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更新时间:2014-2-26 14:35:37 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

The Boss's Next Demand: Make Lots of Friends

Making friends at the office has never been more rewarding.

Armed with reams of new data, companies including giants Procter & Gamble Co. and Cisco Systems Inc. are seeking out 'influencers,' or those among their employees who are particularly well-connected and trusted by their peers.

Once found, the firms are harnessing these workers' clout to come up with new products, get workers on board with big changes like mergers, or spread information throughout the organization.

Years ago, such employees often went unnoticed, lost in organizational charts. But the rise of social media has highlighted the importance of networks, and companies are determined to capitalize on the power players lurking in their workforces. The influencers reap benefits, too: more money, promotions and opportunities to rub shoulders with top executives.

To find these people, some companies conduct surveys, asking questions like, 'Who do you go to when you're having a bad day at work?' or 'Who do you go to when you have a question that seems obvious?' They may also tap into email and calendar data, often stripped of content to preserve privacy, or internal messaging sites.

The result is often mapped out as a spider web of connections. Executives say the influencers are sometimes already in jobs that reflect their skills--such as a project manager who works with several departments--but they say they have also been surprised to discover, for example, an IT worker holding together a tenuous connection between offices on two continents.

Business-software company Salesforce.com Inc. plumbs its Chatter product, a sort of corporate Facebook, to identify its influencers, says Peter Coffee, the company's vice president for strategic research. Using algorithms, the company is continually analyzing the data: how many followers each employee has, how often they post about their work, and whether those posts generate responses. All Chatter accounts--Mr. Coffee says the company's 12,800 employees are all on the platform--are assigned an influence rank that charts where they fall in comparison with others.

The top 20 'chatterati,' Salesforce's term for its highest influencers, are invited to attend the company's global senior management meeting, which occurs twice a year and was formerly open only to Salesforce's top 600 leaders. Some managers also take employees' Chatter scores into account when determining promotions and compensation, though the company declined to provide specifics.

'What this does is say, 'You are more than the node that takes your inbox and turns it into your outbox,'' Mr. Coffee says.

Indeed, many companies say they are identifying a previously invisible layer of talent, key players who may not be posting top results on their own but are boosting performance across the organization.

'There's this whole underground world,' says Kristin Kassis, a managing partner at WorkWise LLC, a consulting firm that has helped Fortune 500 firms identify influencers and often focuses on how to retain them.

But some academics caution that a data-driven emphasis on what has traditionally been a subjective trait could ultimately lead executives astray.

Jerry Davis, a management professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, says companies could be 'rewarding the wrong thing' if they put too much stock in the hubs in their social networks.

'When it comes to promotions or layoffs, that's when it starts to get hairy,' he adds. 'Wait a minute, I thought I was doing my work really well, and because I didn't spend my time networking, I'm going to be fired?' he imagines an employee saying.

HealthFitness Corp., a Minneapolis company that provides corporate health services, called on Syndio Social, a Chicago firm that helps companies map their networks, to identify staff members who could help ease the shift to a major new technology platform last year.

HealthFitness had a lot on the line, including $30 million and high client expectations. The company flew 30 influencers to its Lake Forest, Ill., offices and gave them communication training and extra insight into the project so they could field co-workers' questions and build positive buzz.

The influencers helped bring their colleagues on board, Chief Executive Paul Lotharius recalls. But he had to remind himself that clout was only one way to assess employees so other qualities, such as technical expertise and leadership skills, wouldn't get lost in the process.

'We almost fell into a trap of getting overexcited with Syndio,' he says. 'You just start thinking, 'Wow, I can use this for everything.'

Less cautious is Sonny Garg, an executive at energy firm Exelon Corp. When the Chicago-based firm merged with Constellation Energy in 2012, managers and employees in information technology selected a group of well-connected workers to act as liaisons between anxious staffers and leadership during the 'upheaval,' Mr. Garg says.

He adds that the initiative didn't cost any money and may have kept employees from leaving after the merger. Influencer Kathy Bresnahan, an IT analyst with the company, says it helped ease angst in the departments.

The company is now starting to use survey data to help pinpoint its top influencers and is launching a program that would give them leadership training. Influencers, Mr. Garg says, 'can either help you or really hurt you.'

For their part, influencers are thrilled to be rewarded for their networking skills. Andrea Bredow, a manager in HealthFitness's marketing department, describes herself as an 'extrovert through and through' who likes to stop by co-workers' desks and plan group outings.

'This is just my personality,' says Ms. Bredow, who was recognized as an influencer last year. 'I'm glad that I've found a company that sees that as a positive.'


在掌握大量新数据后,包括宝洁(Procter & Gamble Co.)和思科(Cisco Systems Inc.)等巨头在内的企业开始搜寻“影响力员工”,即员工当中那些人缘特别好、受同事信赖的人。





商业软件公司Salesforce.com负责战略研究业务的副总裁彼得·科菲(Peter Coffee)称,该公司尝试使用其“Chatter”产品——类似企业版Facebook——来甄别有影响力的员工。它借助算法来不断分析数据,比如每名员工有多少粉丝,他们多久发一次与自己工作有关的帖子,以及那些帖子是否引起了反响。所有Chatter账户——科菲称该公司的12,800名员工全都在该平台上注册——都会被划分影响力等级,即它们与其他账户相比所处的排名。




咨询公司WorkWise LLC的管理合伙人克里斯廷·卡西斯(Kristin Kassis)称:“这完全是个秘密世界。”该公司曾帮助财富500强企业识别影响力员工,通常它关注的是如何留住这些人。


密歇根大学罗斯商学院(University of Michigan's Ross School of Business)的管理学教授杰里·戴维斯(Jerry Davis)指出,如果企业过于看重社交网络领域,它们可能会“奖励错了对象”。


去年,明尼阿波利斯企业医疗服务公司HealthFitness Corp.要转移到一个大型新技术平台,于是它请来Syndio Social公司找出能有助于缓和这一过渡的员工。Syndio Social是芝加哥一家帮助企业制订员工人际网的企业。

HealthFitness承担着许多风险,其中包括3,000万美元资金和客户的高期望。该公司派了30名影响力员工飞往其伊利诺伊州莱克福里斯特(Lake Forest)的办公室,对他们进行了沟通技巧培训并给他们提供了更多关于该项目的信息,以便他们能及时解答同事的问题和促成积极反响。

HealthFitness首席执行长保罗·洛塔留斯(Paul Lotharius)回忆称,那些影响力员工争取到了他们同事的支持。不过,他还是必须提醒自己衡量影响力只是评估员工的方式之一,这样一来其他品质——如专业技能和领导才能——才不会在这一过程中被埋没。


芝加哥能源企业Exelon Corp.的高管桑尼·加格(Sonny Garg)对此则没那么谨慎。他说,2012年在该公司与Constellation Energy合并时,信息技术部门的经理和员工挑选了一群交际广泛的员工,让他们在这场“巨变”中充当焦虑不安的员工及领导层之间的联络人。

他还说,该举措未花分文,或许还避免了员工在公司合并后离职。该公司一名影响力员工、IT分析师凯茜·布雷斯纳汉(Kathy Bresnahan)称,该举措帮助缓解了各部门中的不安情绪。


对于那些影响力员工,他们对自己的交际能力受到奖励颇为激动。安德烈娅·布雷多(Andrea Bredow)是HealthFitness营销部的一名经理,她称自己是一个“彻头彻尾的外向之人”,喜欢去找同事计划集体出游。她在去年被选定为影响力员工。