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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Workplace Social Networks Offer Unique Opportunity for Talent Mapping

If the eyes are the “window to the soul,” then workplace social networks offer a unique window to employee skills, talents and achievements. While social recognition in the workplace has received considerable recent attention, the value of uncovering previously hidden—and untapped talent—through workplace social networks shouldn”t be overlooked.

Untapped talent is an opportunity lost, and a potentially costly one. A U.S. Department of Labor study in 2007 showed that 64 percent of Americans who leave their jobs do so because they feel unappreciated. Appreciation takes many forms and one aspect of it is recognizing the skills and talents that employees bring to the job. While some businesses are already using social networks as an open forum for employees to formally recognize the accomplishments of their colleagues, these networks also serve as a platform for individual knowledge to be shared and ideas to flow, which further highlights the contributions of each individual employee. Maybe an employee has worked on a similar project and can share the solution or maybe they enrolled in course work outside of their area of expertise. Or perhaps they take part in a community activity that calls for a different skill set than the one they use in the workplace. All of this can become part of the conversational experience in the organizational social sphere.

Just as important, workplace social networks also uncover clusters of talent that occur among otherwise unconnected employees. For example, an employee in accounting may have the ability to quickly extract meaning from data, a skill valued in marketing and supported by IT. Rather than going untapped, or siloed by department, these common skill sets can comprise rich talent clusters that the organization can quickly draw upon whenever the need or opportunity arises.

The occurrence of talent clusters, or interconnected talent, has happened throughout history. One of the earliest recognized clusters included the philosophers of ancient Greece, where Plato was a student of Socrates and Plato’s own student was Aristotle. A more recent talent cluster is the group of scientists associated with Stanford University and the creation of what we now know as Silicon Valley—William Hewlett and David Packard, William B. Shockley, etc.

Organizations are beginning to recognize the value of workplace social networks and their inherent capacity for revealing individual talents as well as talent clusters. The integration of social and collaborative software into business processes and/or internal communications via an intranet has taken off in recent years. Tagged “Enterprise 2.0,” a term that first appeared in an article by Andrew McAfee in the April 1, 2006, MIT Sloan Management Review, this kind of integration is estimated to have grown from less than 25 percent of employees in 2006 to more than 50 percent by 2011. 

Making the leap into Enterprise 2.0 generates a number of benefits related, and in addition, to recognition and talent mapping. These include:

  • Reinforcing desired behaviors and organizational culture
  • Widening personal networks and building relationships
  • Identifying subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Fostering knowledge sharing and social leaning
  • Building and reinforcing meaningful relationships (across a distributed workforce)
  • Supporting communities of practice

Has your organization taken the plunge into Enterprise 2.0? How do you go about finding skills and talents in your organization? What would you like to see in the future for talent mapping?

Let us know by posting a comment below so we can share your perspective with others.

To learn more about social recognition, see the white paper: “Social Recognition: Is the Latest Application of Social Media the Most Powerful Yet?