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Stop Just Gathering Names With Your Talent Community and Start Serving People

by
Joel Capperella
Aug 15, 2012, 5:29 am ET

Recently I came across a post on a blog that I visit from time to time, Inside Talent Management Technology, entitled “Talent Communities Are a Big Farce.” The premise of the post was that the majority of so-called “talent communities” are simply fronts for a company to capture the name and contact information of active candidates. There was, in the author’s opinion, no community at all.

Sadly, the majority of self-defined talent communities exist for the sole purpose of building a recruiting team’s list of possible candidates. Compounding this problem is the fact that there are some cases in which a job posting is placed not because there is a specific opportunity open at that very moment, but that there may be an opportunity open that is similar to what is in the job posting in the foreseeable future. This basically allows recruiters to begin to passively source candidates ahead of an anticipated demand.

The term talent community seems to have gained much traction in the latter half of the 2000s and has gained much momentum as recruiting moves in a decidedly social direction. What has not matured along with the term, however, is the understanding of what a talent community must be.

List building and mining active candidates is a necessity, but it is certainly not something which could be called communal. So the question for recruiting professionals is really twofold. One, what is the proper definition of a talent community? And, two, how is a talent community developed?

The community exists first and foremost because of shared skills and career aspirations. These shared interests allow a community to flourish. Many so-called “talent communities” are simply collecting the name and contact info of active candidates, a self-serving desire to increase the size of an active candidate database.

The development of a genuine talent community must be oriented completely toward service. The community must exist primarily to help its members improve and advance their career situations, and any effort or involvement from a recruiting team must contribute to this primary goal. One reason why many so-called “talent communities” end up being active candidate database development efforts is that the temptation to increase active candidate outreach is too great and the effort to sincerely engage a community of talent perceived to be too cumbersome.

Recruiting organizations that wish to invest in the development of genuine talent communities should take the following steps. Each step will help to create and execute a strategy that ensures community development efforts meet the member’s goals. This approach elevates the participation of the recruiting team to trusted advisor status, which is a far better than being viewed as a self-serving contact list gatherer.

Career Development Narrative: A recruiting organization has insight into the natural progression of a career available to those who possess certain skills. This insight must be translated into a simple message that allows those in the talent community to visualize examples of what this career progression looks and even feels like. A career lifecycle story of similarly talented people helps to categorize specific career phases, identify logical next step options that typically arise along the path, highlight necessary skill development, and indicates the impact that specific industry trends have upon career options.

Targeted Participation: Engage the community where it already finds itself. Social media allows recruiters to quickly and easily determine which platform is most highly trafficked by a particular skilled set of professionals. Once the preferred platform is identified, recruiting must actively engage in the conversation that takes place.

The participation absolutely cannot be a series of of “we-have-a-great-job-posting-for-this-particular-skill-set” blind statements. Instead, the effort must first be one of listening and then providing value when listening turns up the opportunity to do so. This help can be ordered toward connecting individuals with others, offering up insight to help a member of the community select training or education options, and even help source a community member into an opportunity that belongs to another company. The fruit of this effort not only builds the habit of proper communal participation but it once again helps to establish trusted advisor status.

Content Development: The creation of content that helps to educate community members is also a necessary investment in talent community development … not just standard and general tips such as “how to interview,” but comprehensive analysis on the labor market, education standards, training required for advancement, industry movement, and details on how career progression is best managed. Create and distribute rich content to community members, and help them manage their personal professional development.

Candidate Marketing: Only after the community is developed and properly engaged should a recruiting team consider active marketing within the community. If people get how valuable the community is, they’re more likely to listen to your marketing.

There is tremendous opportunity for today’s recruiting teams to take an aggressive and active role in community development. The return on investment is a candidate marketplace that views the organization as a trusted source of information and insight about career development and advancement. Executing on a talent community strategy takes patience, and the temptation to revert back to contact gathering is great. Fighting that temptation with a service-oriented approach will help to build up the talent community at large and present natural opportunities to market and source talent into the organization.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Martin Snyder

    The problem is that communities create themselves based on some raison d’être, and it’s obviously highly unlikely that a wide variety of hiring interests would all be able to foster viable motivation for members beyond a direct employment advantage.

    It takes more than just having a common occupation to create a community, and it takes bandwidth to participate in a community, and people have ever more limited bandwidth: so which “community” is going to get dropped first and fastest, even if you gain some initial engagement ?

    I have a feeling “talent community” will end up as a laughable buzzword within a few short years.

    What has enduring value ? Person to person communication between recruiter and candidate. Aint no shortcuts, even with the siren song of social media, which if you ask me, is two-thirds played out anyway…..

  2. Jacob Madsen

    Beautiful post Joel, loved it.
    There is far more to the whole subject of talent communities than what it looks like on the surface.

    The opportunities are vast for those that understand and hone what they have, – this is not only about immediate gain and results, but about so much more and on so many levels.
    It is about a ready made pool of accessible individuals that can be communicated to about anything from actual jobs, products/services of the company/organisation through to access to a much wider ‘unseen’ pool of indirect contacts.
    It is the most widely lost opportunity for any company on so many levels and quite staggering that no one long time ago saw what this could be.
    I know of a global company with a database of 5 million candidates, yet for years never used, never utilised, never explored and forever lost opportunities.

    The possibilities are endless for those that see it, that work on it and believe in the value of it.

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Joel. If any recruiter has the time, resources, and support to develop such a slow, indirect and reactive means of getting butts in chairs, I say good for them. ISTM that a talent community might be best for a professional organization or labor union that seeks full employment for its members.
    @ Martin: Well said. “”I have a feeling “talent community” will end up as a laughable buzzword within a few short years.” I think it already IS a laughable buzzword, like “social network recruiting”. Here’s a future laughable buzzword: “Cloud Recruiting”. I don’t even know if the concept exists yet or what it would be, but there are a bunch of recruiting snake-oil sales reps out there just waiting to make a killing off those who they convince ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT BE LEFT BEHIND!
    @ Jacob: You have hit the nail on the head. The opportunities for commercialization of talent communities are vast indeed. Imagine if your company with 5,000,000 individual resumes had contracted with a large number of organizations who would pitch these 5,000,000 potential customers every sort of good, service, or simple request for money imaginable, whether relevant or not. Think how much money the company could make selling this information-it could quite probably truly make recruiting a profit (as opposed to a cost) center! (And you say I’m always negative, Jacob……)

    Cheers,

    Keith

  4. Jacob Madsen

    What anyone write here is their business, suffice to say that what the ever commenting Keith Halperin allude to is totally the direct opposite of what I have in mind. This is about so much more and so much more a bigger picture and perspectives than I see Mr Halperin showing an understanding of.

  5. Joel Capperella

    Keith and Martin, I see your points and I would agree that in the day to day that investing in talent community development is a task that is in and of itself incredibly time consuming, and that nothing will ever replace personal interaction between recruiter and candidate.

    Whether or not the term ‘talent community’ withstands the test of time remains to be seen, but I for one do believe that ubiquitous digital social communicate has forever changed the way in which recruiters need to interact with the candidate marketplace.

    Jacob, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, also agree with the statement that there is much possibility to more actively engage.

  6. Keith Halperin

    @ Joe: Thank you. Every new major technological development in communication has profound and often unforeseeable changes in how we do our work. Very few of these developments disappear completely over time, but gradually accrete like a pearl in an oyster. e.g., though I don’t send out/receive written or faxed resumes any more, I still use a phone… (For more of this, see Marshall McLuhan’s *Tetrad of Media Effects “ ).

    @ Jacob: I suspected as much (“totally the direct opposite of what I have in mind”), which is why it was fun to say. But enough of my opinions, Jacob- what do YOU think? What IS the direct opposite of what I said?

    Cheers,

    Keith

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrad_of_media_effects
    Tetrad of media effects
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Generally speaking, a tetrad is any set of four things. In Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village (1989), published posthumously, Marshall McLuhan summarized his ideas about media in a concise tetrad of media effects. The tetrad is a means of examining the effects on society of any technology/medium (put another way: a means of explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of a technology/medium[1]) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical tool, phrasing his laws as questions with which to consider any medium:
    1. What does the medium enhance?
    2. What does the medium make obsolete?
    3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
    4. What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?
    The laws of the tetrad exist simultaneously, not successively or chronologically, and allow the questioner to explore the “grammar and syntax” of the “language” of media. McLuhan departs from his mentor Harold Innis in suggesting that a medium “overheats”, or reverses into an opposing form, when taken to its extreme.[2]
    Visually, a tetrad can be depicted as four diamonds forming an X, with the name of a medium in the center. The two diamonds on the left of a tetrad are the Enhancement and Retrieval qualities of the medium, both Figure qualities. The two diamonds on the right of a tetrad are the Obsolescence and Reversal qualities, both Ground qualities.[3]
    • Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies or intensifies. For example, radio amplifies news and music via sound.
    • Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence. Radio reduces the importance of print and the visual.
    • Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost. Radio returns the spoken word to the forefront.
    • Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits. Acoustic radio flips into audio-visual TV.

  7. Keith Halperin

    @ Joe: Thank you. Every new major technological development in communication has profound and often unforeseeable changes in how we do our work. Very few of these developments disappear completely over time, but gradually accrete like a pearl in an oyster. e.g., though I don’t send out/receive written or faxed resumes any more, I still use a phone… (For more of this, see Marshall McLuhan’s *Tetrad of Media Effects “ ).

    @ Jacob: I suspected as much (“totally the direct opposite of what I have in mind”), which is why it was fun to say. But enough of my opinions, Jacob- what do YOU think? What IS the direct opposite of what I said?

    Cheers,

    Keith

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrad_of_media_effects
    Tetrad of media effects
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search

    A blank tetrad diagram
    Generally speaking, a tetrad is any set of four things. In Laws of Media (1988) and The Global Village (1989), published posthumously, Marshall McLuhan summarized his ideas about media in a concise tetrad of media effects. The tetrad is a means of examining the effects on society of any technology/medium (put another way: a means of explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of a technology/medium[1]) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously. McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical tool, phrasing his laws as questions with which to consider any medium:
    1. What does the medium enhance?
    2. What does the medium make obsolete?
    3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
    4. What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?
    The laws of the tetrad exist simultaneously, not successively or chronologically, and allow the questioner to explore the “grammar and syntax” of the “language” of media. McLuhan departs from his mentor Harold Innis in suggesting that a medium “overheats”, or reverses into an opposing form, when taken to its extreme.[2]
    Visually, a tetrad can be depicted as four diamonds forming an X, with the name of a medium in the center. The two diamonds on the left of a tetrad are the Enhancement and Retrieval qualities of the medium, both Figure qualities. The two diamonds on the right of a tetrad are the Obsolescence and Reversal qualities, both Ground qualities.[3]
    • Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies or intensifies. For example, radio amplifies news and music via sound.
    • Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence. Radio reduces the importance of print and the visual.
    • Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost. Radio returns the spoken word to the forefront.
    • Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits. Acoustic radio flips into audio-visual TV.

  8. Jacob Madsen

    @K. Halperin
    I have been provoked to give an answer, and as such I shall do my best.

    First and foremost this is not easy to give an answer to as it is so dependent on the company/org in question, their industry, location, stage on lifecycle and another wide ranging factors.
    For that reason there is never going to be a ‘one answer apply to all’

    Take Unilever (from where I have heard this first hand) where there is a direct connection with how you treat people that apply for roles and whether they will actually go and buy your product. So translated this means that treat your applicant/candidate community with disrespect/indifference and they will shun your product/services.

    It is about reaching straight into the core of the community that you may have an interest in engaging with, where do they hang out, what forums do they attend, where do they seek their information.
    Many spend huge amounts of resources in trying to find the very core of where the very people you want to communicate are, – the answer with an accessible candidate community may be there right in front of your nose!.

    The whole beauty of having an accessible candidate community is that you can segment and slice and dice in any way you want and then on that basis reach out to them, be it for anything job related and/or for anything else

    This is n o t about a fast and easy way to abuse access to a range of people, – the entire approach must be done with the utmost care and respect and via a soft approach under the understanding of who the recipients are and in what respect they are being communicated to.

    Other aspect is the whole EVP/marketing piece. If you treat people well and with respect and for a start don’t just let them land in big black hole when they enter into a company ATS then you have a chance (I stress the word chance) of leaving a positive impact.
    This is about ‘knowing someone who knows someone’ by which you will through having access to immediate candidate community reach a much wider audience.

    I was astounded to learn that my own company with 270 employees on Linkedin have access to 43.000 first line connections.
    Think what that may translate to if you have a 10-20-50.000 candidate database, – the numbers will make you dizzy.

    So there are and will for those that truly understand the value of what you have in between your hands/accessible so much that can be done.

  9. Ed Newman

    0k – since I am the one who called Talent Communities a total farce – I feel compelled to chime in. If you are thinking about building a talent community from a recruiter’s perspective – it is a lost cause. As soon as you attempt to count how many hires you will get from the community, you are dead in the water.

    I look at it from a business perspective, and it is what I implemented while running The Newman Group and subsequently Futurestep. As a business leader, I viewed the quality of talent to be my most important objective. I never wanted to hire someone if I did not already know them, or have someone on my team know them. And I mean know them well enough that we have seen them in action within the industry, within their profession. The problem is – as you grow and scale a business you run out of people you know. We created a process where if any employee saw an individual who could be good for us, we made sure that at every opportunity we invited them to participate in events or activities where we could get to know them more.

    Building a talent community is essentially creating a systematic approach to get to know the types of people you will eventually want to work for you some day. To interact with them enough times in a year within a professional or social (quasi-professional) setting – so that you really have a good idea of what they can do. If you end up hiring from that pool – quality is off the charts.

    We should stop measuring how fast we fill req’s and start measuring how long did we know them before making an offer.

    As an individual leader/hiring manager – i can do this with my own LinkedIn contacts and a spreadsheet. But the opportunity is to leverage some of the new technology to make it scalable across the enterprise. I would recommend taking a look at Talent Circles, or the new iteration of Brave New Talent.

  10. Keith Halperin

    @ Jacob: I didn’t want to provoke you, just your thoughts….Unfortunately, I think the link between how you treat employees/customers/applicants often depends on the balance of power between the company and the others. If you’re in a situation where you have great market/marketing power (as in many “employers of choice”), how you treat one or even a large number of people doesn’t really matter. On the other hand, if you’re trying very hard to get these employees/customers/applicants (who aren’t particularly attached to your firm) or if you’re in a tight-knit community where opinion counts, then you better be nice to people…. That being said, I try to treat people as I hope/expect to be treated myself….

    As far as the idea of a community- I suspect we may mean different things. A talent community for me is a corporate-created online group designed with the purpose of interesting a large number of individuals in the activities of a company, with the goal that a certain number of them will eventually be suitable and interested in working for the company.

    If this is the goal, I won’t repeat why I think it’s very inefficient. IMHO, what would work much better would be to gather a much smaller but tighter group of potential candidates (a “pipeline”) and data mine them for all they’re worth (aka, create their “digital dossier” to determine their interests and preferences. Then work to create a customized, personalized relationship with them based on what you’ve learned. I’ve just learned of an experimental tool that monitors a person’s SN activity (LI updates, FB, tweets, etc.) to see if they might be thinking of looking for a new job. If it works, this would enable companies to anticipate when someone is going to start looking for a job, at least until lots of companies use the same or similar techniques and there goes the competitive advantage. If a company were serious about getting medium-longer term hires, it would do something like I’ve suggested, rather than waste their time, money, and other resources creating a namby-pamby, loosey-goosey “talent community” which does little except create work for young and perky marketing-types with names like Brandi and Cody.

    @ Ed: I agree with you whole-heartedly except about one thing- the need to necessarily slow-down in hiring. As someone here said a while ago:
    “Quality of hire, speed of hire, cost of hire: pick any two.”

    Cheers,

    Keith

  11. Jacob Madsen

    Solid and sound comments Keith. We a r e on the same page and do not see the idea of a community as being different, where I think this discussion may struggle is that I see the entire community issue being very specifically related to the respective company/organisation it relates to why I think it near impossible to find as said before answers that apply to all. I would like to believe and to see opportunities in the vast amount of data that any company with more than 5.000 employees must hold, but whether it is useable and whther it may yield placements is another question, – would be great to hear if anyone ‘been there done that’ – to date not seen overwhelming evidence. Question is if that is because it is not there, – it doesn’t work, – or is it too early to say, – too few actually done it, anyone with any insight/data?

  12. Matt Hendrickson

    Something that is often overlooked with talent communities is how they benefit the candidate in addition to the organization. For example, today, candidates generally spend 30 minutes filling out a lengthy application just to express interest in working for a company. Whereas, joining a talent community (with help from LinkedIn or Facebook sign-in), takes under 60-seconds. From there, candidates can build a relationship with a company over time. Add to that, the ability for candidates to see how they’re connected through their social networks so they can ask for a referral and see job openings automatically matched to their preferences. There is a win-win here.

  13. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jacob. Instead of seeing whether or not it might work (at putting butts in chairs), why not use tried-and-true methods that do work, like employee referrals, having a good website that has easy-to-find, clearly-written, quick-to-apply-to jobs, and direct sourcing of candidates that you’re interested in?

    @ Matt: As a job seeker, I don’t want to casually learn about a company, build a relationship, and see if I might want to work for it one day- I want to find decent jobs and apply to them in no more than a couple minutes for the finding and a couple of minutes for the applying, and I want the job NOW, not 3, 6, 12, 24 months from now.

    I contract for a company that I learned today has 1,000,000 friends/likes on FB. I’d like to know how many $ of sales has that brought in, and I’ll be darned if it’s directly brought in any hires that my colleagues or I have heard of here…What a WASTE!

    Cheers,
    Keith

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  19. Lauren Smith

    I thought anyone reading this article might also find this guide a useful resource for building talent communities.

    http://www.ascendify.com/10-best-practices-for-building-a-talent-community/

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