How Technology is Reshaping Influence at Work

Are people at your company with the most influence always the one’s highest on the org chart? Mashable tackled this question—and others—in  a provocative post entitled, “Why Social Accountability Will Be the New Currency of the Web.” In the article, writer John C. Havens examines the profound effect social media has played in transforming traditional notion of influence.

“We’re facing a deficit in the economy of online influence. Focus has been largely placed on volume and reach of an individual’s ideas versus the implications of their actions. We’re so focused on growing our own brands that the megaphone has become more important than the message.”

John Sumser writes regularly in HR Examiner about how the concept of influence is changing.  ”Influence is powerful because it’s how you get stuff done when you don’t have authority,” he says. Sumser believes the biggest change in influence is visibility. We now have sophisticated searches and high volumes of content, so virtually anyone can find or make themselves known online.

With the recent rise of social software in the workplace, the same potential exists for upending traditional notions of influence. In his article, Havens commends Rypple for addressing this issue head-on, with social software that makes accountability at work a key element in determining influence.

“The idea is that all ongoing feedback, both positive and constructive, helps build an employee’s real reputation at work… [Rypple] lets users create custom badges, but the focus on feedback goes deeper than simple game mechanics. Features like “Loops” let users provide ongoing and actionable critiques of colleagues so feedback can be assessed at any time… [T]his enables individuals to develop influence based on their real impact rather than a perception of where they sit in the company hierarchy.”

Measuring influence by quantity  vs. quality of online activity presents real dangers for devaluing internal networks. The only way to eradicate these misperceptions is to evaluate influence with real data that is visible and transparent. In this way, employees can be judged meritocratically on their actual impact on the company rather than by some vague, qualitative assessment.

Click here to read more of Havens’ take on the future of social accountability in the modern enterprise.


Nick Stein is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Salesforce A former staff writer at FORTUNE and current affairs producer at CBC News, Stein's work has received three Business Journalist of the Year awards, a CAJ award, and has been anthologized in the Best Business Stories of the Year. He holds a BA from McGill University and a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.