3 Reasons Talent Communities are NOT the Future of Employment

I know a lot of really smart, brilliant people who espouse that Talent Communities are the second coming of Christ, in regards to employment and recruiting.  Business Week even had a recent article where they called “Talent Hives” (I guess their version of “Talent Communities” – the future of employment – which means this concept is now hitting main stream and soon you’ll see June the HR Manager down at the local Tool & Die Shop trying to set up her talent community.  Here’s more from Business Week:

“These are communities of people interested in an employer (whether because they’re job hunting themselves, or just curious, or because they’re fans of the product or service the organization produces) and willing to be in two-way touch with that employer over time. (For the simplest example of a Talent Hive, think of a Facebook (FB) company page or a LinkedIn (LNKD) group). Talent Hives are popular because they’re easy to set up, and because the two-way and group communication makes it easy for companies to learn more about potential job applicants (including people who are currently working for their competitors) even when they don’t have open positions.”

Great theoretical concept.  But I think theory and practice don’t always align because the real world steps in an kicks it in and kicks them both to the curb.  Here’s 3 reasons I don’t see Talent Communities as the Future of Employment:

1. Reality – Talent Communities are established by you and ran by you (the HR/Recruitment Dept.) – that’s means you need to deliver content, sometimes unique, definitely engaging. Very few people, in HR worlds, have the skill/ability to do this.  You can shop this out, at a cost – a cost of not only money but also authenticity – there goes that community feel.  And, by the way, you’re doing this for a benefit you may, or may not, get in the future when you have an opening you believe you might have.  How many organizations are really going to do this long term? It’s a small percentage, congregated into smaller specialty industries – with really big budgets – to make it sustainable.

2. Logistics – Talent Communities assume “Talent” – that talented people you would want to hire will voluntarily want to join your content driven community and interact.  That’s a huge assumption! Gigantic!  First, you (yes, you – who else will do it) needs to go out and find the great talent that you someday want to work at your company and engage them to be apart of your community.  I don’t know about you – but 99.9% of the HR/Talent Pros I know don’t have the capacity to make this happen – either through time or skill.

3. WIFM (What’s In It For Me) – Talent Communities don’t deliver enough WIFM.  Talented people get this – they are fooled by your “Community” which isn’t really a community but a holding pen for potential future candidates and you have to know they know this. This means someone who ops into your community gets the deal – I want to work at your place – so I’m going to engage with you – and you will engage with me – and one day you’ll hire me – and you’ll use that number to justify how great Talent Communities are so I can keep this job as Talent Community Manager and justify my $50K+ salary.  How’s that work for you?

Let’s face it – I don’t know much – but I think I know a little about recruitment – and to me Talent Communities seem to be a lot of smoke and mirrors and well it’s easier/safer than just picking up the phone and finding/calling the talent you want (which is dirty and evil for some reason).  I know some folks have some great examples of Talent Communities working – good for them – I hope they keep working for them.  I guess this message goes out to the HR majority – it isn’t as easy as it might sound.  Before jumping in with both feet – make sure it’s right for you.

6 thoughts on “3 Reasons Talent Communities are NOT the Future of Employment

  1. Steve,

    My experience in organizations tells me not every great concept is doable – especially when “execution” is the sticking point. I’m not saying Talent Communities can’t work – I’m saying “They are not the savior of Recruiting” as some are trying to lead us to believe. You will find a minority that can make this work for them – great! But for the average rank and file HR/Talent Pro – this isn’t a silver bullet (IMHO).

    Thanks for the comments –

  2. I haven’t read the articles you cite and I agree with your concerns but if done properly it is hugely powerful. Those concerns are based on the assumption the business can’t/won’t take ownership of this or HR can’t/won’t advise them on why they need to do so.

    I have a manager in my organization that runs a 12000 person networking group in LinkedIN. There are very few recruiters and its primarily used for technical discussion among the group members. We are at the very early stages of paying attention to discussion with the lens of finding high potential candidates. They key to doing it very low key and by the business, not recruiting/HR. That has not generated hires that I can attribute to it but the behavior leading up to desire to do that has driven the highest referral rate in the business for a “talent pool” that is amongst to find good people.

    To me, its proof positive that the concept works and execution is the challenge.

  3. These are valid points no doubt, and you are absolutely right in pointing out that the vast majority of HR functions do not currently possess the skills necessary to lead a community. Unfortunately this post leaps to the conclusion that talent communities cannot be the future of employment simply because historical execution has been poor.

    If innovators abandoned every concept that failed to perform as expected in the early days, you would still be walking barefoot, clubbing your dinner to death and wearing animal pelts for clothing.

    The issues you raise are strategic planning and execution errors, two areas of weakness for many HR functions.

    Talent communities like an employer brand exist whether managed (influenced) or not. Around every organization there is an ecosystem of talent that has expressed or currently expresses an interest to affiliate with the organization. The current pace of change dictates that organizations find a way to better engage and leverage a more fluid workforce. Talent communities implemented strategically provide a method for organizations to unite all of the talent segments that make up the ecosystem. They enable holistic visibility into the interests, skills and availability of talent to an organization.

    Done well, talent communities enable a number of strategic actions that today are quite difficult for organizations to execute, but you are right that executing talent communities well is also a struggle.

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