The Talent Community Conundrum

Posted by | March 06, 2012 | Talent Communities | 21 Comments

First it was social recruiting, then it was mobile recruiting.

Now talent communities are apparently the latest cure for all of your talent troubles.

One the surface, the talent community concept seems like a brilliant “no brainer.”

However, like Socrates, I believe there is value in questioning everything. So when I start seeing  a strong buzz about just about anything, I immediately hit it with a dose of healthy skepticism and start asking some tough questions.

I’m well aware that there are talent acquisition leaders out there right now that are saying, “What we really need is a talent community,” primarily because of the buzz the concept has been building over the past year or so. I worry that these same people are placing blind faith into the talent community concept out of the hope that it will help them in some significant manner with their talent acquisition challenges.

When I attended a webinar on building sustainable talent communities the other day, I felt it raised more questions than it provided answers. Because I know I can’t be the only person wondering about the validity of the talent community concept, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you my thoughts and questions.

What is a Talent Community?

One of the fun things about highly buzzed-about concepts like talent communities is that they’re actually hard to define concisely. If you ask 10 people about what they think a talent community is, you will likely get 10 different answers.

I’ll share two of the better definitions I could find with you.

This first one comes from Marvin Smith:

  • “A talent community is a segmented audience of targeted talent that can meet the current and future hiring needs and maps to an organization’s workforce plan.”

The second comes from Stephanie Lloyd:

  • “A talent community is an opt-in, interactive forum where individuals with particular skill sets and interests can interact in a personal and meaningful way with corporate HR and company management in order to better understand – and be a part of – the firm and all that it has to offer from an employment perspective.”

There are many more definitions, and while they all vary to some extent, they do for the most part agree than a talent community is not a database of people, and your ATS doesn’t qualify.

Also, most people tend to agree that a defining characteristic of a talent community is that interaction among members is key.

The Wikipedia entry on “talent community” starts off  with “A talent community is a method of social recruiting…,” then it rambles a bit about 2-way communication and engagement, and claims the following as the benefits of talent communities:

  1. Qualified candidates at a recruiter’s fingertips
  2. Less dependence on ineffective job boards
  3. Less money spent on job advertisements
  4. Increased interaction with potential candidates
  5. Better quality of applicants to job openings
  6. Creation of a talent pipeline for future job openings
  7. Attraction of passive candidates

Sounds great, right?

I mean, after seeing that, who wouldn’t want to build a talent community?

Challenges to the Talent Community Concept

We get a healthy reality check when we explore the “Talk” page associated with the talent community entry on Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

  • “This page seems to be based on several assumptions…There is no description of what the author actually means by “talent community” as opposed to any other type of community or social group. I tried to edit it to be more coherent but couldn’t work out what they meant in the first placeAs such, this article seems to be referring to a “talent community” as a tool for communication for the purposes of recruitment, possibly a software platform or other type of system. This leads me to inquire whether the original author has created such a platform or system and is using Wikipedia as a channel for advertorial content. The “Description” sub-section in particular is evidence of this. In addition, the emotional nature of the response to the article’s proposed deletion in this talk section supports the idea that it is advertorial and biased, as does the fact that the two external links are to the website of a consultant and speaker in the recruitment field. I dispute the article’s notability because if it was edited to remove bias and inconsistencies, it would basically be a duplication of parts of the main “Community” or “Outline of community” articles.”

Well said, in my humble opinion, and it echoes many of my same concerns and issues that I have with most that is written and spoken about when it comes to the concept of talent communities.

What I love about Wikipedia is that it’s similar to the scientific community – if you make a claim, you had better be able to back it up with unbiased facts or else you will be called out on it.

Lets go back to the claimed benefits of talent communities, because I’d like to personally challenge ALL of the following:

  1. Qualified candidates at a recruiter’s fingertips
  2. Less dependence on ineffective job boards
  3. Less money spent on job advertisements
  4. Increased interaction with potential candidates
  5. Better quality of applicants to job openings
  6. Creation of a talent pipeline for future job openings
  7. Attraction of passive candidates

I would like for someone to show me real data that proves any of the above claims.

I don’t believe that talent communities offer companies qualified candidates at a recruiter’s fingertips, any more so than other proven methods of sourcing and recruitment.

While I can see how a really good talent community could theoretically reduce dependence upon job boards, why is using job boards a bad thing, and who says they are “ineffective?”

The most recent CareerXRoads Source of Hire Report showed that job boards are still pretty effective, weighing in at the #2 spot.

 

 

By the way, I thought job boards were supposed to die over 10 years ago.

I guess no one told them, nor did anyone tell job seekers.

Talent Communities and Applicant Quality

I’d love to see any data that clearly shows that talent communities increase applicant quality.

As I’ve written many times before, you don’t have any control over who applies to any job at any company.

Similarly, a talent community doesn’t give you any magical ability to control who comes in and starts to participate. so who can argue that talent communities attracts and produce better candidates and applicants?

The first question I asked myself when I was first exposed to the talent community concept was what are the chances that a talent community will attract the best talent?

I think that’s  perhaps the most critical question to ask of any sourcing or recruiting strategy or tactic.

I believe the data that has yet to be collected and/or presented would show that talent communities are made up of a normal distribution of people.

It’s basic statistics.

Because there is no control over who joins and participates in a talent community, most talent communities would be characterized by a random sample. That means that talent communities will typically be a normal distribution of people (the classic “bell curve”), which means they will have a large percentage of average folks (B and C players), and a small percentage of “top talent.”

Without a mechanism to effectively and reliably pre-screen who joins a talent community, any claims that talent communities produce better candidates or applicants are baseless.

Talent Communities Attract Active Candidates

I found the claim that talent communities would attract passive candidates to be particularly interesting.

If you take a look at this infographic on the differences between a talent pool and a talent community, you will notice the talent community path starts with someone being interested in an employer’s brand.

Arguably, the vast majority of people who become interested in an employer’s brand (aside from liking their products) become so because they would consider working for that company. Passive job seekers and people who aren’t looking at all would not likely take action to join another employer’s talent community.

Sorry.

That means the majority of the people who join and participate in a talent community will be active job seekers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – just please don’t make claims that talent communities attract passive candidates until you have the data to back them up.

Talent Community Turnover

Gareth Jones wrote a spot-on piece about the myth of the talent community – I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

Gareth astutely points out that “Job seeking is an event, not an interest,” and that fact alone will render many corporate branded talent communities into pit stops along the career highway, frequented mostly by transients and passers-by.

My guess is that isn’t how most companies would like to view their talent communities, but it is an accurate reality.

Talent community populations are destined to have a high turnover rate, because once the active and casual job seekers actually find their next position, the engagement will drop off.

As such, long term engagement in corporate branded talent communities is intrinsically limited.

Is the value of a talent community diminished when the majority of the members are constantly turning over?

Too Many Talent Communities?

Have you ever wondered about how many talent communities that the people you are looking to identify, attract and perhaps hire at some point can possibly belong to?

Although some hiring managers have a Ptolemaic view that the talent universe revolves around the company they work for, the people you’re looking to attract and hire have lots of choices, and your competitors and other companies are vying for the same talent you are.

Your talent community is one of many that the talent you so covet can chose from. As such, the question must be asked – how many talent communities can a person realistically belong to?

How about actually participate in?

Or better yet, actually want to belong to and participate in?

Organic vs. Artificial Talent Communities

Natural talent communities – not those whose primary purpose is to serve as a virtual water hole for talent – already exist. Hence the argument made by Sarah against the talent community entry on Wikipedia - that without the obvious bias to the text, it would basically be a duplication of parts of the main Community or Outline of Community entries on Wikipedia.

The addition of “talent” to the word “community” seems to automatically denote that the main or dual purpose of the community is for recruiting. If you take the recruiting aspect away from the intent of any “talent” community, it simply becomes a community.

A “community” is defined as “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.” One of the other definitions is “a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society.”

Natural or organic talent communities already exist on LinkedIn, Facebook, Github, Ning, and many other sites. My use of “talent” here is to distinguish them as professional groups – people who share similar work-related interests and experience (Java, supply chain management, mobile app development, Six Sigma, project management, etc.).

Natural/organic talent communities are typically created by actual members of the community – not recruiters or HR professionals, nor were the communities created with recruitment as one of the main purposes.

Artificial talent communities are those that are created by recruiters or anyone with the main or dual purpose of recruitment.

I don’t use “artificial” to insinuate any negative connotation. I use “artificial” simply as a reflection of the fact that the community was not created solely to bring together a body of persons with common and professional interests and facilitate interaction among  them.

Think about natural and created diamonds. Regardless of how they were made, they’re diamonds – it’s just a matter of how they were formed and for what purpose.

Which has greater value?

Do You Need to Create a Talent Community?

Do you really need to create a talent community?

Are you having trouble finding and attracting the talent you need?

What do you think that a talent community will accomplish for you that all of the other options you have at your disposal won’t do?

If you’re looking to identify people that are passionate about and interested in what they do for a living, that’s great – but is creating a talent community the best and most effective method of doing so?

Besides, natural or organic talent communities may in fact already exist for the types of people you are looking to hire.

If they don’t, you could go about creating one.

However, if you do – would you brand it with your company?

A corporate branded talent community attracts active job seekers – people who have an interest in learning more about a potential employer and will take action to do so.

However, to the passive or non-job seeker, any corporate branded site is like a watering hole during the drought season with crocodiles in the water and lions lying in wait in the brush.

It doesn’t take much Internet research to find people complaining about the fact that recruiters “ruin” organic talent communities. If you poke around many LinkedIn and Facebook groups for any relatively in-demand skillset, you’ll likely find more recruiters than non-recruiters, spamming jobs and soliciting referrals with aplomb.

It’s one thing if you’re going to claim that your employer’s micro site or Facebook page is a talent community (I’d argue they really aren’t, but that’s another discussion), however, if you’re going to try and create a talent community of a specific group of professionals, I’d recommend to not brand it so that it’s less artificial and disingenuous.

In that talent community webinar I recently attended, I recalled a moment when the presenters said, “Remember – it’s not about you, it’s about them.”

Umm…not really.

It is about you, because you’re not creating a talent community out of the kindness of your heart or out of sheer altruism – the main reason you’re creating it is to attract talent that you can recruit.

Just be honest and upfront and don’t try to fool anybody, including yourself.

Of course, just because you try to create a talent community, it doesn’t mean anyone will come.

Final Thoughts

Please don’t construe any of the above to mean that I don’t see any value in the talent community concept.

My main intent is to introduce a healthy dose of questioning to the concept and the claims of talent communities, because I have yet to see any of the claims to be backed up with data, and I don’t want people to be blinded by “bright shiny object syndrome.”

I’m a fan of natural or organic talent communities, and I don’t believe that attempts to artificially create them reduces “dependence” upon job boards, increases the quality of applicants, creates a talent pipeline, or attracts passive candidates.

I’d love to see data that shows me otherwise – and you should demand it before buying into the concept of building a talent community.

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About Glen Cathey

Glen Cathey is a sourcing and recruiting thought leader with over 16 years of experience working in large staffing agency and global RPO environments (>1,000 recruiters and nearly 100,000 hires annually). Starting out his career as a top producing recruiter, he quickly advanced into senior management roles and now currently serves as the SVP of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Innovation for Kforce, working out of their renowned National Recruiting Center with over 300 recruiters. Often requested to speak on sourcing and recruiting best practices, trends and strategies, Glen has traveled internationally to present at many talent acquisition conferences (5X LinkedIn Talent Connect - U.S. '10, '11, '12, Toronto '12, London '12, 2X Australasian Talent Conference - Sydney & Melbourne '11, '12, 6X SourceCon, 2X TruLondon, 2X HCI) and is regularly requested to present to companies (e.g., PwC, Deloitte, Intel, Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup, etc.). This blog is his personal passion and does not represent the views or opinions of anyone other than himself.

  • http://twitter.com/JobBoardDoctor Jeff Dickey-Chasins

    Great post, Glen. You’ve gotten down in words what has been swirling around my head since I first listened to someone trying to describe a talent community to me. I believe my initial reaction was, “huh?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/dkerken Doug Kerken

    Great post here Glen.  The phrase Talent Community in itself is so watered down that nobody exactly knows what it is or is supposed to do.  For high turnover and high volume jobs, there’s no question that it’s a great idea to have buckets of candidates at the ready.  But the “Best Talent” out there is at work, managing, engineering, building, developing, coding, or selling whatever it is they do.  These A-players aren’t really going to join Talent Communities, they want to be recruited the old fashioned way.  Google, Facebook, and the cool phones they’re carrying create much more opportunity for engagement than a giant database of e-mail addresses ever will.  I know it’s not as sexy a term but if the word community was replaced with a better word like viewers, or subscribers, or audience, it may make it a little easier on everyone. 

  • http://twitter.com/jubal_ince Jubal Ince

    You got it Glen, talent communities are just another piece of the puzzle.  Just like it helps to have a large Twitter following or the ability to run direct mail campaigns out of your ATS, a readily-engagable talent community is a nice arrow to have in your quiver.  

    The best recruiters have always been those that can quickly find candidates by using multiple sources.  Now we just have more sources to choose from.  

    Good stuff, thanks.

  • Wallace Fajardo

    I agree that the term”talent communities” is too vague. Yes, these “communities” exist, but I have found that you are never more than a few people/connections away from accessing a core group of consultants.  The trick is becoming an active member of that community, which should be made easier if you have already established a good relationship with it’s “members.”  Strange, this seems to reflect the same definition I have for recruiting… ;)

  • http://twitter.com/MikeOwcarz Mike Owcarz

    Why would an “A” Player Join a Talent Community?  -just noticed my man Doug was all over this q.

  • Brent Pearson

    Hey Glen
    I’m in violent agreement with you.
    Talent Communities sound great in theory.
    I actually believe that building a talent community WILL deliver the benefits listed in your article.  

    However I believe the fundamental question is “At What Cost”?

    If you throw a lot of resources about building communities, sure it will help, but if you do an objective cost benefit analysis of talent communities as a source, I think they are going to come up as a very very expensive sourcing approach.

    Brent

  • http://www.upwardly.me/ KC

    Hi Glen
    You raise most of the issues that the moniker “community” causes…when viewed through the lens of Social Communities (villages, college campuses, neighborhoods, teams, etc.) the term is a poor choice when used for “talent.”  Most of your questions about the benefits of TC’s are predicated on the act of someone “joining” out of personal motivation or interest – actively job seeking for example…under this premise most of the points you make seem to make sense…

    When you change the premise from open enrollment to targeted cultivation of similarly functional group members, the promise of TC’s become realized and the points in your post become moot…  Marvin Smith (a TC pioneer) is clear on this point and his advocacy of the concept is the correct approach.  Our firm has been building talent groups for 10 years and I can assure you that when you cultivate targeted members instead of hoping someone stops by for a few weeks – most of the results mentioned in your Wikipedia example actually do come to pass.

    Many of the comments here question “A Player” involvement.  The reality is that people who reside in the top 20% are the only ones that actually work on their careers – they’re the ones who attend industry conferences for example.  They’re consistently seeking greater challenges and absolutely want to keep tabs on the competitive companies in their geographic area that could offer these future challenges and opportunities.  (more on this: http://t.co/92S2RoGh).

    Another problem with the “community” term is that the act of chatting away with another talent group member is a huge marketplace misconception.  The reality is exactly the opposite since most high achievers are competitive, but they do want to engage with an exec or manager from the company that is aligned with the group so they can learn more about the company, the leaders and what it’s really like to work there… 

    Most importantly, if you focus group membership on the Top 20% from a talent perspective (we challenge members to show how good they are by taking assessments), the quality of hire goes through the roof (we have maintained a consistent 40% hire to candidate submitted ratio for 8 straight years using this approach).  By “cultivating the best” and positioning them for “short lists” aligned directly to company management – speed to hire is at the fingertips, group development costs are less than one typical search fee, and hire quality is off the charts (the concept works best when a company has consistently recurring functional needs…) . 

    Not plugging our business here – just trying to demonstrate that viewed through a different prism talent groups can provide a huge impact… Excellent “thought provoking” post Glen!
    K.C.

  • http://twitter.com/Wise_Man_Say Wise Man Say

    Hi Glen, 

    As usual, a great post. And as usual, I have a rebuttal. Your post deserves a better response than the one I can produce right now, so I will do so with a more considered effort in my blog next week. However, for the time being, please take this answer as a sketch of the case I will try to make. It is point by point, and we don’t always disagree. 

    1, Talent Communities & Applicant Quality

    You make the assertion that a lack of formal control necessarily leads to average talent within a community, based on the logic that no gate, means equal access. This seems to make sense – everyone and anyone can get in. But you make the mistake in assuming that they would try to get in in the first place. A lack of formal security does not necessarily  mean that online communities become representative sample of the whole population because there are other factors – social factors – that can segment the population and produce a more ‘talented’ community than average. One of those factors, is quite simply, the motivation to do so.

    By and large, people who are motivated to seek out, join and contribute to communities might be considered above the median average of the population – they have a passionate interest in what they do; it is not a radical inference to think that those with passion for their work, may have the discipline to have also developed exceptional skills for that work. You will forgive me if I use your own example to illustrate the point but it’s relevant. Most recruiters do not go to SourceCon; those who do go, do not represent the average recruiter, but rather an elite who are prepared to invest time and money to attend the event. I infer from that, that most SourceCon members are significantly more skilled than average. And if I were hiring a recruiter, I’d try and hire from the delegates of SourceCon first, before going anywhere else. There is no security at the door, but the nature of the club itself dictates only those with passion would ever attend. That provides it’s own quality control. 

    2. Talent Communities and Active Candidates

    We need new language to describe what we mean by community. I believe (and I believe you share this view) that there is a big difference between Employer Branded Communities and Talent or Skill Communities. It does us all a disservice to confuse these two, which I’m afraid I think you do. For the most part, all of your criticisms of the concept of community apply, but only to the former; not to the latter. On the issue of Active vs Passive candidates, this confusion produces the erroneous assertion that communities do not necessarily attract passive candidates – something which applies only to Employer Branded Communities, and not at all to Talent or Skill communities. Again using the above Sourcecon example above, Talent or Skill based communities come together for other purposes other than job search and therefore can be assumed to contain a large percentage of ‘passive’ candidates. The purpose of that community was to get better at job they were already doing, and not to look for jobs they want to be doing. 

    3. Talent Community Turnover

    I’m afraid to say Gareth Jones is correct

    4. Too many Talent communities

    True – both for Employer Branded Communities and also for Talent or Skill Communities. 

    5. Organic vs Artificial

    This is another critical distinction on Community which we need to make and I’m glad you made it. Again, you’re right, but not without caveat. Yes, you cannot create a Talent community, but you can certainly cultivate one, particularly in Talent or Skills communities which have, for some reason, been slow to get online and social. 

    Take for example, Simon Lewis on UK Marketing Lounge on LinkedIn. Simon is a recruiter – it’s plain on his profile and throughout his biography. However, his carefully curated and securitized LinkedIn group now has 35,000 members, with the vast majority being Marketing professionals and a very low incidence of recruiter parasitization. Is it an ‘Artificial’ community, in the sense that it was created by a guy with an agenda? Yes it was. But it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s also on the agenda of members of any community to sometimes look for a job. So with judicious community management, outstanding curation of content and a heavily policed front door, Simon was able to cultivate his Talent community and indeed, become a valued and respected member of it. This is a recruiter who does not need to do an X-ray search any time soon, if ever again at all.  

    6. Do You Need to Create A Talent Community

    The answer depends on what kind of recruiter you are. As a Master Sourcer, you probably have the skill set to be very efficient at JIT recruitment. However, a heavily networked individual in a vertical skills community (see Simon above) is certainly better off building a talent community. It takes time, but so does learning how to do Boolean sourcing, or training your mind to work with logicians discipline that is key to being an effective Sourcer with HCIR.

    Let’s rewind back a few decades before you or I ever got into recruitment, to a time when headhunters were actually in-industry professionals who would step across the line to become recruiters for the job they once did. They were effective recruiters because of their network – old word for community – not because of JIT. In the post twitter, post social era, we will see the return of this type of recruiter – not the sales guy who dominated the recruitment 1.0 (that’d be me), not the Sourcer who tried to add value in 1.0 (that’d be you) – but the in-industry professional that has social proof within his community and has an enormous network reach through being a manager or organizer of that community. 

    Final Thoughts

    So where are we with Community? 
    +We need to complicate our language to better distinguish between types of Community; +We need to understand that agenda’s & gates are important, but not decisive in determining effectiveness
    + We need to be clear that the concept is here to stay, but will only work for a certain type of recruiter – almost certainly an ex industry professional or a highly focused recruiter in an industry vertical.

    I’m sure I’ve bored everyone to tears by now, but to those that made it through, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts

    Best wishes

    Hung

  • http://twitter.com/NWRA Northwest Recruiters

    #multilogue

    define:

    A conversation described as many-to-many. The term is commonly used to describe the nature of conversations and interactions using social media and collaborative tools, such as social networking, online video, widgets for syndication, wikis, message boards, forums, etcen.wiktionary.org/wiki/multilogueare the many conversations happening at one time within a chatroom as well as the overall conversation of all who are present.neuage.org/se/phd/G.htm

  • http://www.upwardly.me/ KC

    Ahh… I see why you possess the Wise Man Say avatar…well said!

    I think that you articulate the difference between EB Communities and Skill Communities in a way that everyone who has an interest in TC’s should read.  I believe that market misconception of this concept is the reason that Talent Communities are still somewhat controversial – with their validity questioned such as Glen has done in his post…

    In addition, artificial is the absolute wrong term to use for a company “manufactured” community for hiring purposes as there is nothing artificial about them at all…  From the member’s perspective, these communities are for learning more about a specific company, engaging mgmt to explore fit and to cultivate over time for possibility of future employment.  For the company, the Neighborhood is best suited for cultivating talent from the highest echelon of achievement in a specific functional area.  The objective is to cultivate top performing competitive company employees as members of a Short List that can be tapped into as needed for hiring.  Not too much artificial about that…

    The last point I will add is disagreement with Gareth Jones.  Gareth says job seeking is an event not an interest, and this is correct for communities created using Jobs2Web, BNT,  FB or LI Groups made up specifically of active job seekers or those that have joined to get a discount or coupon…  These types of members are actually a drain on a company’s resources with little ROI whatsoever in terms of the number of quality hires…  These member’s motivation are all in the wrong place for an effective TC and provides no more value than a Job Board offers in collecting resumes.  

    The motivation to maintain a potential long term community interest is held by members who proactively work at their Professional Development – in the U.S. its about 5% of the workforce.  We as an industry have treated job seekers so badly for so many decades that for those under 35 the term “career’ is something that is shunned along with the activity that goes with it…in essence 95% of the workforce have become Transactional Career Consumers.  After years of cultivating talent of all types, we’ve learned that the 5% of Proactive Career Consumers can be expanded with effort to include the Top 20% Performers.  Obviously the key is being able to separate them out from the pack and recruit them to be members of our communities…but for us that’s a whole lot easier than recruiting them to be candidates for a specific role

    So if you target only high achievers for Talent Community membership, if done well your community can actually be a vibrant group of people that will stay engaged for a very long time and provide an excellent pool of talent to hire from…

  • http://twitter.com/BillBoorman Bill Boorman

    Glen,
    Any approach has its place, and it is no one size fits all solution, it really depends on need. If you want some hard data on a talent community, look at G4S and connect with  at Tribepad, who have some convincing numbers. I’ve also been getting good results from StackOverflow which I would argue is the perfect talent community in that it is built for programmers and has  360 degree communication with no company owner. Might be closer to a skills network. BraveNewTalent are doing some great stuff on this linking candidates and employers by skill
    While it might sound like semantics, I think the talent network is what most companies really want. look at AT&T and Carrie Corbin for the best example and data on this. its not a community, but recruiters can talk to candidates at relevant times, and vice a versa, without the need to hang around all the time.Theres also need by some businesses for a purely JIT approach when the need arises.
    It is about need and approach, and anyone who evangelises one solution without knowing the need is an idiot.
    Bill

  • http://twitter.com/Jerry_Albright Jerry Albright

    Great piece Glen.  Nice to see someone expand on my “Talent Communities are B.S.” mantra.  I think from now on – I will use this as the majority of my argument.

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Bryan M. Wilson

    I know its an over simplification, but “talent communities” are just a different form of permission marketing. Sure there are different tools we use, and different things we track. The end goal is more or less the same however. Find people interested in a specific topic. Provide a platform from which to connect yourself or organization with those people. Provide those people with the relevant content they requested. Encourage interaction and get to know those people over time.

    I for one think building community is great and “organic” communities provide much better access to talent than “artificial” communities. Mostly because the core contributors to the community are the talent themselves. These communities provide more value to the community as a whole instead of one sole purpose of developing talent for a single company.

    Of course if you build a real community of value like this, the REWARD can be the ability to recruit from this pool of people because you have earned the right to do so.

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  • http://twitter.com/talentcommunity Marvin Smith

    Well, you have really stirred things
    up this time.  Thanks for your great (and
    challenging) ideas.  I appreciate you using
    your platform for this topic.   It is clear that your remarks have encouraged
    several well thought out responses by some bright thinkers. 

     

    I am not certain that the Wikipedia entry on
    “talent community” captures all the real value of talent communities, but for
    the sake of this conversation, I will keep my remarks in the context you laid
    out.  I appreciate (& share) your
    love for data and metrics. 

     

    One great resource that has not been mentioned; that is the work
    of Heather Tinguely (@heathertinguely) at Microsoft.  Last year, in a blog post, I
    highlighted some of Heather’s work which was presented at a Social
    Recruiting Summit summarizing the
    200+ online staffing communities at Microsoft.  She made a couple of points that are relevant
    to your discussion; Heather’s findings suggest that “greater engagement is
    better;” that community members seek the “human” element; and that a group
    needs to be “large enough to have a quality dialogue.” And she offered one
    solid piece of advice—“don’t create communities on what you need, create groups
    based on the interests of your target audience.”

     

    I agree with Heather that we can only
    create community where the target audience perceives some value from the
    relationship.  To be transparent, I draw
    from marketing principles and disciplines, not from sourcing/recruiting when it
    comes to building communities;  secondly
    I am reacting to this conversation, based on my experience with talent
    communities; and finally, I have not seen the ultimate talent community
    solution, but remain optimistic that the progress to date is encouraging and
    suggests many possibilities

     

    One of the reasons that I believe in
    community is that it meets a core marketing principle head on—your message
    needs to be consistent because your audience is always changing.  A community is well suited for an
    organization to message a specific target audience.  And when applied to talent, our community is
    always in flux from active to passive and back to active again.  If we want our organization to be top of mind
    when a person is considering a job change, communities of talent can
    effectively accomplish that task. 
    Personally, I am not concerned whether a prospect is active or passive,
    just that they are well-qualified and interested in exploring our opportunity.

     

     

    Another reason that I believe in
    community is that it is a vehicle that we can bring real value to a target
    audience.  When we create an opportunity
    for community around an affinity or a profession or a brand, we can build trust
    and value to a talent segment.  The key
    is obviously to provide things that our target audience finds of useful and
    valuable.  Career opportunities, while
    important in the long term, are not the primary value drivers for successful
    community.  In my experience, “profession”
    oriented communities have produced the best results.  And depending on who you invite, these
    profession communities contain many “A” players.  Of course quality attracts quality, so
    teaming with your colleagues in a specific profession to act as magnets to
    attract others enhances success.

     

    The hiring results in our profession
    based communities have been very informative. 
    Typically, we received interest and referrals within 24 hours of letting
    the community know of our openings.  And
    we would begin to see candidate slates within a few days.  And best of all, we made hires from the
    community; particularly when we build those communities around top talent (a
    broader discussion that I will pursue here). 
    In addition to time, there was some cost efficiencies realized in
    decreased advertising expenses.  And with
    this profession based talent pool (aka talent pipelines), we were able to revisit
    the community over a 4 year period and make additional hires.

     

    I recently attended the ERE (www.ere.net) Conference in San Diego and had an
    opportunity to speak with several thought leaders around community building;
    including Maren Hogan (@marenhogan),
    Master Burnett (@masterburnett), Mike Vangel (@mikevangel), Kevin Wheeler (@kwheeler),
    Gerry Crispin (@GerryCrispin), and Doug Berg (@facebook-588614504:disqus 
    Adougberg).  From these conversations, I see 3 different
    types of communities being utilized—profession or affinity based communities;
    brand or company specific communities; or a platform based community like Jobs2Web
    or TalentBrew.  Metrics from these types
    of talent communities are somewhat antidotal with the exception of the
    recruitment marketing platforms where both TMP and Jobs2Web showcase some
    interesting metrics (I will let them share their success with your audience).  My take on communities of talent—progress is
    being made and there are some great success stories.  Perhaps, most importantly, we are learning
    from our experiences and refining the community offerings.

     

    One final thought and perhaps an
    advantage of a community approach; I believe that organizations need to own the
    relationships with the prospects and the data (information) and have some
    influence over the technology used in the process.  The ever changing leading social platforms (Facebook,
    LinkedIn & Twitter) really support this need.  Community offers a solution to this challenge
    particularity if it is built on a platform that has our best interest in
    mind. 

     And best wishes with your new gig.

    Marvin Smith

  • http://www.ascendify.com/ Lauren Smith

    Hi Glen,

    Wow – talent communities are such a controversial topic, often mislabeled and rarely defined clearly. I’m not surprised you have this reaction – I hear it all the time.

    I’m rather biased, but I have to disagree with you :) Two points in particular:

    1. Increase Applicant Quality – If your talent community has a social employee referral feature, you’ll naturally get more referrals… and everyone knows what’s so great about a referral.

    2. Attracting Passive Candidates – A typical ATS apply takes 45-mins. You’re right, no passive candidate would suffer through it. But, if joining a talent community takes less than 60 seconds, why not join?

    Anyway, I’d love to go through all of your points, and try to change your mind. :) We’re working on some really amazing new technology – I’d love to show you, and hear your honest opinion. Let me know if you’re interested.

    You might also check out this guide: http://www.ascendify.com/10-best-practices-for-building-a-talent-community/

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  • Megan Rene Burkett

    I deeply appreciate this response. I agree with many of your arguments and would like to hear more about how your “communities” have progressed since this post/ “where you are with community” now.

  • Pingback: The Talent Community Connundrum | 4sct

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