Written by Omowale Casselle
Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call (Wikipedia). In theory, the internet should be a great enabler of being able to put a call for talent out to a community and in return receive a great group of qualified candidates that meet the needs of your organization. In reality, this is much easier said than done.
There are great examples of communities that rely on crowdsourced principles:
1. Threadless is a community-centered online apparel store. Members of the Threadless community submit t-shirt designs online; the designs are then put to a public vote. A small percentage of submitted designs are selected for printing and sold through an online store. Creators of the winning designs receive a prize of cash and store credit.
2. Local Motors is an open source automobile company. They co-create vehicles with their community of auto designers, engineers, enthusiasts and customers.
3. InnoCentive is an “open innovation” company that takes research and development problems in a broad range of domains such as engineering, computer science, math, chemistry, life sciences, physical sciences and business and frames them as “challenge problems” for anyone to solve them. It gives cash awards for the best solutions to solvers who meet the challenge criteria
From t-shirt design to automobile to R&D, these communities have shown that crowdsourcing can be utilized in a wide variety of fields for both very simple and extremely complex problems. So, what are these companies doing that is enabling them to leverage a large group of people to develop creative solutions to difficult problems?
In each of these crowdsourced communities, there is some type of reward that is offered to those who develop a winning solution to the problem. Whether it is the most creative t-shirt or a well-designed, all-terrain defense vehicle, those who come out on top receive a clearly designed reward for their efforts. As a result, each person who takes part in the challenge is focused on doing their best work so that they might be selected for the reward. The company also knows that because so many people have submitted their work that the quality of those submissions which bubble to the top should be pretty fantastic. One of the clearest ways to align incentives within the recruiting environment is to offer a referral bonus. If someone within your community connects you with the right person, let them know that you’ll pay them a nice reward. Everyone implicitly understands that every candidate referred will not necessarily be the right fit. But, for the one that is, there will be a great reward for the individual that helped you connect with him/her.
Multiple Opportunities to Get Involved
While there are plenty of people who are focused on winning the big reward, there are an equal number of participants supporting the community along the way. From the members who vote on the submissions to those who ultimately purchase the product, these communities excel at making everyone feel like they have an important role to play. In social media and social networking, most of your community is not necessarily going to have a direct connection with the right candidate. But, with careful management of your community, they may be willing to share your hiring need through a status update on Facebook or a retweet on Twitter. By helping spread the word and thanking people for their participation in achieving your ultimate goal, you create the type of environment in which many people want to be a part of.
Clearly Defined Problems
In order to develop a meaningful solution, the problem must be well understood. So, these communities place a heavy emphasis on letting you know upfront what they are looking for. There is then the expectation that the creativity of the individual, supported by the broader community, will take over to find a path from the problem definition to an elegant solution that will be appreciated by many. In recruiting, this is no different. If you want to get the right slate of qualified candidates, it is important to properly define what you are seeking in terms of experience, skills, and expected roles/responsibilities. By getting this right, you give the community a much better opportunity of finding the right person.
Although social media and social networking have helped digitally bridge the gap among internet users locally and globally, many community building efforts are challenged to truly reap the benefits. While there is still a way to go before we see a scalable, repeatable, crowdsourced recruiting solution, key elements can be incorporated into individual communities being created on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to increase the participation and ultimate results achieved. What ways has your organization sought to leverage your community to meet your hiring needs?