Tools & Technologies

How to Manage Your Business in a Recession: "#7 Reevaluate People – And Steal Some Good Ones"

The January 19, 2009 edition of Fortune magazine features an article entitled “How to Manage Your Business in a Recession”, authored by Geoff Colvin (pp.66-71). Inside, Geoff lays out 10 ways to weather the current economic storm. He starts:

“Exciting as it is to be living through historic economic drama, you can’t just stand by and watch. You have to act–yet you have no script. So much of today’s turmoil is unprecedented that we can’t find much guidance by looking to the past. For managers across the global economy, as well as for Team Obama on its way to Washington, today’s great question is, What do we do now?”

Let’s take Geoff’s 10 principles, and analyze the implications for your collaboration strategy (see the links to all 10 principles). Let’s focus on #7, “Reevaluate People – And Steal Some Good Ones”.

7. Reevaluate People – And Steal Some Good Ones
The key part of strategy #7 is to keep your really good employees — and to take extra care to retain them during difficult times — and to add to the strength of your team / bench by attracting other great performers. What does this mean for your collaboration strategy?

Socially Assess the Performance of Your Employees
In his book, “Thinking for a Living”, Thomas Davenport writes about the difficulty of assessing the output of knowledge workers in tradition Taylorist ways, and thus the need for thinking about it differently. One strategy that Tom notes is to assess the level of respect that a given person has within their peer group. Eg, think of how academics get tenure — it’s all about peer evaluation. If you have good collaboration tools internally, these can give you some evidence on the social proof side about how well people are respected / valued by others. Activities like comment threads, participation in discussion forums, gifted expertise (eg, if you have GroupSwim), and more … can help you make these assessments.

Another analytical tool that you could use is social networking analysis, to gauge the people who play essential roles within the social fabric of your firm. Who are the connectors? Who are the boundary spanners? Who are the experts?

Once you know the strong players, it’s time to gauge how satisfied they are working at your firm, and looking at incentives for staying, incentives for giving it their best, and more.

Track Your Industry for Great People
With the proliferation of “social networking sites” in the past few years — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs — there is a heap of raw data on people, topics and trends. With a few smarts (and relatively few at that), you can start to track the keywords in your industry, and start to form an opinion on the people who are writing interesting things. With the social proof available through many of these tools, you have a built-in mechanism for evaluating the validity-factor for each person. And once you’ve identified the people that might add strength to your bench, you can start cultivating a relationship in an appropriate way — friending them on Facebook, tracking them on Twitter, leaving comments on their blogs.

Here’s a real example, that only just happened … and although I don’t have an inside track or know the back story, all of this evidence was available to anyone. James Dellow, writer of the ChiefTech blog on enterprise 2.0 tools and culture, has been an active voice in the world about effectively embracing these tools for enhancing business. Hey, he even led the charge on the Enterprise RSS Day, a worldwide initiative to put attention on the power of RSS in the enterprise. This gives good social proof about his work. Well, he announced yesterday that he’s leaving his long time employer and joining Headshift, a social computing consultancy. My take: they saw what he was good at, and decided to strengthen their bench. Good call.

A second way of tracking people that might be up for grabs is to create Google News Alerts or Twitter searches for the names of your competitors. This gives you a pulse on what’s happening for others in your area, and gives you early alert signals on potential people you could approach.

What Else?
What strategies of success are you embracing as the economic indicators spread fear and alarm?

Categories: Tools & Technologies