The growth, adoption, and momentum of social networking over the past 18 months brings another round of significant change for recruiting departments. The first question that needs to be answered is whether or not you believe social networking is all hype or if it will result in lasting change. Then you can answer the question, “If social networking is here to stay, is it right for our organization?”
Some look at the social networking trend and say that it’s all a bunch of hype. Some look at it and feel the need to, and will try to, be everywhere. Some will consciously decide to be nowhere — we have the phone and that works very well, thank you. Many are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening, the pace of change, and the fears about transparency. In most cases you don’t need to be and shouldn’t be everywhere. And, you may decide to be nowhere, but make sure that’s a conscious decision and not just resistance to inevitable change.
As for fear of social networking, the pace of change and transparency, think of it this way — whether you engage your brand in the discussion or not, the conversation moves on — nothing stands still, except that eventually people may just not care about your brand at all, and, well, at that point you won’t need to recruit anyways. If you want to influence the conversation about your brand and if you want to engage people in your brand story, then social networking has a lot to offer. The complete article featured in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership October issue, will delve further into that, but here are my more brief thoughts for the time being.
Social Media and Social Networking: Strategy or Tactics
The underlying premise of this article is that social networking is not a passing fad and that it deserves significant positioning in your talent attraction and management strategy.
Let me begin my differentiating, for the purposes of this article, the difference between social media and social networking. The terms are often used interchangeably, but I see an important distinction, especially for recruiting. Social networking is the application of social media, which provides the tools to share content and information, engage in conversations, and build networks. The key difference is what you choose to do after sharing your information. Social networking is pursued with the underlying intention of dialogue, engagement, and interest. It also results in a more sustainable talent strategy that differentiates your brand and brings forward many other business benefits. If you are simply pushing jobs out to Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you are socializing job postings by using social media, but not necessarily engaging in social networking. If you’re engaging prospective talent in discussions and building active communities, you are pursuing a social networking strategy.
There’s also a significant difference between the two that influences how you design an effective strategy and how you define your desired outcome. Social media is in part strategic but mostly tactical and is really saying: “Hey, these are new channels through which we can reach people and we should broadcast our jobs.”
That may be fine, but it limits the value and doesn’t fully realize the potential or move you toward a sustainable solution. Also, and most importantly, when you use social media there is an expectation for networking! If you push a job out on Twitter and someone reaches out to you, they expect a response. When you don’t respond, the brand can be viewed unfavorably and over time this type of behavior will dilute the brand reputation and value.
This is similar to what job seekers expected with the introduction of corporate recruitment websites. They wanted a way to reach and connect with someone in a company they were interested in joining. Remember all the discussions about the “black hole of recruiting”? Well, in a social world, the expectations and consequences are higher. And, while today’s job market may be in favor of the employer, the cycle will turn again and the strategy that you develop and implement today will absolutely impact future talent attraction effectiveness — positively or negatively. If you want to develop a sustainable talent acquisition strategy and actively invest in the longevity of your brand, then it’s time to engage.
They Really Are Interested in You — Really!
The evolution of technology, social tools, and ease of access are driving rapid advancements in communication. People like to play, create, share, and comment about your company and brand. The fear you may be feeling about letting people “in” to your brand, so to speak, can be looked at one of two ways. You can either be fearful of what they may do to your brand, which “they” will do anyways, or, you can celebrate that people are interested in your brand, products, and services. Listen to what they have to say. You may learn something. Engage them in your business challenges; they may solve them for you. Yes, they want to hang out with you — if, that is, you have something interesting to say! A UK student who found his job through Twitter shared this with me:
Personally, the companies that I’ve been most interested in have been the ones that are blogging and therefore appear to be knowledgeable industry leaders … also, some companies have begun posting jobs on blogs, which I think is better than on a recruitment website or in a newspaper, because the candidates applying have read the blog and are interested in the company.
Now, that’s something to think about. Does silence imply your company has nothing interesting to say? That you’re not knowledgeable about your industry? Pursuing a social strategy isn’t just a way to attract and engage talent. It can also be a way to expand the innovative capacity of your organization — perhaps something we should consider as the talent function evolves.
Clearly the impact of “social” is still emerging and the potential is just beginning to be understood — although it’s already profound. We are still at the edge of what the social media wave will bring. The potential for sweeping change is enormous. We will certainly see the future impacted and unfolding before our eyes.
You’ll find the complete article in the October edition of the ERE Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership. You can subscribe to the Journal or to purchase this article only please contact the editor, Todd Raphael.
The idea of a community manager isn’t unique to the recruiting function. The term is borrowed from the consumer world and emerged with the influence social media is exerting on brand engagement and reputation. While the role is still relatively new, companies have begun to realize the potential to attract, engage, nurture, retain and expand their customer / client base beyond traditional marketing and PR. Its about creating brand value through experiential engagement and listening rather than talking to nurture conversations and relationships. In a connected, multi-channel world, staying relevant requires new thinking and developing the skill to engage people in conversations is one way to accomplish differentiation.
The same is true in recruitment. The role of a community manager is not only important but one any company interested in developing an adaptive recruitment strategy should consider. The community manager is at the center of success for any social recruiting strategy that aims to move beyond “socializing job openings”, which isn’t sustainable and isn’t where the value lies in social media. Requirements of the role also address a new set of skills and competencies for successful recruiting strategies. As we experience rapid advancement and expansion of the channels, applications, tools and technology available to attract and engage prospective talent, the structure and competencies of the talent function need to evolve as well. It is possible to apply social networking for recruiting and even enjoy some success without a community manager. However, if you want to develop a sustainable and integrated social media and networking component as part of the company’s talent strategy, a dedicated community manager role is what you need. There are a number of ways to approach developing and integrating this role depending on company size, budget and hiring objectives. Before we get into the specifics of structure lets look a little deeper into why the role is important and the value it presents.
The dynamics and operating environment of today’s recruiting function is significantly more complex than even two years ago. Over the past 10 or so years complexity came from a confluence of trends and events – the rise of the Internet, talent scarcity (remember 4% unemployment), and a long, prosperous economic cycle. Needless to say, we’ve seen web adoption rates increase quite steadily, economic cycles wax and wane, and the hunt for good talent continue, with scarcity still existing in many instances. Recruiting functions must now excel in multi-channel branding, be adept at utilizing a variety of technology and related applications, and, overall, do more with less – certainly in today’s environment. They must also do everything they did before to anticipate and prepare for the company’s talent needs (workforce planning); select, assess, and hire the right people; and, develop outstanding relationships with hiring managers. Technology is bringing efficiencies to the recruitment process but this is not an environment that is standing still. We saw a first-generation response to these environmental factors with the introduction of applicant tracking systems (ATS) and the rise of sourcing functions as a means to streamline and develop specialization in the recruiting function. In many cases though, ATS’ weren’t able to meet the growing needs and sourcing functions were not effectively integrated into the recruiting function, were significant in size and were then the first to be cut when the economic situation and outlook worsened. The growing wave and influence of social media calls for a second-generation response – the community manager, to take the strategy beyond sourcing and develop sustainable communities. The value derived from the community manager role is a combination of efficiency, sustainability, brand leverage and reduced hiring costs. The value of sourcer, marketer and conversationalist is combined into the community manager role to target priority talent areas and support the company’s workforce planning strategy and respective needs.
The perspective I’d like to provide is from the view of a corporate talent function leader. I’m going to take a holistic look at the community manager role to provide companies of varying size the options they need to be successful. Its often easier to tease apart the layers of a role and harder to consolidate them for effective execution and performance.
The community manager reports into the talent function team leader and interfaces with recruiters, HR, marketing, internal communications, and targeted business leads. Through regular updates with the talent function team leader the community manager understands the talent priorities and designs a targeted strategy to attract and engage prospective talent. Talent priorities can be broken down by skill/experience, job levels, geography, function, business unit, etc. depending on the structure and needs of the company – think of alignment with workforce planning. The community manager should not be focused across the entire organization. This could come in time, but I would recommend beginning with a narrow rather than broad approach to establish the role and realize success before expanding. At the same time, it would benefit your strategy to have a longer-term vision so you stay aligned with the objectives and move forward incrementally. The community manager is focused on building pipeline and community not on open reqs. They should have a real-time view into open roles to expedite talent to recruiters and deliver more value to the connections they’re making externally.
This could be structured as a part- or full-time role. The resources allocated will obviously affect the pace of progress but it is doable. What is not doable is combining this role with a recruiter role. Why? The inherent risk when the role is structured as part of another role is that any time an urgent recruiting need comes up the community manager’s responsibilities end up on the back burner. You won’t build the traction and momentum, progress will come more slowly and delivering on ROI objectives will be challenged. Additionally, the cost of building community is primarily in the human factor, and the absence of “voice” will leave people questioning their own time investment to engage with your brand.
Four skills of a great Community Manager
Being a good communicator is as much about listening as it is about talking. The community manager should be skillful in developing and nurturing relationships across a broad spectrum.
Internal relationships: The community manager builds relationships with multiple stakeholders to position themselves and the company for success.
Close working relationship with the talent function leader to stay aligned with the long-term business objectives and talent priorities of the company.
Builds credible relationships with marketing and internal communications to ensure a cultural and brand-right fit with their content and “voice” and the company’s objectives. Leverage marketing relationship for enhanced reach.
Integral relationship with the recruiting team to establish credibility, expedite hot talent, share expertise, and deliver consistent brand messaging.
Stays in the loop with HR to be up on the stories that give life to the company’s brand.
Shares “intelligence” back to the organization to provide a view into brand perception and sentiment, communicate product and service feedback, and capture ideas.
External relationships: Develops relationships with prospective talent through a variety of channels – creates original content (text, visual and audio), comments and responds to engage across communities.
Demonstrates a strong, authentic voice that does not sound like PR spin. No offense to PR but if it doesn’t sound real it isn’t a conversation and is quickly discredited in an open, social world. Both the brand and credibility of the community manager are at risk, along with the company, if the conversation isn’t authentic.
Utilizes a communication strategy inclusive of blogs, microblogs, social networks, user groups and email correspondence as their tool kit. They develop understanding to each unique environment and effectively navigate through different communities.
Company acumen: The community manager is most effective when they have a visceral understanding of the company’s brand, culture and objectives – what is the company trying to achieve and what is their authentic message.
Translates the business to a conversation to tell the company’s evolving story and engage people in the brand, products or service. Resourceful in seeking out stories and engaging other internal voices in the conversation.
Clearly understands the company’s culture and talent objectives to present compelling content and identify and expedite hot prospects.
Strong integration with marketing to leverage the company’s full brand capacity, align with all brand elements and create a synergistic relationship between people and purpose. You’ll get a lot more done and expand your reach if you partner with marketing. The lack of integration between company brands and employment visibility is still an open invitation with social media. This is no different than the best practice of positioning the “careers” or “jobs” link on the company website. It’s just more complex due to the cross-section of channels and activity.
Familiarity with the company’s industry helps the community manager navigate where they should be seeking out and engaging talent and also informs content development.
Technically Adept: This role is a combination of conversationalist, sourcer, and marketer. Technology is the thread that weaves these together.
Engages with leading edge technical applications, tools and platforms. Identifies top-line resource investments to further community strategy. Makes recommendations for entry and exit strategies.
Has access to and skilled in use of a CRM system. Adopting a CRM system as the activity hub supports community communications, talent lead capability, pipeline management, and metrics. While its certainly possible to move a strategy forward without a CRM system, the ROI will be more challenging to establish. The investment is well worth it when you look at tools like Avature.
Skilled in sourcing techniques to identify targeted talent and initiate conversation and interest.
Intrigued by the influence social media and community are having on society as a whole. Seeks out data and trends to inform the company’s recruitment and business strategy.
Builds an effective personal network to share, learn and engage discussion around use of collaborative technologies.
While there may certainly be challenges with integrating this role in today’s business environment there is potentially more risk in not moving forward. It is equally important for the recruiting function to be on the edge of newness and invest in preparing for the future, as it is for sales, marketing or product development, and IT. It could be argued that its even more important to invest in the recruitment function to support the company’s business needs and ensure the talent they need to execute across all the other functions can be found. Investing in the community manager role now will allow the company to build a foundation at a time when there is an opportunity to engage talent at a lower cost of attraction and ensure the company is prepared as the business environment improves.
If you’d like additional background on the role of social media and recruiting, you can reference my article, Building a Recruitment Strategy in a Social World. You might also enjoy this article from the NYT that describes how communication, ideas, community and transparency are influencing the world.