#HRcoreAcademy Day 1 / Social Talent



I’ve been presenting on Social Talent in the Talent Trends room at Teneo’s HR Core Academy in Amsterdam.


Tom Haak opened the day presenting his  ten top trends for talent management. My suggestion was that shifting from human to social talent (or human plus social talent) needs to be one of those trends.

Work is increasingly specialised. Yes, I know there are calls for polymaths, neo-generalists and even just general generalists (“Generalists are going to Rule the World”) but just look at the variety of job titles in this slide from Tom and Cyriel Kortleven – talk about specialism! (‘The Head of All Things Awesome’ would do as a catch-all title though).

At the same time, work is becoming more complex and to deal with today’s complex, multi disciplinary challenges we need to bring specialists together into teams, groups and networks. Everyone in my session seemed to agree that they spend too much time in meetings. And most raised their hands when I asked which of their organisations compete mainly on social vs human capital.


So why is it that most organisations still focus on managing, measuring, developing and rewarding the performance of individuals rather than doing this for teams?

My suggestion for dealing with this was to focus on organisation design, social HR processes, social talent and leadership / organisation development.



Organisation Design


Moving to a social way of organising starts with getting the organisation design right. It’s difficult to develop the right relationships if people are trying to do something which their job designs don’t enable them to do. For me, that’s mainly about building on existing functions to use horizontal teams, communities and networks.

Virginia Bastian, HRD for Germany at Nestle used the Star model to explain the need for organisation design to extend beyond the structure. I think that’s an important point although I prefer the McKinsey 7S or even better, my own Organisation Prioritisation Model (OPM) which I think is more useful as it includes a broader range of organisational elements which also need to be aligned with the rest of the organisation today (eg the digital and physical workplace).

And I loved what Nestle have been doing in HR. Firstly, they still have a mainly functional organisation, although innovated to link global, regional and in-country levels, and adding an operational group to Ulrich’s COEs, shared service and HRBPs.



However, the work they do is now focused on an overall Hire to Retire process, one of Nestle’s core end-to-end flows (slide from a different presentation).


Virginia’s own core team of six people work on projects related to improving this process flow. The major steps in the process are then headed from the COEs.

But they’re also looking at using communities and networks. For example, they realised they had limited expertise in organisation design and so…

Also, they are looking at building a fluid, ‘plasma’ organisation in Nestle Vietnam! I look forward to finding out more about that.


I didn’t get to explain but all the elements of the organisation (see my OPM again) need to relate to the organisational groups which are used, eg see this presentation on organisation design and the digital workplace (see my slides and my blog post on this).


Social HR Processes

We also need to look at how we innovate all our HR processes across the full employment life cycle to focus on building social capital. This is firstly about recruiting, managing and developing people to fit within the teams, groups and networks they are going to participate in, eg by having the team, not just the team manager, recruit new people into the team.

And secondly, it is about managing, measuring, developing and rewarding the performance of teams, other groups and networks, rather than just doing this for individual employees.

I spoke about this in my session on social performance management at Teneo’s HR Core Lab five years ago (see my slides and my blog post on this).

In that session I also talked about the benefits of a social HR approach, including that it focuses on social capital which is more valuable than human capital, so it provides maybe twice the value. It also tends to develop both social capital and human capital, together, so that’s three times the value. And it also anchors the process / approach in the culture, which is particularly true for performance management – one of the reasons this process traditionally doesn’t work is that it’s done in semi secret between an employee and their line manager. In social performance management, this is much more open and ongoing, so it makes it feel like more of a thing. So perhaps four times the value of traditional HR?


Social Talent

The room I was speaking in was focusing on talent trends so I wanted to talk about social talent too, ie the important role of connectors and brokers.

So it was interesting that my session was followed by one from Jamie Ward at the BBC talking about their learnings from the way the BBC deals with celebrity talent.

This still focuses very clearly on individual creative superstars (and the group from the BBC all put their hands up in my session to suggest they think human capital is still more important than social capital in their organisation): “Everyone has talent but only a few people who can make the difference for your organisation.”

I think many of the potential learnings from looking at celebrity talent are already happening. Eg “Creative industries are on the look out for talent all the time” is just sourcing / talent pipelining / head farming.  “If we find talent with something to give, we create a role for them” is job sculpting / crafting.

But some of the suggestions haven’t been learnt, and these do need to be part of a social talent approach, eg: “Giving talent a hug – we look after them through fallow times.”



I remain unconvinced that the BBC’s strategy is right. Look at the way the number of writers of a hit song has increased. I don’t see why writing and producing a hit TV programme should be any different from this. There is something different about on-screen talent, but then I think the BBC in particular needs to be in the business of developing potential rather than competing for those already seen as talent, and paying through the nose to get them – something they get plenty of criticism for.

That applies to organisational talent management too – we’d be much better not focusing so much on recruiting and rewarding talented superstars who are already in high demand, and focusing more on creating more effective organisations and talented teams.


Social leadership

Leadership needs to move to being more about leading from within rather than leading from above. It needs to extend to leading groups rather than just individuals, and it needs to change according to the particular type of group – see this blog post for more on this.

In addition, everyone needs to lead, so organisation development approaches like WOL are leadership development interventions too.

Laura Krsnik from Merck talked about their WOL initiative, or ‘movement’. I thought this was an interesting story and agree that WOL and similar developments can often grow bottom-up. However I disagree that they can’t start at the top. Or the fact that they can’t is an individuation that we have the wrong leaders in place now.



That was it and  I hope I covered off Tom’s six tests for talent initiatives:


  • Personalisation – yes, that’s the focus of networks in particular (though I think there’s a linked need for personalisation to the group – groupisation?)
  • Employee focus – communities
  • Speed – horizontal teams
  • Analytics – eg ONA / SNA which I talked about in the section on social talent
  • HR technology – social / digital networks which I meant to talk about in the section on organisation design
  • Open and connected – that’s the whole point of social organisation.



Picture credits: Sally Brand, Cyriel Kortleven


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I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).

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