December 01, 2014

Talent Networks vs. Talent Communities

Those working and interested in the HR and recruiting functions have probably heard about talent networks and talent communities. Both derive from the belief that every recruitment campaign should not be solely focused on finding applicants for specific jobs but also aim to build a pool of talent that HR organizations can engage and leverage when recruiting for future positions.

The Difference between Talent Communities and Talent Networks

A talent community is an open group of members built around common or shared interests. People join talent communities to engage with workers with similar skill sets or to share common interests.  Companies build talent communities as relevant industry or thought leadership communities with the goal of encouraging skilled candidates to join and engage in conversation. The goal of a talent community is to foster dialogue and identify members whose content and activity demonstrate their fit with the organization’s culture and needs.

A talent network, meanwhile, is an opt-in candidate database that allows organizations to build talent pools and talent pipelines for future job opportunities. Often, a talent network is based on a job alert trigger system where a member selects the type of job they would be interested in, and are advised via email when such a position becomes available. Engagement is flat and there is one-way communication, as all content is created by the hosting organization and relevant targeted content is broadcast to specific individuals within the talent network. The goal of a talent network is to provide a better candidate experience and better return for every job ad placed. Generally, asking candidates to opt-in to a talent network can lead to almost 20 percent more applicants for future job postings.

The importance in understanding the difference between the terminologies is because many vendors refer to capabilities for building talent communities, when really they are providing talent networks. Often, executives and analysts refer to their job alert system or their CRM as a talent community. Some job boards refer to their resume database as a talent community. Talent networks have had countless success stories in different organizations, and can be largely automated with recruitment technology. Recent data shows that talent networks are among the top three sources of hires for most companies.

Talent communities, on the other hand, require a lot more effort to build and keep a community engaged. Consistent community management is important to enable a talent community to provide HR organizations with a strong pipeline of vetted and engaged talent ready when a role becomes available.

Different Types of Talent Communities

There are three broad areas of talent communities. For organizations developing talent communities, it is imperative to remember that talent communities are not simply a Facebook careers page or a LinkedIn group. These are part of an effective talent community management strategy, but either of these social channels by themselves is too narrowly focused.

A company-branded talent community showcases an organization’s employment value proposition, and gives members a feel of what it would be like to work at that company. Often these talent communities seek to bring together the current, past, and future workers of an organization.

A profession-based community is formed around a profession and seeks to bring relevant and valuable information to its members. These communities are not job-focused, but rather focus on careers and career paths. Github, for instance, is a software engineering oriented community that offers developers the opportunity to connect with their peers. A version of this type of community is a special interest community built around a common purpose. For example, many organizations offer specific communities aimed at transitioning military personnel to civilian life upon their return.

The third type of community is a hybrid combination of the professional and the company-branded approach. These communities showcase an organization’s career opportunities while trying to engage members in a conversation about relevant topics. Often these communities focus on hard-to-fill and high demand positions in the organization.

Whom To Invite?

One of the first questions organizations that are building a talent community ask is “How can I quickly grow a candidate talent community from scratch?” A talent community that is just starting off can be quickly established by using a variety of sources.

Top Candidates – If the company already has a talent network, top candidates that were not extended a job offer can be invited so that recruiters can continue to engage and nurture them.

Employees and Candidate Referrals – Employee referrals are consistently rated as a quality source of hire by recruiters. Referred candidates are more likely to stay at a company longer and be successful. Employees and their referred candidates can bring visibility and interest to a company’s talent community. 

Social Media – Talent profiles maintained on social sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can be mined for potential candidates. Recruiter conversations with potential candidates should include a pitch for joining the organizational talent community, even if the immediately available job opportunity is not of interest.

University Recruiting – On-campus or off-campus recruiting events can result in adding high potential students to the talent community.

Past Workers (Alumni) – Company alumni should be invited to join the talent community, as they are able to candidly discuss their experience of working at the organization, and can refer professional contacts who may be interested in working at the company.

Talent Communities for Non-Employees

According to recent research by Ardent Partners, less than 35 percent of enterprises currently collect their non-employee talent in a single, centralized program. And only 32 percent of companies have ongoing education and training for non-employee talent. As freelancers and independent contractors can now be found in almost every section of a firm, adopting measures that allows executives and managers to best leverage this high-quality skillset becomes important.

The study by Ardent Partners found that 77 percent of respondents believe that total talent management will be a widely adopted approach for managing all types of talent in the next two years.

Talent communities that focus on the non-traditional talent market should aim to bring together high-skilled talent with value-added staffing suppliers.