Measuring an Employee's Influence Is Not So Simple

By Christian Buckley posted 07-05-2012 21:38


I've been asked a dozen times to  spend more time on Salesforce, our company's current CRM platform, and using its social utility, Chatter, to socialize with the extended sales and operations teams. The problem is that it just doesn't fit the way I work. I occasionally go into Salesforce to pull down a report or to check a customer or partner profile, but even when I use the platform, I never stay long to chat.

However, I have become very active on Yammer, which has quickly become the standard for internal collaboration, displacing my use of some other tools…..and will possibly replace my use of Facebook for corporate purposes in the near future. And on my company's Yammer site, within the evangelism group that I manage, one of my sales directors (@ChrisEssler) posted a link to an interesting article on FastCompany entitled Measuring An Employee's Worth? Consider Influence by E.B. Boyd, which includes the byline "The performance review of the future will include services like's Chatter and its Influencers feature, which measures how much weight you carry among your peers."

Let me be the first to point out the error in this simplistic approach to influence management:

The danger is that someone might be immensely influential -- and yet never use Salesforce Chatter, which essentially provides a team with a threaded discussion utility within the platform, with notifications and the ability to link to account profiles and customer information. It's a nice feature, and completely necessary inside of an enterprise application such as Salesforce. However, the problem with measuring an opt-in system is that people must actually opt-in. If everyone used Salesforce as their primary business tool (as my sales and operations team do), then you could make an argument for measuring influence this way.

If the problems with this thinking are not obvious, let me expand: First and foremost, not everyone uses Salesforce as their primary business tool, which right off the top removes more than half the company from your influence measurement. You might be saying to yourself "Yes, well then it could be a measurement just for the sales and operations teams." But that would limit your view of the influence they might have on people outside of those teams. An operations team member might have very little influence on sales, but have very strong influence of the support organization. Or the management team.

Look at feedback about, an interesting tool that seeks to measure influence across the public social platforms of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. The primary complaints are that it does nothing to measure the impact of blogs, of YouTube, of newsletter subscribers, and of countless other new media channels. Not to discount what Klout and Kred and other services are trying to provide, but the mistake is in thinking that their views of the world are comprehensive -- and that measuring people by these tools paints an accurate picture of online influence.

The second problem here is that when people understand that they are being measured, they will change their behavior to maximize that measurement. To some degree, I could hijack the influence KPI by scheduling time on my calendar each morning to do nothing but spam the lists. Yes, the algorithm would normalize the data, yada yada. But the fact is that people will figure it out. Operational measurement much be regularly reviewed, tweaked, refined, adjusted. And, arguably, the methodologies should be somewhat transparent (I believe) so that people can adjust their behaviors appropriately (which sounds counter-intuitive, but if the end goal is for people to improve their behaviors, why would you then hide the logic behind the measurements?).

My point is that social interaction is one measurement of influence, but it should not be the only measurement. A good manager looks at this data as one point of reference into the performance of an employee, also weighing other factors, such as work output, time management, peer and management relations, and customer satisfaction, among others.

You cannot measure the success -- and the value -- of an employee on a spreadsheet (though many try). While online influence measurement is improving, it is still just another column on the spreadsheet. My recommendation: have regular conversations with your employees, get to know them and their work styles, and adjust your performance measurements based on their strengths. But that's me. 

Oh, and be sure to follow me on Twitter. My bonus is tied to followers  :-)

#management2.0 #social #socialnetworking #measurement #influence
1 comment



07-05-2012 21:50

I learned another thing back in my knowledge management consulting days that not many people think about: be careful what you measure. If you think that you want people to use Chatter (as the example) and set up a way to measure that behavior, then they damn well will do it. Unfortunately it may be to the detriment of the other things you want them to do, like selling your product.
Taking a Balanced Scorecard -like view of measurements and incentives is absolutely critical or you may well incent behavior that drives your organization right into the ground.
Coming up with the right *set* of measurements is the key, as Christian explains so well here.