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

Aug 15, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

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 part of a series called Opinion.
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