Why You Need A Confidential Informant
Do you have sources within your org that tip you off when something big is about to go down? Or are you always the last to know?
You need to get yourself a confidential informant (CI). You need to get covert.
Let me back up before you think I’m advocating spying on your employees…
I just finished the HBO series The Wire. Talk about an awesome show. I’m not sure where to even start when it comes to why I loved that show so much:
All of that was supremely put together to present a show about inner-city Baltimore that, albeit depressing, was must-watch TV.
But I digress. In the first season of the show the Baltimore police are tracking the drug trade in “the towers.” Through a combination of stakeouts and confidential informants they gather enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a wiretap on pay phones used by drug dealers.
In most cases, the informants names are never disclosed because they risk retaliation for informing on a drug dealer but they provide enough information to obtain a warrant which the police use to build a case.
That is an oversimplification of how the wiretapping/drug investigation goes down but for our purposes that’s enough.
You don’t need a wire-tap at your company but you do need informants. You need contacts that will give you insight into the parts of the org you don’t see. And there are parts you don’t see just by being HR.
People may not flee at the site of you but they definitely present a sunnier, more-polite disposition. Your CI can tell you what its really like behind closed doors. who is angling for a promotion, who is likely to leave next, who is incompetent, etc;
You can use this information to prepare and focus your efforts. If one of your top sales managers is unhappy and looking to jump, you can figure out a way to keep him/her or be ready to respond with a list of successors when/if they do resign.
In other words you can be proactive with little effort expended beyond being friendly and talking with people outside of HR.
I’ve written before about why HR pro’s must do more than hang out with other HR pro’s and that is what I’m advocating here. You don’t need a calculating quid pro quo relationship (I definitely wouldn’t advise paying your CI’s in cash), just a desire to know people outside the HR function. Those relationships will give you a better insight into internal politics, the business and the players.