"Office Depot has 40,000 employees, and they don't know who there speaks Vietnamese," Chris Twyman, the CEO of Zapoint, says in his pitch. The Cambridge, Mass., company is launching a "Skills Map" for 300 major companies that, he says, will tell them more about their employees than anything in their own human resources systems.
Zapoint gleans this data from information that people post on personal social-network pages -- Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. Unlike resumes, which employees may update only when they're job hunting and even then not make public, people continually self-report and publicize a lot of work-related skills data. They just don't do it with job hunting or career development in mind. And employers generally can't capture it because their data collection systems (such as they are), are inward-focused. They don't look out toward social networks.
On the other side of the fence, the data that big employers do have about their workers is generally walled off from the public. Who you report to, what training you have, and so on -- that stuff is not made public. Twyman thinks that's an archaic way to manage information about a workforce. "The social nets are marching in. You've got to embrace them," he said in an interview earlier this month.
So Zapoint, which was founded in 2006, is attacking these silos of employee information by creating a series of reports on the people at 300 major companies. It's focusing on general job descriptions and doing cross-industry comparisons. For example, marketing execs at pharmaceutical companies. The company is figuring who's who, and who has what skills. It knows how good an entire team is at a given company, too, since it knows who works with whom. It knows names. "It's LinkedIn on speed," Twyman said.
If you're one of the people who's been corralled in a Zapoint roundup, now your skill set can be compared to your competitors. Maybe you think that that's good, maybe not, but you can't do much about it. If you're in HR, the worry is that now your competitors can see who your best-trained people are, and poach them.
But there is an upside. Individuals could also use this information to see how they stack up, and start working toward improving their skills in ways that matter; or they could use the competitive information to get promotions or raises. Likewise, employers can use the data for skills development. And at the moment, Zapoint is not actually releasing individual dossiers and names. It is telling the 300 companies that it has profiled that it has the data, and is showing them only information in the aggregate. It will sell them the names attached to the data, though, and then let them fill in the information that Zapoint can't collect: the org chart that shows how all the people and skills are arrayed in a business.
I'm not sure that Zapoint's pitch to businesses -- "We have data about your people; pay us and you can have it too" -- will go over so well, but the company is one of several that is taking the historically private information of what we do at work and how well we do it, and making it public (See also: Honestly.com). The days of being able to hide behind a desk are coming to an end.