We are delighted to welcome Bill Boorman, Founder of #Truevents. Recruiter Trainer.Social Recruiting Implementation guy and Key Note Speaker in the first of his guest posts on the Tribepad blog.
Community or Network, where do you stand?
I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the last year to the real difference between a talent network and a talent community. Whilst this might appear to be playing semantics, I think it is actually quite important when it comes to your planning. The features you need to put in place for a community or a network are quite different, and it’s worth deciding your purpose from the start.
This is a purely a “Boorman” definition of community, Wikipedia or others might tell you something different, but to me “talent community” means a place or event, on or off line where people are connected by a common interest or purpose. For example, a local community is a group of people connected because they live or are associated with the same physical place. If we consider this then in the context of talent community, it’s a collection of people connected by a common interest or association with a business. This common interest could be that they are employees now, are former employees or alumni, are wannabe employees or just have an interest in the business. They could also be customers or suppliers, there’s a common thread that connects them.
Equally, talent communities can be built around a skill, or an interest in a discipline for instance Java programming. In this type of community, the members might connect to share code, ask for help, and review applications etc., any number of purposes. The people who belong to the community do so because of the shared skill, knowledge or interest, they don’t belong to the community to get a job. The community facilitates networking between members and sharing, providing both the place and the method. Part of what is offered in the community is the opportunity to see and share jobs or employment opportunities, but this aspect is just one of many other features.
A good example of this is the G4S ex-forces community. The shared thread is that members have, or are also members of the armed forces. They have much to share in the transition in to civilian life. This could be by way of advice, direction etc., and at other times it might be for old fashioned camaraderie and support. This community starts with the forum pages, which also signpost jobs for ex-military personnel as a secondary function.
People have a definite need to belong to something, whether it’s a congregation (where the connecting thread is a shared belief in a religion), a political party, a sports team, a fan club etc. It’s easy to see the connecting thread here, but communities plug in to this need to hang out with “people like us.” The challenge in taking a talent community approach to hiring is finding the thread to bind the people together to the point where it is self-sustaining and self-regulating. The community creates its own direction and purposes, with responsibility shared by the members. The hosts might help facilitate this, but all members of the community can speak together directly, communicate and collaborate. It’s hard work for the hosts, and requires hands off, facultative approach. It can be a great source of hire ultimately, but many organizations do not have the time, patience or skill to build the community.
What these hiring organisations actually want is closer to what I would define as a talent network. Let’s consider what makes a network different to a community. In my opinion, a network shares the purpose of communication. This communication is two way, but up and down rather than being 360. As talent networks have developed as a viable and low maintenance alternative to the talent community approach, it has become clear that when most businesses talk community, they actually mean network.
A typical network is built on segmenting members profiles in to lists by skill, location etc., giving members a relevant method and point of content should they need it, and sending them relevant content and opportunities. The key word with any network is relevance. It is relevance that makes the difference between spam and useful communication, and it is relevance that stops people reaching for the “block” button.
A network typically has a low touch opt in, with detailed filtering. This can be by questioning, or more commonly these days, applying the information with social profiling from sources like LinkedIn. This approach also enables profiles to be real time rather than current at date of submission.
Typically, members sign up to be kept in touch with jobs and content that is relevant to them. The network has pretty much a single and defined purpose, being about jobs, careers or employer brand. Messaging is mostly one way, typically through e-mail with a call to action and the opportunity to engage if that is the desired action. Networks are low maintenance on both sides of the relationship, and only require communication when there is real purpose to connecting.
The decision of whether to take a community or network approach should really be determined by purpose, objective, need, resource and available time, and this will dictate what technology you integrate at the start of any longer term recruiting project.