Ten Minutes with Jason Averbook, Talent Management Expert


There’s a cultural shift happening in talent management. Knowledge Infusion CEO Jason Averbook shares his thoughts on Web 2.0 and how it offers the biggest opportunities in the space right now.

In spite of the current economic uncertainty, why is now an exciting time to be helping customers solve critical business issues by leveraging talent management technology?

It comes as no surprise that one of the things we're seeing across the board from an HR technology standpoint is that organizations are not spending money on new technology purchases. In addition to the fact that no one is spending money on new purchases in the space and that HR budgets are being cut, we are in the largest employment depression that any of us have ever seen.

Those issues combined create amazing "opportunities" for organizations like ours to be able to say how talent management is going to work going forward when organizations have laid off 20,000 or 40,000 people and they don’t really know who it is they've laid off. There is probably going to be a time in the future where they will have to hire additional people. The question is what will companies hire when they don't know what it is they have and what it is they let go. Those things tied together create an amazing opportunity for the space to help organizations.

It seems that across many companies compensation has been scaled back, there are hiring freeze mandates and training and development programs are being curtailed. Is this short sighted? What should organizations be thinking about and planning for now in terms of talent management strategy to remain competitive when the recession ends?

I don’t think it’s short sighted; I think it is reality. The thing that is most important for HR organizations at this point when it comes to what they should be continuing to invest in is keeping the engagement of the workforce at a level of neutrality. At the same time, it is very important that people understand that in a time like this, every organization is going to have to make some very hard decisions around developing their workforce and around growing a workforce.

Many companies that we work with today are in survival mode and the on-going career development of someone probably doesn't make a lot of sense if you are in survival mode. What does make sense is ensuring people continue to stay engaged and continue to feel they are getting open transparent communication and that they are part of the organization's long term plan.

What do you see as the trends in Talent Management?What role does Web 2.0 play?

The biggest trend in Talent Management today is that people are stopping to do talent management the way they have done it in the past. Organizations are changing the way they compensate people, the way they do performance management and the way they do recruiting. A lot of the ways they are changing it is because of Web 2.0 technology. It is much more real time, collaborative and focused on the worker instead of the employer.

A big trend going forward will be how do I use technology and implement it in a way to show some business value. I was just at the HR.com event in Las Vegas this week and the innovation is not in talent management. It's happening in the technology that is out there. Over time, over the next two years, you'll see innovation in the talent management processes not in the technology.

You were talking with Bill Kutik recently and said that Linked In and Facebook know much more about an employee than HR and the company CEO. How can organizations use technology for a real time, more user-friendly way to capture information and interact with talent?

For the last 10-15 years we have been trying as organizations to push out workforce facing tools like employee and manager self service or direct access tools such as online benefits enrollment and the success of those tools has been suspect at best. While some organizations have done a good job, nearly 95 percent really haven't. One of the reasons organizations have struggled with these things is because the actual process of putting out the transaction is something the employees use maybe only once a year.

That brings us to a question: why will employees use Facebook and LinkedIn to update their profiles but they won't update their profiles internally for a company? The answer is because there is a much greater ‘what’s in it for me’ factor for them. By putting their information on a social networking platform, they’re able to interact with people, stay engaged with others, and be able to continue to drive different levels of collaboration and communication that they've never been able to before with a one-way non-intelligent transaction such as employee and manager self service.

Going forward I think people will continue to use tools like this but where they'll have to grow tremendously is around how they actually deploy these tools. Organizations will need to be able to add that level of ‘what's in it for me’ into them so they’re not just using it as a data collection model, but using it as way to continue to add value to the workforce and to continue to add value to employees and that's where the adoption will come into play.

Technology like Facebook and LinkedIn has done a great job in bringing together a remote workforce and remote people from all aspects in life into a collaborative setting. While it has a long way to go, that same technology will be used internally to help organizations understand their workers and the collaborative nature of the workforce. That is one of the biggest opportunities in the space right now.

One of the things over the next five years that will become an issue for all of us is the mash up of all of these networks. And along that mash up of all these networks will become the acceptance of the fact that some information you will want to share and create a brand about yourself to your fellow workers and other information you'll want to share and create a brand amongst your friends and family. I believe in a short period of time there will be some kind of mash-up front end that will tie all of that together and allow you to push one status update with some personalization of that message to a specific network.

We recently connected on twitter. How are you using @jasonaverbook to build your online persona and connect with your target audience? What tips do you have for others as they leave their virtual footprint?

Twitter is one of the most fascinating technologies that have been introduced in a long time. It’s fascinating because it takes the theory of real time instant messaging combined with the profiling of Facebook and allows you to communicate with people that are interested in your domain topic on a real time basis. I can share information, respond to information and it is different than checking it like you do with Facebook.

Let’s look at how I’m using Twitter. Currently, I'm teaching an HR technology class in Russia and the class is all on twitter. They ask me questions and I respond to them. Instead of an email it is a real time interaction while they're in the class. It’s different than a webinar and different than a private chat. It's a group that is all connected. From a Knowledge Infusion standpoint we are looking for some interns that have a good background in HR technology. I put out a tweet for interns and got 19 responses from fairly qualified individuals. Next week I'm speaking at the HR conference in San Diego from The Conference Board and we have some additional passes. Some people internally as well as myself have started promoting that and we have been able add to the attendance of that event based on that because of the concept of the network truly being your network plus the networks of everyone you are connected to. If I push it out there and someone says I can’t go to that but I know someone else who might like to, they can retweet it as part of their network. My one message, one thought, one piece of knowledge can reach millions of people through millions of networks in a matter of minutes. There's never been a tool like that to do that in the past.

Something everyone should be aware of is that everything you do is creating your brand and your brand is the most important thing that you have, whether that’s a brand for your family or friends or a brand for your coworkers, customers or prospects. Everything that you do to these tools is leaving a brand. What I noticed is a lot of people don't think about what they post online before they do it, which has some major implications of your brand.

A few things I recommend is before you post is think about your network and think about what people are going to think when they read something you’ve posted. The second thing is decide what you want your brand to be. Is it just for work or do you want to show your work, family, friends or a mixture of everything? The third thing is be sure to go where like people are. All these tools have amazing search capabilities. Search for people with similar interests and become part of those networks. It's amazing how your breadth and depth of knowledge will grow quickly when you are part of those.

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