Talent community: It’s the relationships you build that matter

Posted by Nicole Brender à Brandis on July 24, 2019.

In this previous post, we discussed the rightful passage of the evergreen requisition into the annals of history to be replaced with talent pipelines. Talent pipelines have been around quite a while. If you’re like me and were really sad when the dinosaurs died, then you remember the days of using index cards, your rotary address file, and your planner to create “tickle files” to keep in touch with talent who possessed certain critical skills. This was decidedly one-way communication (typical of pipelines) that involved mailing articles or calling from time to time to see if the candidate was “ready” to hear about jobs. Technology has greatly improved the ability to communicate quickly and more effectively with large pools of talent—but has it improved overall recruiting success?

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In a study about recruitment marketing trends, SmashFly found that after the first email confirming sign-up to a talent community through a CRM, nearly 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies never send a second message.1 Buying a new CRM and not using it appropriately sounds to me like buying a shiny new toy and then playing with the box.

Before we explore the topic of talent communities, it’s important to distinguish the difference—and there is one—between a pipeline and a community. A pipeline is defined as “a channel supplying goods or information”2 and includes “a state of development, preparation or production.”3 A community, on the other hand, is defined as “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.”4 The nuanced difference here is the interaction of people. In a pipeline, there is usually one-way flow. If done correctly, the community is multidirectional and includes people outside the recruiting team.

Both pipelines and communities are valuable recruiting tools, but how can companies move beyond pipelines and tackle the elusive talent community? It starts when you stop treating recruiting like HR and to start treating it like you would your sales organization. Just as sales is all about building relationships with customers, recruiting is all about building relationships with candidates.

There are a few implications to making this shift: different roles and capabilities for recruiters and sourcers; engaging a greater number of subject matter experts from the business as ambassadors; and fully leveraging digital marketing and social media (beyond LinkedIn).

Changing roles for recruiters and sourcers
Advances in technology are radically changing the future of work for talent acquisition. Traditional recruiter and sourcer roles, as we know them, may well be a thing of the past. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) allow recruiters to find, screen, and rank resumes in a matter of minutes, enabling them to focus on only the most viable leads to bring through the process. And what becomes of req-based sourcers? I think their role is reinvented to one where they actually (1) “hunt” for talent (i.e., cold calling into key targets, not scanning profiles on LinkedIn) and (2) build and nurture all of their leads through ongoing, multidirectional communications (if you think of the recruiter as a salesperson, think of the newly defined sourcer as a combination of business development and marketing).

Organization ambassadors
Every employee in your company is a recruiter. And if you’re good at building communities, many people outside your company are also your recruiters. I spoke at a DistruptHR event a couple of years back and shared the following: If I’m a “passive candidate”—I like my boss today and find purpose in the work I’m doing—the last thing I want is to be blasted once a month with your ill-fitting job openings, or to constantly hear from a recruiter.

What I am interested in is interacting with other professionals in my field. I’m interested in white papers and cool projects within my field. This is a key difference between building a community and having a pipeline. By building a community you have external people who know your company, are ambassadors of your brand, and supporters of your strategy. Successfully building a talent pipeline (and even more so a talent community) is mostly about relationships.

Leveraging media
I’m not a big fan of recruiting from social media. I am a fan of engaging with talent and going “where they are.” This is where engagement happens—a company ambassador shares a post (cleared, of course, through your branding and legal guidelines), a like-minded person responds, and perhaps shares the post. Three more comment, perhaps also share. The original poster responds. Voilà! A multidirectional communication about your company with people who have the skills you need. These are people you want to engage and nurture—one day, they may not like their boss anymore.

Less admin burden, more relationship building
Talent Acquisition is finally in a unique space, one those of us who have been around a while have dreamed of for a long time. Shifts are required, for sure, but if we have the right org structure, if we define the roles properly—and hire to the new skills—and if we leverage technology to its fullest, much of the administrative burden of our jobs can be done by machines. That leaves us free to focus on relationships with the talent our organizations need now and in the future.

Nicole Brender à Brandis, SPHR, is a specialist leader in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area. Nicole’s primary focus has been helping global organizations navigate HR transformation initiatives, with a focus on talent management, talent acquisition, and HR capabilities.


1 Mayer, Elyse “What a Recruitment CRM Should Really Do” http://blog.smashfly.com/2017/02/07/what-a-recruitment-crm-should-really-do/ February 2017
2 Oxford Living Dictionaries online, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pipeline ; 2019 Oxford University Press
3 Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pipeline ; 2019 Merriam-Webster, Inc.
4 Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community; 2019 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

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