The Trouble with “Talent Communities”
While in Tulsa last week at #OKHR, I spent some time talking with Jessica Miller-Merrell (1) about the buzz surrounding “Talent Communities.” As we’re still in the ‘honeymoon phase’ with the term, it’s interesting to hear people talk about it like it’s a “new” thing. It’s SEO gold for HR bloggers; and to hear many tell it, it’s the ‘new secret sauce’ to the successful recruitment program recipe. As much as I’m a fan I have to admit… I couldn’t help but giggle a little bit… just like I did when I read Lou Adler’s piece back in October 2011 in ERE where he said he’d seen the wave of the recruiting future. While his article was technically sound; he was off on a couple of things… like the timing & the name.
The trouble with “Talent Communities” is that the very name makes it sound like it’s something new & that’s confusing for many people. The truth is that it’s not…. it’s the same dish digital marketers & recruiting pros have seen before… just being offered in the HR space under a new name & flavor.
A Brief History
Here’s the skinny: ”Talent Communities” are, in essence, the next-gen of the internet forum & social media community. Internet forums first hit the business & educational scene in the 1970s; albeit much less sophisticated. Back in the day, they resembled dynamic mailing lists where you had notes allowing for a preset number of responses that could be added by people on the list. Then, in the mid-90s, thanks in part to what’s known as WW3 – the World Wide Web Consortium – the “web forum” came to pass. This is where we can point to the first evidence of social media “communities” as it became more practically possible to have regular members that came together through a shared interest.
My first social media community was built around a Mommy group & frankly, it was done as a hobby through a local church. I was the mother of two babies & had no idea what I was doing. (2) I thought that if I could chat with other young Moms; I wouldn’t feel quite so lost. And maybe they could give me some idea on how to decorate my house as that gene had definitely not developed. It was 1999 and I had a phpbb with an associated chat room – we had 23 Moms sign up the first month and by end of month six? Our membership had grown through word-of-mouth & I was chatting with just over 60 local Mommies about diaper rash; while realizing we all had cheerios in our Minivans.
A Marketing Application
When I went back to work, I started building more php bulletin boards & forums for multi-level marketing teams. ”Line Leaders,” as I called my clients, saw application for providing a centralized place to rally their teams around. It allowed for constant access to training topics, Q&A areas, promotional announcements… but most importantly? A touch-point. Some charged membership premiums, as well; allowing it to be an income generator for them – but admittedly, those were less popular & required a much higher stream of administrator content before users believed a value-threshold had been reached to where they were comfortable adding content of their own without feeling advantage had been taken.
Bridging the Gap
This? While called something else at that time; was basically the ‘talent community’ we know now – Members were able to invite friends & prospects to learn more about the organizations they were considering joining up with in a much less intrusive manner than the ‘amway-esque house call.’ If they liked what they saw, they could start talking with other members & it helped to build interest/excitement. When they joined – if they joined – they had insta-connections & they didn’t feel so isolated as new recruits often tend to do. They could relate to people who were in similar spaces in their journeys or had already gone through what they were struggling with. Leaders could judge & “pick” who they wanted to spend time with or help to grow their business line.
This “community,” when properly positioned & allowed by the administrators to continue to evolve, served as the platform to do that which we in recruiting do every day with candidates on the 1-on-1 basis:
- Attract ( Forum Creation/User Content)
- Recruit (Share/Inform/Invite)
- Evaluate (For Common Interest/Fit & Ongoing Membership)
- Interact (Welcome New Members, Initiate Conversation, Allow for Content Interaction)
- Retain (Continue to Add New Content, New Members, & Engage with User-Posted Content)
There was a sixth step in ‘refer’ that was similar to the “ERP” in companies today; except done by community members instead of employees. This restarted the cycle & continual movement throughout those points created the sustainable community.
Recruiters began ‘sourcing’ within communities and starting communities of their own in the early 2000s; and by 2004, the first book on the subject had been written and forums were created around job class, company, etc. The reasons behind it were likely different for each recruiter & company; I’ll concede that my first few boards made as a recruiter were done for much the same reason as my very first ‘community forum’ was created: I wanted to learn and build relationships. But then again, so was the one that Craig Fisher made for #TalentNet through his Twitter Community – to give recruiters the opportunity to gather around the common interest of social media in recruiting.
See the theme? Look, I’ll be the first to admit that building a sustainable community isn’t easy – it takes heavy strategy w/ a lot of planning, work, and patience. You’re guaranteed to want to throw your hands up in frustration before you ultimately see success; but when you do you can take solace in the fact that you’re not the first… because it’s been done before.
(1) and quite a few others
(2) with parenting or community building, frankly