We live in a world where people like to coin new terms for everything. Take the example of “recruiting.” We also call it talent acquisition, strategic sourcing, talent finder, hiring, people finder – talent this and that, and people this and that. Regardless of the terminology you use, the fact remains that what you are actually doing is finding good people to do the work that your organization needs. This has not changed.
So, is there a difference between “talent community” and “talent pool”? If you use the logic from the paragraph above, you would think they are both the same – that it’s just semantics. But, they’re actually very different, and here is why.
Envision a bowl of popcorn. You are holding this bowl of popcorn and you take a handful of popcorn when you want to eat some. You can keep refilling the bowl, or you could just eat what you initially took. The popcorn just sits there quietly until it's gobbled up.
This is exactly what a talent pool is. It’s a database (or a big bowl) of people and their relevant information. You only dip into this database when you have a hiring need. But, more often than not, you never speak to the majority of these people. The information that you collect gets outdated quickly so diving back into it when you do have a hiring need doesn’t usually make a lot of sense. You don’t really know these people because there is no ongoing dialogue or communication. Finally, it plays no role whatsoever in positively influencing your employer branding. How could it? Engagement is non-existent.
At the end of the day, the profile of a talent pool is static and full of low-quality and inaccurate data.
The operative word here is “community.” I take my inspiration from Ph.D. scientist-turned-learning-strategist Tom Spiglanin. In a recent blog post titled, “What is an Online Community?” he describes a community’s characteristics. One is that members share interests. Any member of the community may contribute to any conversation. Members share a desire to support one another and build the community by sharing information. Spiglanin considers “residency,” the idea that members must reside in the community to participate in it, to be a key aspect. If you are a member of a group that does not possess the residency quality, you simply do not have a community, but rather a network.
A talent community is an engagement platform for a company, its talent prospects and its current employees. Organizations may manage multiple communities, each revolving around a different common interest or theme. Interaction and dialogue among members are ongoing and conversational, and this structure allows the organization to build unique relationships with each member. Ultimately, you get to know members (and potential candidates) over a period of time.
Communities are also educational, particularly in the form of branded content. Members share content – articles, thought leadership, research, opinions, white papers, ebooks and the like on topics of interest to the community at large. A high level of engagement with the community from an employer is a great way to build the strength of its employer branding. Over time, members become brand ambassadors of your company, sharing their interest and appreciation for the organization.
We know there is a clear distinction between these two concepts, but why should organizations invest time and resources into talent communities? The answer is relatively simple. Start with this question: “What is the role of a marketer?” His or her role is to build brand awareness, cultivate viral positive emotions and identify quality leads. A great marketer achieves this through engagement, adding value and building relationships.
A recruiter has the responsibility to build employer branding awareness and cultivate viral positive emotions about working at the company to talent prospects and to identify quality leads. The only difference between a recruiter and marketer is the “product” they’re focused on – the marketer is focused on a company’s products and services and the recruiter is focused on the employment at the organization and the organization’s culture.
A talent community is a highly strategic marketing tactic that will create competitive advantage in the talent space. There is a lot of buzz about them, but the majority of organizations are not leveraging them.
Engagement is the key factor in building an effective talent community and powerful employer branding. It requires an investment of time, commitment and resources. But it provides the ability to infinitely achieve strategic objectives that no other recruitment methods can match.
It’s time we change how we attract talent to an organization. Through a recruiter’s engagement and the building of talent communities, your organization will attract a higher volume of high-quality candidates.
Jeff is the Founder of Stratify and SocialHRCamp. With a background in business, HR and marketing, and a diverse career spanning all facets of HR, Jeff has been leading the way in a growing niche that brings together HR, social media and business. Jeff is also an avid speaker, blogger and volunteer, with organizations such as the Sauder Business Club of Toronto, PACE Independent Living, Podcamp Toronto, Freelancecamp Toronto, University of British Columbia Alumni Association, Society for HR Management—National (SHRM), as well as many others. When not working on a new idea, running an event or playing sports, he can be found with his wife and three young boys in North Toronto.