Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mining Talent & Employee Generated Content

Extracting value from people is not that different from extracting minerals and resources from the earth. Not that the process is ever simple, but there are some simple truths to mining that can help us relate to how we yield the most powerful results from our teams, companies, and organizations.

There are two basic types of mining targets: placar and lode.

Placar deposits are when minerals are distributed through gravel or sand; think panning for gold in a river bed.

Lode deposits are when minerals are found within large veins or layers within the earth; think of a gold mine, with mine carts and pick axes.

Think of people as having both kinds of resources, both placar and lode. When we are trying to fill a job within a company, the process is like trying to find lode deposits--you look for a concentrated pool of talent. Or, said otherwise, when you are trying to fill the job of accountant, your primary objective is to find someone who is first and foremost fantastically talented at accounting.

But people hired for their lode resources bring placar resources with them as well. These are the resources that in many cases we didn't hire them for, but if we can extract, can yield additional value for the company or team. In our example, our accountant might also be a great strategic thinker, know some html, have a powerful network, or have previous experience in PR--whatever the case, people bring with them a variety and breadth of ancillary skills.

There are two trends emerging that are putting more emphasis on this process of extracting the placar resources from individuals:
  1. Insourcing. I define insourcing as the delegation of tasks or operations to an organizations' current talent pool. In many cases, and how I most often think of the term, this means that tasks are being delegated to people who would not traditionally field the task or who it is beyond their job description to do so. It is much talked about these days and has become a mainstream buzz word.

    But to share an example of the power of insourcing, my brother Taylor recently told me of a BYU Marriott School lecture he attended where the CEO of a young company spoke. This CEO recounted the story of being hired to turn around this small, and at-the-time flailing company. The company was not profitable, high burn, and if things didn't change would not survive.

    The first thing that the CEO did was to gather all employees and ask them to list everything they thought was wrong or needed fixing with the company to make it profitable. He then reviewed and summarized the list, assigning a dollar amount to every item on the list. The following day, he posted the list with the accompanying dollar amounts, and told the employees that he would pay for every item on the list that the employees could create a solution for--didn't matter the task or the employees role--whoever created the solution got the cash.

    This CEO said that within a month and a half, everything on the list had been fixed, paid out on, and within only a few months more the company became profitable. Powerful. A much fresher trend I am really excited about is...

  2. Employee Generated Content. All are familiar with the concept and term UGC (user generated content), which today yields 27.9M google results, but just emerging is the concept and emphasis on EGC (employee generated content) which today yields only 421,000 google results.

    I define EGC as non-paid content created by employees of a company, regarding the company's product or services. This is content that is created outside of their paying role; content created on blogs, twitter, videos, etc., because these employees like to talk about what they do or believe in the product or company that they work for. This is often powerful and passionate content.

    And innovative companies are starting to capture this value by creating EGC portals where they aggregate all/some of their employees' content.

    Two fantastic examples of this are (1) The University of Chicago Law School's TweetChiacgo and (2) Best Buy's Connect.

    These portals bring all of the evangelizing that their internal people are doing into a hub that allows for an immediate, personable, and very real look into the company, or in these instances, the U Chicago Law experience and the many products of Best Buy.
I am a believer that most peoples' talents are rarely fully utilized a anxious to see how these trends will continue to shape the way that companies value and use their employees. Is EGC something that would be valuable to your company? Stay tuned to Zinch to see what we do with it...

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