Influence - Ask and You Shall Receive?

By Greta Roberts, Oct 19, 2012

An exciting new metric, “Influence”, is making its way into the enterprise market. While most influence research has been applied to the internet at large, it is tempting to apply this concept to interactions inside of a company. In our knowledge-based economy, it only makes sense to capitalize on this flow of knowledge.

For the sake of this article, let’s put aside concerns about the reliability, stability and completeness of these metrics. And, we will also put aside the privacy concerns. Let’s assume for the moment that these numbers do reliably show the information impact of an individual on their enterprise. Let’s even say that we print this number in large print next to each person’s picture on their home page - in fact we have already seen (numerous) software systems doing this.

Steve Denning, the influencer, said famously that “what gets measured gets done”. If we ask our employees to influence, and hire based on stellar extracurricular influence, then we shall receive the activities that we call influence. Is this what we want? Really?

There is no proven connection between business performance and influence. There are many kinds of people, in many roles in an organization. For example, is influence as important in Accounting as it is in Marketing or Sales or Development or Manufacturing? Doubtful.

Is the person who posts about free food in the kitchen really more important than the quiet analysts in the corner, or the sales rep who spends all day on the phone calling leads? Perhaps there is a sweet spot for each role, and even different kinds of people.

You will find well over four million web hits for “klout cheat game”. The flip side of Denning’s statement is that people will finesse, adjust, and cheat to increase that influence number. And, I guarantee almost none of the time they spend doing so will be productive for anything but that number. There will be a cottage industry of “influence consultants” to help workers increase their scores and rise in the company, just as there is already a huge SEO industry now built around the nuances of a few major search engines.

It is easy to predict that when influence is pushed as a pathway to enterprise success, certain activities will be promoted. It will become common to ask people to “like” your email or post. People will litter their messages with keywords and tags. Of course, some will write and share some excellent content, too. It remains to be seen if any real work will get done in the middle of this information-fest.

This is an area rife with unintended consequences. It entirely depends on how the influence number is used. We can’t have one number for everything. And ultimately, this is my message. It seems obvious, but as humans, we keep returning to the idea over and over again. There is no silver bullet.

About the author

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Greta Roberts is an influential pioneer of the emerging field of predictive workforce analytics where she continues to help bridge the gap and generate dialogue between the predictive analytics and workforce communities.

Since co-founding Talent Analytics in 2001, CEO Greta has successfully established the firm as the recognized employee predictions leader, both pre- and post-hire, on the strength of its powerful predictive analytics approach and innovative Advisor™ software platform designed to solve complex employee attrition and performance challenges. Greta has a penchant for identifying strategic opportunities to innovate and stay ahead of the curve as evident in the firm’s early direction to use predictive analytics to solve “line of business” challenges instead of “HR” challenges and model business outcomes instead of HR outcomes.

In addition to being a contributing author to numerous predictive analytics books, she is regularly invited to comment in the media and speak at high end predictive analytics and business events around the world.

Follow Greta on twitter @GretaRoberts.