Baked In: How UpMo Helps You Hang On To Your Best Workers

In the age of LinkedIn, companies are in perpetual competition for their own employees. A new retention tool is giving them an edge in that fight.

About the "Baked In" series: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that social dynamics are going to work their way into every industry, and the companies of the future will be the ones that bake them in from the beginning, rather than slapping them on as an afterthought. This series takes a look at companies that are discovering new opportunities by using social components in the foundations of their businesses.

Keeping your people happy and productive is an important job for any company. In an age of LinkedIn, when they can be poached more easily than ever, it's an increasingly urgent one. A new tool from a company called UpMo thinks it can do the trick.

"It’s getting more difficult for companies to retain their people," UpMo founder and CEO Promise Phelon tells Fast Company. "We’re giving organizations the intelligence to keep their people happy, productive, and mobile."

UpMo, which Phelon calls "a social talent engine," is applying the principles of social networking to internal career management and retention processes. The system allows employees to maintain a profile that broadcasts to their companies their skills and long-term career aspirations. The tool in turn helps them work toward those goals.

A matching engine lets employees know about projects they can participate in to build their skills, as well as openings they might be qualified for--and interested in. They can also use the social tools to reach out to people they might otherwise have never run across and build a network of colleagues who can guide them along their career path.

Similarly, by giving companies visibility into what skills they have in-house and where their employees want to go, UpMo allows employers to do a better job of retaining employees by giving them challenging work that aligns with their goals.

"Employees don’t know where there are tactical opportunities to move forward," Phelon explain. "UpMo is solving that transparency problem."

UpMo is creating transparency where previously there hasn't been much. Most HR systems have historically kept employee information confidential, effectively preventing managers from seeing who within the company might be a good fit for a new opening. But attitudes to that approach are changing, in part due to the way social networks have made people more comfortable with putting more of themselves out in public. And among younger works, it's actually the default. To not have a way of broadcasting themselves, and form connections with other people in their organizations, strikes them as strange.

It's also changing because the increasing mobility of employees is making companies open to trying new approaches. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it costs about a third of an employee’s salary to replace them. Other studies, though, have shown that, depending on the industry and the seniority of the employee, that figure can go up to as much as 250 percent.

"With LinkedIn, employers are now constantly competing for their own talent," Phelon says.

The company ran pilots this summer and is now in the process of rolling out to Fortune 250 companies and global organizations. Phelon says the system is targeted at larger companies, those with more than 4,000 employees, where the transparency problem is the biggest.

"You keep your best people by giving them tough problems to solve and creating opportunity for them," Phelon says. "It sounds trivial, but none of the companies we’ve talked to have the ability to do this today."

Read More: Baked In: Fly Like You're Rich With Social Flights (And Private Planes)

[Image: Flickr user ralphbijker]

E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com's Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter | Google+ | Email

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