It takes a while to develop real world influence. While some people will tell you that the best measure of influence is whether or not people will take your call, there are other things that can shape the world we operate in. The depth of one’s influence has something to do with changing the way that things get done.
It’s interesting to note, for example, the Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web server on a NeXt computer designed by Steve Jobs. That foundational technology now inhabits most operating computers in one way or another. Sure, I’d fit him into my schedule. Both Jobs and Berners-Lee transformed the way that we approach the simplest aspects of our lives. Each man influenced the world in dramatic ways.
Within an industry, there are a variety of ways to use influence:
- Some act as information gateways, platforms and bottlenecks (the event and publication executives fit here)
- Vendors shape the industry conversation with volume, innovation and cash
- Still others are the connective tissue that make careers and job opportunities possible (network connectors)
- Academics and analysts shape the language of the conversation. They are clearinghouses for best practice information
- Practitioners, who are in the best position to know what works in their companies, gain hands on wisdom.
As previously noted, it is very difficult to exert influence on an industry from a practitioner’s chair. At best, people working in the trenches get a chance to see the inner workings of five or six operations. Vendors, consultants, analysts, trade show promoters and academics all benefit from being able to see across a range of enterprises. Great practitioners often notice that the table is tilted away from their expertise.
There are several notable exceptions to the general principle that influence is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spend in the trenches. Recently, we’ve profiled several people who have effectively used social media tools to leverage their experience into broad industry influence. Seasoned professionals all, their path to influence included early mastery of a new technology. All of them are long term players in the HR-Recruiting industry.
Arie Ball‘s story is somewhat different.
Arie is a lifetime Sodexo employee who ended up in the HR/Recruiting business because the company’s move to outsource Recruiting fell apart. Seven years ago, Arie took the helm of a project designed to evaluate Sodexo’s options.. Up to that point, she’d worked he way up from dietician to General Manager. She had career stops running a hospital kitchen and various rungs of the Sodexo ladder. Her core expertise were leadership and operations.
When the RPO contract broke, it rapidly became the number one Board issue at the company. Arie was asked to lead a cross-divisional, cross market team. The job was to figure out whether to cancel the contract, modify it, transfer to a new vendor or bring it back in house.
They decided to build their own department. For the past seven years, Arie has been building a from scratch recruiting operation for a going concern. As such, she is able to utilize new approaches and technologies faster and more fully than someone making change in an ongoing operation. Arie’s industry influence stems from the fact that she runs the best observable “test kitchen”. Her ability to experiment and prosper comes from a long career as a one-company employee.
That’s a pretty potent counterpoint to the fast moving social media jet set who tend to dominate the conversation in the blogosphere. Arie has figured out how to work in that environment as well. The last time I sat down to talk with her, it was just before her first skydive. That trip was organized by a few from the social media scene. Go to a conference and you are liable to find her as she searches for new things to try.
A significant part of Arie’s astonishing ability to set an example comes from he three year planning process. She takes the business of planning Sodexo’s growth as a Recruiting shop very seriously. Each year, the planning process looks at a three year horizon and settle in on a few significant experiments in technology and or process improvement. By establishing a pattern of successes, she’s able to increasingly pull the organization along with her.
At Sodexo, there is a big picture for Recruiting. Arie sees her job as being the end of talent hoarding and the reducer of friction between divisional assignments. She believes that the organization’s success depends on making it easy for people to move around the company.
The company organizes its outreach to candidates along three lines:
Each group is offered different access and different routing through job opportunities and Recruiting community/collateral. By customizing the candidate experience in this way, Arie’s team minimizes the effort required to fill a slot.
She continues to cut new paths in the woods; a new mobile app (divided along the three experience lines) with Twitter and Blog access is the next project in the pipe.
Arie demonstrates the kind of leadership you can only learn with an extended stay in a specific company. Groomed by the internal team and buttressed by her successes, she is learning to take influence out of the company and into the industry.
These days, Sodexo Recruiting is evolving to include workforce planning. “We are looking for very long range impact from hiring”, Arie says.”We need to know where we get the talent and how those people will mature with us.”
That notion is backed by a talent community of 250,000 people. Sodexo tailors its interactions with the community members with tactics that range from regular birthday cards to online education. Again, she’s setting an example that others can follow.
The bottom line is that Arie Ball demonstrates that operational excellence can be the heart and soul of influence. Keep your eyes on her. She hasn’t yet finished having an impact on the industry.