Getting Back In Touch With Blended Sourcing

Mar 3, 2003

The other day, I was working in my home office when the doorbell rang. As I opened the door there was a man in a bright blue jacket handing me a little bag. Without much of an introduction, he said he was from a nearby pizza parlor (it’s actually a chain in my area). He pointed out that inside the bag there was a coupon for a free pizza and some other coupons as well. He asked if I had ever been to the pizza place, and when I mentioned it had been a while because I was trying to cut down on cheese, he immediately said they have pizzas without cheese. This statement he delivered to me with a big smile and proceeded to tell me about their new dessert pizzas. Leaving me a bit disoriented from the whirlwind presentation, he gave me one final smile and endorsement for the pizza place and turned around and left. As I stood there in the cold doorway, my eye caught the back of his jacket, which had a slogan written in big yellow letters: “Random Acts of Pizza.” Of course, my mind immediately started wondering about this experience. I looked in the bag and, sure enough, there was a coupon for a medium or large free pizza. No questions asked, just come and get it. I had to admire this grassroots, door-to-door marketing campaign that was:

  • Localized. He came to my door.
  • Creative. He had a message about pizza, as well as a special outfit and giveaway bag.
  • Customized to my needs. He highlighted the pizza without cheese tailored to my needs, along with an upsell of dessert pizza.
  • Rewarding. I received immediate gratification with a free pizza, with no investment on my part required.
  • Delivered by a skilled communicator. He smiled, he was energetic, and he reacted quickly to my excuse about pizza.
  • Memorable. Who can forget “Random Acts of Pizza”?
  • Fast. This whole experience lasted under one minute.

I’m sure you are wondering where I am going with this. Well, my next thoughts turned to recruiting, and how high-touch or out-of-touch the sourcing process can be. What if each targeted lead was given this much attention, a customized message delivered to your door, bundled with an immediate reward ó one that was so memorable that you decided to write about it? The problem with this pizza restaurant’s approach is that it’s not scalable in a high-volume or geographically dispersed recruiting environment. So what can we say then about grass-roots level marketing or recruiting? Do we discard all high-touch personalized sourcing methods in favor of more automation-driven sourcing and bulk campaigns? Let’s take a look at the concept and principles of “blended sourcing” in this article. In Part 2, we’ll examine the practical application of these principles in source tracking. Blended Sourcing In the training and development world, there is a term called “blended learning” ó blending high-touch personalized classroom learning with desktop-delivered e-learning. There are different strategies that have been built around this type of hybrid approach, but most experts agree that blending the two methods of learning yields maximum effectiveness both organizations and individuals. The PC-based e-learning process covers the scalability and mass-deployment challenges of training, while the classroom addresses the deeper individual penetration, meaningful exchange, and customization needs that training also requires. The same can apply to sourcing strategies. The electronic, high-volume, high-yield sources such as corporate career sites and job boards can solve scalability and distribution challenges, while personal networking and niche events can provide deeper individual penetration, meaningful exchange, and tailored messages to potential candidates. Focusing solely on high-yield sources may provide a great pipeline, but high-touch sourcing may yield that one candidate a year that can turn the sales organization around in six months. Blended Sourcing Strategy Whether centralized or decentralized, most corporate organizations have some type of sourcing strategy, one that is usually defined around budget time, when funds are allocated for the year. In addition, individual managers may have sourcing dollars in their budgets for recruiting expenses. From a corporate perspective, a typical sourcing strategy usually includes a fairly one-dimensional list of sources, starting with either the most successful, frequent, or traditional sources at the top, and followed by the more esoteric, less scalable sources at the bottom of the list. Here’s a typical list of sources on a non-scientific continuum of source type:

A blended sourcing approach should have a good mix of high-yield and high-touch sources. There is no rule that says that high-producing, high-impact performers cannot come from high-yield sources; however, recruiting efforts focused on personal relationships and network building will help target these individuals more directly. High-yield sources that are backed by relationship management automation and processes also have a better chance of targeting the right individuals for the job. There are a few issues for staffing decision makers to consider when using a blended sourcing strategy:

  1. Focusing on last year’s results for the future. Typically, sourcing reports will show the number of hires and other statistics per source. The sources with the highest number of hires seem to get the thumbs up for recommitment of funds for the coming year as well as a sense of security that this source is a good investment for the organization. But he problems with only duplicating investments based on last year’s results are:
    • Market trends change: What was good last year (e.g. a regional labor glut) may not be the same situation for the coming year.
    • Staffing needs change: Overlaying the business needs and drivers on top of sourcing for the coming year (such as the development of a new product) will go a long way toward targeting sources that may not have been needed in previous year.
    • Source effectiveness changes: A growing or shrinking job board may affect your selection of a source. Consider some job boards that used to be shining stars and over a year’s time, ceased to exist.
  2. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. More hires or interviews per source are not necessarily always better. As mentioned previously, if a high-touch source such as event attendance yields one hire the whole year ó but that hire is the person who turns around a struggling sales department in six months ó how valuable would you consider the time or money investment in that source? It’s not only the number, but the “name” that’s important. The same applies to hiring for strategic business alignment. Out of 500 hires, the source or sources that yield three key critical hires for the new start-up research arm should be given just as much attention as other sourcing activity.

Approaching a sourcing strategy with a blended approach ó that is mixing high yield with high touch sources ó will help your organization maximize its dollars and penetration. Understanding specific sources, especially for high-touch sourcing, can get down to the individual recruiter level or even job level, so tracking sourcing in a blended model can be a challenge. In my next article, we’ll examine some practical application for sourcing metrics and tracking.

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