Contacts and connections: an array of options

Social networking for talent management|

SelectMinds was founded eight years ago as a corporate alumni networking solution focused on recruiting. "At the time, the war for talent was raging," says Anne Berkowitch, CEO of SelectMinds. "The value proposition was to stay in touch with employees who have left, because rehiring is often a good recruiting strategy."

Over the years, SelectMinds has extended its software solution into other aspects of talent management, as interest in social networking grew. The SelectMinds Corporate Social Networking Suite now includes a series of point solutions and services for connecting specific populations and addressing issues such as retention, employee engagement and knowledge sharing.

"Corporate knowledge is embodied in and shared most effectively through people in the company," says Berkowitch. "Although knowledge management was document-centric initially, increasing the visibility into individuals’ knowledge and enabling them to share is an important enhancement."

Information presented on corporate social networking sites powered by SelectMinds is input by users, in contrast to the automated approach of contact management products.

The Dow Chemical Company chose SelectMinds in August 2007 to help build relationships within and among a variety of groups, including alumni, retirees and current employees. The company hopes to benefit from recruiting opportunities as well as retaining the knowledge of retirees during a time when retirement rates are expected to be high because of changing demographics. Accessed through a link to My Dow Network, the SelectMinds solution presents a page similar to Facebook.

The reaction at Dow was enthusiastic, and the time to reach the first signup milestone was shorter than expected. The benefits of being able to strengthen connections in a company that has nearly 50,000 employees accrue to both the company and to the individuals. Users can locate people who have listed various topics of professional expertise, or find an ex-employee who works at a particular firm. A search might lead to a posting on a discussion group or blog, which in turn leads the user to another expert.

Software solutions that are more people-centric than traditional KM products offer a new dimension, Berkowitch believes.

"A lot of contextual knowledge that is resident in minds has not reached a threshold for being codified, but is nevertheless very valuable," she says. "That does not diminish the importance of formal documents and transactional data—it is unfortunate that the KM 2.0 notation suggests an upgrade over KM 1.0, when they are really complementary."

As private, secure social networks make inroads into the corporate environment, companies that make the leap may have the best of both worlds. 

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