Talent Communities – Whose problem are you trying to solve?


Talent communities continue to be one of the bigger buzz words, er, hot topics in our profession — chat, conferences, blogs, and even the solution we are proposing to our organizations about how to attract, engage, and identify talent.  As a Recruiter or Hiring Manager, this sounds wonderful, right?  You see, what we will do is build it and they will come…and it will be wonderful.  But will it?  If you had to describe it to your business leaders, much less the people you want as part of your community – how would you do that? 

Interestingly enough, much of the “talent community” discussion ends up being a debate on how to define it.  That is right – talent communities are the answer, but people don’t always agree on what it even is — fascinating.  What I want to know is what was the question in the first place?  Who even asked the question?  Whose need are we trying to solve?

For the better part of almost 15 years I have recruited or consulted to companies recruiting in spaces where there is either a shortage of qualified workers or just in general smaller pools of specialized talent — and a high bar/expectation on hiring the best of the best.  Talent communities are a logical solution right?  It has certainly dominated the conversation lately but I am going to go out on a limb here and make a suggestion if you are also going through this same exercise.  Don’t get caught up in the buzz words and what everybody says it should be – step back and ask yourself a few questions:

What (and who’s) problem are we trying to solve? 

Most of the answers I hear are more about recruiting, branding, staying in contact with your own talent pool (which I define as previously identified, qualified applicants, potential or target candidates, alumni in good standing, etc not yet hired/re-hired) — and of course the mecca for those elusive “passive candidates” that are still yet unknown.  When we need them Chris, we want to be able to find them — and they will already be engaged and excited about our company and ready to move forward when we are ready to hire.  OK, I say, but first let’s decide…

Who is our audience?  What are their needs?

So the answer to our audience question was found in the above answer, but the problem seemed to belong to that of the Recruiter/Organization.  But what are the needs of the audience who would make up the better part of your “Community” (or however it becomes defined/called)?  If you don’t know, you first need to work on learning this as a part of the conversations you are having with this audience.

You may know or find out there is already a “place” your defined audience “goes” to meet or connect with others, learn, share, engage and/or otherwise collaborate with each other.  No need to re-create the wheel in this case, join and be a part of that community.  Add value and/or content, help make connections for others, make yourself available for people to approach and learn more about you and/or your organization — and as you see people who you are interested in, add them to your talent pool.

If there is not one already established, do they seem to be interested in a “Community”?  If yes, is it specific to your organization – or is it more industry or profession related?  If it is specific to your organization, what and how would they want to see it structured to meet their needs?  Certainly look at your own needs to see if and where they may intersect before you try building or facilitating the creation of a “Community”.

If you do build it, how will you handle the people who don’t necessarily meet your talent needs – but are potential applicants, future candidates,  or customers that are interested in you?

Be prepared for this – how you respond is critical and will become a part of defining who you are as an organization so it should align with your culture and brand.

I had the honor of being asked to join an amazing group of people, Amy Ng, SVP Human Resources at Citi, Frank Zupan, Talent Acquisition at Dealer Tire, and Jessica Lee, VP Talent Acquisition for APCO Worldwide (as well as Editor of the Fistful of Talent blog) to discuss this very issue on TChat Radio last week.  TChat Radio is hosted by Kevin Grossman, Meghan Biro, and Matt Charney (but absent this episode) — and of course Crystal Miller, who also helps bring it all together with the ever popular #TChat on Twitter going on at the same time.  Click on this link to listen to this lively discussion as well as see all the chat on the Twitter back channel!  It is worth it!!

The important thing is to think through these things before embarking on a solution.  For it to be successful, it needs to not only meet your specific needs but the needs of your audience as well.  My next post will address where I think the real opportunity for Talent Communities are — and that is within our own organizations…Stay tuned!!!


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Chris Havrilla

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3 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    Chris –
    you are right on the money. A lot of people and solutions are jumping on this bandwagon and don’t recognize what it takes to actually form a community. A branded landing page with functional content that enables a company to capture a candidate’s contact info without having to apply to jobs – does not = community.

    I love your suggestion to start with the question “what problem and who’s problem are we trying to solve.”

    • Chris Havrilla #

      That is so true, Ed – a community is so much more….Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. 3

    Most talent communities today are glorified email databases. The social web has changed the dynamic. Candidates want a truly interactive experience.


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