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Talent Tribes vs. Talent Communities

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Talent Community or Data Base?
Talent Community or Data Base?

I was consulting with a client the other day and she asked me what my thoughts were on building out and promoting “Talent Communities.”  This question made me sincerely pause.  And the first question I asked in reply was…”what’s a Talent Community?’  Clearly I have no problem with seeming slow and dimwitted.  I had no idea what she was referring to.  Was she referring to:

  • The company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Database?
  • The existing employee population and the strength of their current Employee Referral Program?
  • Potential candidate engagement opportunities on Soc Nets like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Ning, etc.?
  • The employee alumnus…those who either retired or moved onto opportunities with other employers?
  • The Diverse Employee-and dare I say we’re all diverse?

Turns out the client was referring to “Relationship Marketing Databases.”  She’d had a potential vendor-partner visit with her and explain the value of remaining engaged with those potential candidates, whether they be experienced, college, alumnus…all diverse of course.   The concept was really novel, since the database would be embedded into a Careers Web solution with the goal of collecting email addresses with specified areas of interest.  The potential candidate would be “prompted” to enter their information and become a member of this Talent Community.  With this data captured the appropriate “marketing” communication could be directed to the new member of the Talent Community.

"We'll Take Over The World"
"We'll Take Over The World"

BRAIN SPASM – if I become a member of this community (which is a closed database by the way) how do I actually consider this a community?  How do I interact and build relationships that are genuine and authentic…aren’t I actually just an email address and a name delivered to an automated e-mail distribution tool? This is the thought that has invaded my mind while listening patiently to my client’s enthusiastic narration.

I nodded my head when my client was done and then I stated….Ah…you’re referring to Relationship Marketing (RLM) and the building out of candidate databases, then remaining engaged through targeted communication whether analog (print) or digital means.  Sure I think  RLM is a very important part of your over-all strategy…but I personally would not call it a community.

I began to further uncover the big vision for this clients “Social Web Engagement Strategy” and a multi-faceted approach began to take shape…there was genuine excitement.

And then I shared a few thoughts around the idea that perhaps we could think of the recruitment of candidates as “Employee Tribe Management” as opposed to Employer Brand Management.

Yes…I’d be referring to Seth Godin’s book “Tribes…We Need You To Lead Us.”   Seth’s Blog post January 30, 2008, offers a very profound observation.. about the need for people to connect to a tribe.  Here let Seth explain…it’s much better coming from him.

tribes-book-jacket-amazonTribe management is a whole different way of looking at the world.

It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organizations can build isn’t an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about.

This is the good stuff…and I want more of my HR clients to think outside of the RLM database box.  It’ll be a tough challenge to gain buy-in from corporate compliance around this concept for some…but whether they get it or not it won’t matter.  The Tribes have already spoken.  Look at how many corporate recruitment focused Facebook Fan pages Twitter accounts, (Tweeps)  have cropped up in the last 6 months.  Some of the best examples  are of course Sodexo Careers, Past Present and Future Facebook Fan Page, Discover Careers Facebook Fan Page, @acareerathca HCA Twitter feed, and the list continues to grow.

Now the next challenge encountered is how do we begin to craft an over-all Social Web Engagement Strategy.  I’ve said this many times…first… “LISTEN.”  Before jumping into the social web stream…we’ve got to take a step back evaluate an over-all online presence (audit the noise) and determine if any IRL (In Real Life) reputation fragments have made their way to web conversations.

Once auditing the noise is complete…we can really build out robust, interesting, engaging villages, or colonies for tribe members to congregate.

I caution my clients and perhaps those who stumble upon my musings – don’t be seduced by those who offer “turn-key” Employee Tribe Management solutions.  The social web is NOT a turn-key experience.  Real people…real candidates want an authentic vision into your organization…to get to know more than just your location, last years 10K, the cool video testimonials.  The potential members of your tribe want a chance to visit your talent tribe community…walk around, ask what’s the weather like over there from people who live with that weather.

I know the thought of this is really frightening from a compliance perspective…and HR is definitely kin to corporate legal.  But no matter what…these tribes will be established whether you like it, support it, endorse it or ignore it.

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