Emergence of Talent Communities… Not Pools

Some technologies are flashy but don’t really change anything at all in how we think about our lives – cloud computing, for example. Unless you’re in the IT industry, odds are you’ve heard a lot about it, but don’t really understand why you should care. Yet you’re using it right now if you are using Salesforce at work to manage customer contacts and information, or Google Docs to share and collaborate on documents, or Dropbox to share and store files with friends and family.

Consumer technology  is a different matter. We’ve all changed how we live and interact since mobile phones shrank from suitcase size bricks – a weird indulgence or curiosity – to a powerful, minicomputer-strength must-have.  Mobile technology is perhaps the easiest place to observe, both from a business and a consumer point of view, the value of emerging technologies, and the pace of change in technology.

Still, much new technology seems to drive people apart. Even mobile technology can create a barrier to interaction and communication. When was the last time you called instead of texted? Visited in person rather than left a VM? What often happens with technologies is they change the mode of interaction. We lose the one-to-one, person to person interaction and move instead to indirect interactions – transactional, informational or tacit.

But where new technologies have a social component, there’s hope!

Within HR and Recruiting, for example, a new technology is unfolding – one which will, in my opinion, change how people find new careers and how companies recruit. Talent Communities are here, driven by the powerful engines of social media, search, big data, ubiquitous computing and social communities. The term Talent Community is now replacing what many recruiters have traditionally called talent pools. Simply having a database of resumes to sort through to make a talent match has transformed into what we know as social recruiting. Talent Community does not equal a resume database alone – it’s much more than this.

Like all technological waves, Talent Communities can be positive or negative, depending on your attitude, intent, motivation and skill. I see numerous powerful benefits for employer brands and benefits for job seekers. I also see reason for caution if the human touch is not included in a thoughtful way for brands that are in either passive or active hiring mode. I’ve seen a few too many companies fail in this area by automating the candidate experience and not thinking about a real strategy to implement ahead of time. They see social media as the end all be all and just dive in without really thinking. Not a wise idea.

There’s no question Talent Communities are the next wave in talent acquisition. But the technology is immature still, especially for small employer brands which might not be able to field a great community manager and, thus, will rely more heavily on technologies and platforms.

What’s important, from my point of view, is the recognition by employer brands and technology providers that candidates – job seekers active and passive – are looking for a place to belong both in the workplace and in social community, and that requires a human touch at some point and hopefully on a daily basis. Recruiting a relationship driven business after all. Social media has simply given recruiters more options to find and develop relationships with talented people. And talented people are now adopting social media into their daily lives. This will only grow as we move forward.

Social media has made it possible for us to connect using weak bonds, lacking the human touch. Relationships formed via social media tend to occur between people who are sort of like us, or who are friends of friends, or former colleagues, or friends of former colleagues. These are people, and interactions, that are based in part on a shared sense of culture. Personality-culture fit is my topic about which I am passionate, so I have become a strong advocate of social media.

Social media has been working its way into HR. Recruiters and corporate brands are looking for candidates with some history or connections to recommend them, but they want to go beyond their candidate databases and tap into new talent sources (who may or may not be looking) who might be interested in the employer brands they represent. How to do this? Using social media tools, like Talent Communities.

Talent Communities are a way for employer brands to form strong bonds with potential candidates, using a human-mediated but almost purely web-managed set of interactions. Because these interactions come to us via social channels they are trusted – what McKinsey might call tacit interactions. Companies and brand managers create a Talent Community, a virtual community that represents your employer brand. The Talent Community should be managed by a wise human – a community manager, a role the open source software industry relies on – who believes in the brand; attracting new members by relying on social-media sourced recommendations. Voila, a Talent Community arises.

The short story: this is a game-changing use of technology. The long story – like all major technology shifts, some people will be bruised, some brands will be clumsy.

Keep an eye on the topic of Talent Communities. I’ll have more to say at HREvolution – See you in Vegas! Look forward to IRL with everyone. Phew.

It’s the next wave. Get ready to ride. I’m in. Let’s do this.

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