Measuring An Employee's Worth? Consider Influence

The performance review of the future will include services like Salesforce.com's Chatter and its Influencers feature, which measures how much weight you carry among your peers.

Today, your performance review is based on things like sales numbers or number of goals met. Tomorrow, though, it could be based on something that until now has remained ephemeral: organizational influence.

Salesforce.com's Chatter system released a new feature this spring called Influencer. It purports to measure how influential you are within your company, by tabulating, for example, how your fellow workers respond to the items you post to your corporate social network.

It's still a work in progress, senior director of Chatter product marketing Dave King tells Fast Company. But already companies are using it to help them run more smoothly. 

King says he's heard from CIOs, for example, that, when they have a new system to roll out, they'll look up who the most influential people are in various departments and bring them in for a briefing ahead of time, in the hopes they'll be able to evangelize the system to their peers.

At Salesforce.com itself, CEO Marc Benioff has invited the company's top 20 influencers on Chatter to the retreat he hosts offsite for the company's top executives. "Some were 22- or 23-year-old engineers," King says, "and we put them on stage for a couple minutes each to talk about innovation and what we as a company should be doing."

Chatter, which was launched two years ago, is not the only company working on a metric for influence within organizations. Yammer and National Field, other enterprise social networking tools, are also taking a stab at the problem.

The most progressive organizations have always realized that the informal connections employees make with others and the amount of knowledge and expertise they share outside of prescribed work responsibilities contributes mightily to the bottom line. But until now, they haven't had an empirical way of measuring that activity.

Salesforce.com won't disclose exactly how the Influencer algorithm works. It's more than just tabulating number of posts, though. In fact, workers could actually be penalized for sheer volume, if colleagues don't consider their content useful. "We don't want people being noisy," Chatter general manager Kendall Collins tells Fast Company.

Instead, the algorithm looks at things like how many Likes a post gets or how often it's re-shared. "It surveys all the activities you're involved in and weighs them differently," King says.

He adds that managers wanting to evaluate worker influence will probably want to combine the machine-generated score with the output of an explicit recognition system, like Salesforce.com's newly acquired Rypple, which allows employees to give each other badges for great work.

When you add a system like Rypple, King says, "you get a complete picture--not only what's derived [from activity on the system] but also what's declared by peers and managers."

[Image: Top: Flickr user Snugg LePup]

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

Add New Comment

172 Comments

  • Aman Singh

    All productive employees, introverted or not, have an equal chance to shine on our site ComplimentKarma. 

  • Anna Rydne

    I think this is a great thing to add to traditional performance reviews. A lot of people are not very good at speaking for themselves in public, telling others about their ideas etc. They are too shy to do it in larger forums or in a work group where someone else already has taken on that role. But providing them with a tool such as social media may make them shine and let them show personality, skills, thoughts and ideas. I've seen it in reality: when my company made it possible for employees to blog one person at a time for one month each, there were definitely new stars visible on our sky...

  • Trevor

    I wonder if the organisations sceptics, cynics, bigmouths and smartarses would do well too. More often than not, resistance to change from a minority of folk who are strong influencers.

  • Diego A. Santos

    This is a double edge sword. Sounds great, but probably there will be many bullshitters who do nothing at work who will be rewarded because they are charismatic on social networks. Totally agree with @Maess

  • jollege

    Highly interesting! But consider this source of error: E.g. on Facebook or Twitter, people tend to like and re-share the stuff THAT THEY ALREADY AGREE IN - or from popular people that they find it cool to be associated with.

    So the likes and the re-shares may very well indicate how socially influential or at least popular a person is - but not how original or innovative that person is.

  • Chris Dancy

    I'd
    rather have a algorithm measure my performance as a knowledge worker,
    than a human, who is influenced by conditions in the organization,
    polarized culture outside the organization and bigoted from birth.I
    am glad someone is taking time to look at this issue, but for better or
    worse, it's hear to stay, it's happening already and you can't stop it.I
    am focusing on making sure people are educated about the shift.  Here
    is a copy of the three things I see driving employee "scoring" moving
    into the next 8 years.  It's on slideshare, registration free, blah
    blah. http://www.slideshare.net/chri...

  • Been There

    I would love to say this will work, but I don't think so, in the long-term. I came from a company culture where the "mids" far outranked the superiors. Future trending, cost-saving, and innovative ideas were consistently shot down if they did not come from a senior member of the team (three people) who supported over remote 6,000 employees. One person on a 15 person team (excluding seniors) was constantly rude and negative, inexperienced, did not work, ignored employee requests, arrived late and left early every day, and made huge mistakes daily that caused the rest of the team to work overtime to fix them, do his work, and manage unhappy employees because of this. A majority of the remote employees would email and call the superiors in order to praise the rest of the team's performance and ability to quickly respond, manage issues, and make suggestions. The seniors took this as an insult to themselves and the one problem employee on whom they doted. A team member praising the performance of any other was seen as a slap the the face to the problem employee instead of a simple compliment on a job well done.

    In our environment, as well as other cultures I've seen, this would be seen as opportunity to "slam" other employees or outshine senior management, even when that was not the intent. While I see the end result as an opportunity to offer ideas, solutions, and comments as well as praise others' performance (a social 360-degree, if you will), I fear the egos and lack of forward thinking on the part of most senior management sub-cultures in present day will prevent this from happening. They fear influence or ideas coming from anyone but them.

  • James Hawk III

    The company I work for installed Chatter.  It's about as useful as pontoons on a duck.  The Health and Wellness group was immediately taken over by militant vegans.  The sales people post impenetrable commentary in which they noun their verbs and verb their nouns; nobody in engineering has a clue what they're trying to communicate.  Yes, an internal version of Facebook was just what we needed.

  • Business Savvy

    Great!  Now the self-promoters who spend the bulk of their time managing outward and upward can shirk off even more of their customer-focused duties with impunity while they focus their time on Chatter.

  • Wally Newton

    That might be nice but we all know that each employee's evaluation and compensation are the direct result of how well s/he performs the tasks that the boss measures.  The boss is also a "measured" employee, all the way up the chain to the owners, who are the stockholders.  The two things the stockholders measure are price per share and return on investment.  They don't know or care how influential each employee is.

  • DutchUncle

    This assumes you spend time posting things, and then reviewing other posts, rather than producing something.  Unless your job is marketing, in which case producing publicity material is your primary activity, I don't see this happening.  

  • Kwogenst

    Do I really want my peers to rate my job performance?  Absolutely not!  They want their own appraisal to look the best.  So while I may be complimenting him on his work, he could degrade my accomplishments.  Do I want my workers to appraise me?  No, because I push them to do the work.  I'm not here to make friends, but to produce a profit!

  • EG

    This is simply a case of a reporter turning in a press release as an article, instead of writing an unbiased article. Silly.

  • Don

    Agreed!  Subjective evaluations are seldom worth the paper they are written on.  I've been proposing that a similar evaluation for a teachers relative worth be evaluated by his/her fellow teachers.  Who knows best about the worth of each teacher than their peers?  One little problem to overcome; however, are the teacher unions who project the non-productive.

  • Chev James

    This system does not take into account the "mafias" that develop in so many organizations.   As another poster suggested, it will degenerate into a popularity contest, and many employees will "ding" their co-workers if they think they are moving up too fast, or getting in too much with the boss.   Like Communism, this system does not take human nature into account.   If top managers really want to do something, they should invite an outside firm to supply them with honest employee feedback about top management and where it's taking the company!

  • Andrewnoni

     How wise words i saw here. Just do it and sollutions comes true understanding soon -why?  all bellongs 2 humans desires it is uncomunism and unmaterial state of mind each of us. ,so invite  proffesionalists to have a discution  what do more and more it works i am sure/.

  • Ian Joyner

    Well, capitalistic companies are the bastions of communism. You go to work, have very little influence. The human nature part is the boss who does not like you and manipulates the performance review system to get rid of you so they can engage the HR mafia. This is why performance review is incredibly toxic:

    http://www.christieandbetro.co...

  • Xxx

    So the most valuable employee is that awesome guy that tell's jokes in the pub after work...very nice, this is totally sciency.