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Techonomy Events

Rypple’s Daniel Debow on Evaluating Employees Using Social Networks

In this session from Techonomy 2011, in Tuscon, Ariz., Daniel Debow, co-founder and co-CEO of Rypple, talks about how his company has embraced social networks as a tool to evaluate employee’s true productivity and value to the business. Instead of yearly employee reviews, he says, Rypple has been able to leverage social networks to regulate best practices and reward good work within his team. Also appearing in this video: Citi’s Deborah Hopkins.

Debow: So we’ve approached this social network in a different way. The thing about social networks or corporate social applications that we think is interesting is that they amplify behaviors. So the Facebook folks will tell you, “Look, it’s not like people didn’t share pictures or try and look up their old friends or organize events before we showed up, we just made it really frictionless, right?” Economic theory would predict that would be a good successful thing and I think that’s what’s happened.

So we said, we’ve tried to attack this performance management process, which is exactly this thing, which is literally, pre-knowledge worker, 100 years, 50 years old, very batchy, once a year we’re going to tell people how they’re doing.  We’ll shut the company down, everyone writes essays about each other. And it’s universally hated.  Nobody likes this thing. So what we tried to say was what are the behaviors that people engage in?  So we try to build apps that help them, like around coaching, feedback, goal setting, and recognition. What’s interesting is that when we come to deal with companies, one of the biggest things they say first is, “How do we get people more feedback quicker?” Because the goal is not to have a forum at the end of the year, the goal is to get people to learn faster because you want them to get better. You don’t want your sales people to hear six months later that they need better client skills. You want them to learn two weeks after the fact, “Stop interrupting clients, it bothers them,” so that they can sell more deals, right? But the other number one thing they want to know about is who is actually having impact in the company?

And the companies that are getting it, that we hear from all the time, deeply distrust this idea of the hero leader, the hero manager who has information that they will review once a year on this employee and they’ll say this is who’s good and this is who’s bad.  It brings it back to the hierarchy question. They’ll say, “How is it possible that one manager could have all the information?”  I think the Facebook folks got this deeply, all the way up that organization, they understood that many eyes, many views have much better information and can come up with a better aggregate insight into who’s really contributing.  And often you find that a manager will say, “Oh, this person does nothing, they never deliver anything.” Well, the reason they’re not delivering is because what you’ve asked them to do is really useless as a manager. But what they’re really doing is helping everybody else succeed. Now do you want to fire them or do you want to promote them? And by the way, oftentimes, to the point about power hierarchies, HR people will say, “Well, this is a real problem because there’s going to be a disconnect—this person is going to think they’re really valuable and their manager, you know, that’s the person who really counts.” And I often say, “Isn’t that a symptom of a much deeper problem that you’ve got going on?”  So I think people are working through it.

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