Sourcing Insight: Control Freaks Hate Community

Control freaks hate community. And most recruiters are control freaks. Ergo, recruiters hate community. Perhaps my deduction is a little harsh (and purposely attention-grabbing). Maybe a better way to describe how many recruiters feel about community is that they are suspicious, or at the very least skeptical.

To suggest that recruiters are control freaks is not an epiphany or an “ah-ha moment,” as being controlling is one of the traits that make recruiters good at our jobs.  We are managers of a set of projects called search assignments or requisitions and are required to direct a volume that easily reaches the double digits. And we need to control as much as possible to be successful.

Recruiters like the idea of community and having a relationship with prospects and/or candidates. But when recruiters take a deeper dive, they begin to understand that some of the conversations that transpire in community are outside of their control, they lose some enthusiasm. So why advocate community if one cannot control the outcome?

In my upcoming Fall 2009 ERE presentation, I am weaving five topics/questions/discussion points into the storyline. One discussion point is “Web 2.0 solutions proclaim that this is the new way to pipeline candidates into a private talent community. What is a talent community and how do I build one? In this article, I will deal with the “why” of talent communities.  And if you are in Florida in September, I will discuss the “how to” at length.

So why advocate community if one cannot control the outcome? There are several reasons why community and the relationships that are formed and built are essential in the 21st century Web 2.0 model of recruiting; they include:

Communities Can Be Influenced

Most community experts indicate that while a community is not controllable, it can be influenced. On a brand level, thought leaders argue that conversations about your brand are going to take place with or without you. The question becomes: Do you want to participate in the conversation? Participating in the conversation allows you to have some influence over the opinion of a given community’s members.

Communicate With Your Audience Where They Are

The growth of social networking sites is staggering. Sometimes the size of a social networking site is larger than smaller companies. How long do you think it will take Facebook (225 million members) to eclipse the population of the United States? If our target audiences are joining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and communities on Ning, shouldn’t we want to join them? 

Your Target Audience Has Moved Online

If you target audience has not formed a online community or affinity group, they will do so in the very near future. The growth in social networking sites has been accompanied by a growth in all sorts of online groups and communities. Most of us have a segment of the labor market that includes the talent we’re interested in and has migrated online. These affinity-driven communities segment themselves naturally into ideal groups in which to build relationship and share your organization’s story.

Transparency Is a Byproduct of Community

One of the biggest results of Web 2.0 and social networking sites is a move toward transparency with respect to process and conversation. With everyone watching, it is better to be a truth teller. With everyone watching, it requires us to engage in the conversation. With everyone watching, it makes us better citizens of a group.  And above all, it enhances the experience of the prospective employees who engage in our recruitment process.

The question on everyone’s lips can often be answered by having just one person comment.

Leverage is an important aspect of community. It allows us to communicate one thought and have it seen by many. In a previous article, I discussed the aspect that most members are in the crowd and do not engage in conversation. But they are listening. That is why it is important to engage the members who are asking questions or making comments.

Community Makes Navigation of Enterprise-size Companies is Easier

In a company the size of Microsoft, the inner workings are somewhat of a mystery to a job seeker (and to some employees as well). The transparency of the connections that are seen in a LinkedIn Group make it easy to reach out and engage. Questions can be answered; issues clarified; and relationships built.

Community Is Counterintuitive

Community isn’t intuitive. Previously, I compared the counterintuitive nature of community to learning how to snow ski. It took a while for me to get my head around “leaning away from the mountain.” Talk about counterintuitive. If I lost balance while turning, my instructor said to lean away from the mountain; away from apparent safety; away from the natural pull of gravity. Every instinct told me leaning away was wrong. Yet, I could not move off the bunny slope until I stopped trusting my instincts and listened to my instructor. I had to change my mindset. In the same way, we must move from a transactional recruiting process, to get closer to community, regardless of what our recruiting instincts suggest.

Community Is Gaunxi (and that is a good thing)

Guanxi [guan-shee] is the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence in Chinese society and seems to be most fitting when we think about community.  Guanxi suggests that the relationship is more important that the transaction itself.  So when one considers Guanxi in recruiting, it opens the door to the following possibilities:

  • Exploring ways to begin and capture a relationship with desired prospects even if they aren’t currently looking for a job
  • Developing a longer-term relationship with prospects during their entire careers
  • Discovering ways to bring value to your prospect community even if they do not take your job
  • Becoming more transparent to target talent and enhance prospect experiences
  • Moving away from transactional recruiting and into relationship recruiting

So why is community so important in recruiting? At an elementary level, the move of our target audience online mandates that we meet them where they are. And the rule of the road in Web 2.0 is that people online must have the capability to have a conversation. Gone are the days of Web 1.0 and static content and organizations just creating content. At its heart, Web 2.0 is user-generated content and creating conversation. Conversation is expected by our target audiences who have moved to these online communities. And for the most part, we in corporate recruiting have disappointed our target talent (by necessity third party recruiters engage in relationships to a greater degree than corporate counterparts). And if we don’t change, we will not be successful.

Why community? If we are going to attract the best talent in the world, we must connect with them where they are visible — online social networks and affinity groups. How do we build community? That is a discussion for September.

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