as social question and answer sessions, as a way of helping employees identify additional skills they might want to add to their profiles. When people join the company, Point can also mine their resumes to extract skills that should be listed. The result is a more complete skills inventory than an organization could compile with traditional methods, Platz said.
Point does not yet track conversations conducted in other enterprise social networking systems, such as Jive, Yammer, or IBM Connections. However, SilkRoad has something they don't have, which is access to all the profile data in human resources systems. Up until now, SilkRoad has been best known for its employee onboarding software, used to orient new hires. Upon release, Point will become part of the SilkRoad human resources information system, available to customers for no additional cost, he said.
"We know everything about employees from their profile record, so we have data that Jive and these other tools would love to get their hands on," Platz said. SilkRoad will probably offer integration with other social software eventually, but for now is marketing primarily to midmarket companies who have not necessarily adopted such a system, he said.
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