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Crowdsourcing with Employees: Social Forecasting in Action
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Crowdsourcing with Employees: Social Forecasting in Action

Editor's Note: In this guest post, Crowdworx founder Aleksandar Ivanov explains how crowdsourcing with employees can help generate accurate risk assessments and sales forecasts, leading to actionable information and an engaged workforce.

Most of us know about crowdsourcing and how it can be used to accomplish a great many things with consumers and the general public. But there is another, perhaps less familiar crowdsourcing method: crowdsourcing with employees.

Both approaches share many commonalities, but there are some differences, too. For instance, confidential information may be shared with employees in order to enable them to contribute mote effectively. Also, the nature of the tasks differs. Crowdsourcing with employees focuses on sourcing the professional knowledge of employees for sales forecasts, competitive intelligence, risk assessments, etc. Providing micro task services, designs or other kinds of labor is typically not part of employee-based crowdsourcing.

When we conceptualized this approach in 2006, crowdsourcing was not as prominent as it is now — and we came from a very distant perspective. Our roots are in BI, statistical analysis and forecasting, all of which are based on data. Data analyses can be limited in many ways, however. For instance…

  • If an environment is too volatile then past data doesn’t tell much about the future
  • When assessing the sales potential of new products there is no historic sales data to analyze
  • When gut feel and soft knowledge are important it is hard to express them in numbers

So we set out to tap the vast amount of unused employee knowledge. Tapping this pool of internal knowledge is not a new idea — everybody knows wikis and blogs. However, these tools do not provide any quantitative data.

We decided to ask employees to give numeric inputs — instead of writing text feedback — about all kinds of issues relevant to their company, including but not limited to products (new and existing ones), customers, marketing campaigns, new trends and technologies, and even competitors. We then experimented with various algorithms to aggregate these individual inputs into a single number: a sales forecast or a risk probability.

To increase accuracy, we added a formal incentive mechanism, which rewards those who give the most accurate information. The more accurate one’s inputs are compared with the actual outcome of a question, the more points one gets. Conversely — and this is a key factor — those who give poor inputs lose points! This formal incentive mechanism greatly enhances the crowdsourcing concept itself and the user inputs in particular.

The results of our thoughts and efforts towards transforming employee wisdom into numbers culminated in CrowdWorx, a crowdsourcing tool used within large and medium-sized companies.Clearly, employee-based crowdsourcing is still a niche, but the method’s incredible results are prompting more and more firms to participate.

There are at least three things, however, that companies who want to crowdsource with their employees must consider in advance:

  • Topics must be relevant for both management and employees.
  • For different topics, the relevant knowledge resides with different people. People often self-select (unwilling to lose points on topics they are not knowledgeable about). One must make sure that there is a wise crowd, not just a huge crowd.
  • Incentives are in many ways a key driver for continuous success. Firstly, they award good contributors and punish poor ones. Secondly, they provide direct feedback and a constant challenge to improve, thus keeping people engaged in the long-term.

Crowdsourcing with employees is less focused on “traditional” creative work and micro task services than other crowdsourcing methods. It is a form of Social Decision Support tapping the professional knowledge of employees. This approach provides relevant and actionable information to management while employees enjoy the rewards and recognition and they gain while participating in the company’s greater goals.

Aleksandar Ivanov is the founder of CrowdWorx, an employee-based crowdsourcing platform. Ivanov helps U.S. and European corporations introduce crowdsourcing to a large-scale employee user base.

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