If your company wants to focus on their talent network, there are a few things to consider. Diana Fallone outlines the benefits of an effectively managed talent network and shares her expert tips for building and maintaining the perfect talent community.
Q: What are the best practices to set up a talent network/community?
A: There are best practices as it relates to talent networks, or talent communities, in general. One of the best practices would be making sure the company has a holistic approach to the way they are engaging with their pipeline/talent network. What I mean by that is, for example, not just sending email blasts about job content or job alerts -- which is a pretty commonplace way of trying to stay afloat with a network of talent. The most successful campaigns for talent communities that I've seen touch not just the candidates or prospective leads at the top of the funnel, but also include messaging to candidates/leads about other opportunities within the organization, job related or not, so that there’s an all encompassing value proposition across the board and at every stage of the pipeline.
One example that I can give specifically is when I used to work with a client that, in my opinion, had a very solid game plan. The client made sure that if a candidate goes to the company’s website, or even just searches online for general opportunities, they had a very strong SEM strategy in place to capture both passive and active candidates. In instances where there may be an immediate opportunity available, they have very strong native advertising on their site as well. Within that SEM strategy that I mentioned, they also provide a very clear call to action for candidates to stay engaged, and once a prospect enlists themselves in that talent community, they don’t “go cold”.
Something I've seen in a lot of strategies to date is how there really isn't a mechanism or automation in place to ensure that there's an ongoing cadence of outreach to the candidates that have actually signed up or elected to be a part of that community. Having a mechanism or automation allows you to take advantage of the digital landscape. For example, having SMS messages that go out at a fairly regular cadence that echo the sentiment of email updates. From what I can see, there's also a very clear audience segmentation, meaning I might not receive the same type of messaging that a software developer might receive. It feels very humanized in the sense that the prospect or the possible candidate is getting a message that really does seem to cater to their interests based on the information that's collected out of the gate.
Q: Does talent community work sit solely within talent acquisition and HR, or do you think it sits within corporate communication?
A: It’s generally a collaboration between the two sides of the business because ideally, the talent community should be rooted in the company's overall employee value proposition, and the messaging from the company should carry through to any communications within the talent community. There’s generally a fairly strong presence for both sides of the business to be involved. Certainly the talent acquisition team can provide input on what the existing hiring needs might be, whereas the corporate communications team can really provide perspective on making sure there's fluidity between what’s being channeled through to either new candidates or to existing employees.
So I would say that I've seen both involved. When I haven't seen both teams involved, there’s usually somewhat of a disconnect, and ultimately the company needs to tie the two pieces together in the end.
Q: Do you think there are companies or industries that are more in tune with their talent network? Does it have to do with the size of the company, or what do you think plays a part?
A: I don't know that there are certain industries necessarily, because I do believe that the likelihood of having a talent community or maintaining a strategic talent community/network is really tied back to the company itself, not necessarily the verticals. It's also not so much the size of the company, but rather their overall position on marketing as a whole that influences whether or not a talent network might be a part of their game plan.
An example of this is that I know of a company that’s fairly small, but the team seems to have a pretty strong focus on making sure existing employees are aware of all the benefits that are available to them, and also making sure new employees get the same message. I believe this company has a talent community, but there are certainly other small companies that don't need to outsource this type of methodology. There are many ways to do this without a massive budget, and I think it's more the mentality of the organization and whether or not it's considered as part of an all encompassing marketing strategy.
Q: What are the key metrics to track and measure when it comes to the talent network/community? Are there any benchmarks available?
A: In most instances, there are a couple of things. Applications are definitely a data point that I'd say most organizations should measure as it relates to talent communities. But outside of that, there are other KPIs (key performance indicators) that are, in my opinion, critical as it relates to talent communities.
In cases where there's a talent community with a basic strategy that, for example, includes somebody signing up and they receive a series of emails, generally the KPIs would inform whether or not that strategy is successful and don't necessarily need to be tied to applications. The goal of those email communications could be to get more signups, for something like an upcoming virtual hiring event.
In a case like that, ultimately the KPI would be a measure of how many people opened the email and what they did because of it. How many of those who have been reached out to engaged with the email in a meaningful way? Did they physically sign up? Did those who signed up for the event end up translating down the line into either applicants or hires? The KPIs that we see as being important in these types of instances really are, “did I yield more applications and or hires based on my talent community strategy?”
Another KPI that I shouldn't forget, and it's more of a company wide goal, would be on the side of diversity and inclusion. More companies seem to be highlighting diversity and inclusion initiatives as a best practice for the company overall, so I do think that it ties back to talent communities as well. Ultimately it's a better way to attract great talent and to widen the audience in a global market, and there should be measures in place to gauge whether or not a company is following diverse practices, inclusion practices, or to ensure that they're really touching every audience equally.
Q: Is there a way to measure if the message is resonating with candidates or not? How would it be measured?
A: What I would say is if there’s a D&I type initiative that’s completely separate from the talent community, but the overall organization is focused on promoting a diverse workplace, diverse client pool, or diverse client base, the same messaging really should be carried through to any communications within the talent community cadence. This could be highlighting any D&I related initiatives that the organization has as a whole, or even spotlighting a promise from the CEO to always maintain a positive and nurturing environment for everyone despite age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, etc. If there’s a mission around that, or a message that's been relayed by somebody at the top in executive leadership, that's something that I feel should be highlighted.
In terms of measuring the performance, there is sometimes a compliance measure in place to ensure that a company is in fact hiring from a diverse pool. An example of this is one of my clients, who’s an agency that hires on behalf of a variety of different government sects, has a built in mechanism for any of their existing customers. In those varying business units, they have the ability to see whether or not companies are hitting all the marks that would be required to ensure that they're remaining compliant to D&I, and they make that very transparent and visible.
I bring that up because in cases like that, where there is such a focus on diversity and inclusion, employers are even being hand fed that information. I do think that it's important for the company itself to make sure that they're following those best practices as well, and the talent community is a great avenue to do that. They can really streamline all the objectives of the business in a way that is valuable and tells the narrative around why diversity is an important piece of the company's mission. It doesn't need to be in the form of a job alert, it could really be a newsletter offering up free resources or even blog posts around like diversity inclusion. Those types of things are all awesome.
Q: Is information collected from candidates when they sign up and indicate preferences? Or do you indicate preference based on information from their applications?
A: I would say that it's both. There's absolutely information collected for anyone that's a lead. But for those who have already applied to jobs and may have been either dispositioned or put on hold for some reason, the profiles of those candidates still are accessible to gather information.
The resume that candidates upload is also tied to an advanced mechanism that allows the employer to see what their key skills are, what types of roles they've held in the past, and combines the initial information with a strategy that can leverage any jobs that they may have already applied to. So it is a little bit of both, and definitely a bit more advanced.
Q: What would you say is an area of opportunity most companies should focus on when it comes to the talent network/community?
A: Personally what I think is the biggest area of opportunity is a client's existing ATS or career site. Most employers in one way, shape, or form, have collected information already from candidates. But there’s less of a focus on candidate retention, and I don't think it's lack of knowledge necessarily, but it could be a lack of bandwidth or not necessarily a huge priority for the company.
Also, in new candidate engagement, there's kind of this concept that we have a talent acquisition team that can call on new candidates, and that'll be enough for our strategy.
What I would say though is that now, more than ever, a number of COVID-19 related layoffs throughout the course of the year leaves many employees having their sense of job security kind of shaken. It's pretty critical that organizations prioritize retention and referrals as much as they do new hire recruiting. From my vantage point, most companies focus on acquiring new talent through traditional methods versus the resources that are already in place, and that could just be due to bandwidth or really just not having the forward thinking momentum that really is important in this space.
Q: What is the most common question you get from clients/prospects regarding talent network/community and how do you answer it?
A: I think that one of the most common questions I receive, at least from our clients and prospects around talent communities, is at the very basic level of how to start one or how to even get started. I'd say that depending on a client's existing tech stack, and even their ATS or career site, there are a few ways it can be approached.
I generally answer clients by telling them that this isn't really an overnight solution, there's this misconception that you can just start this talent community, and I try to encourage them to really explore all the facets that we've spoken to. I reiterate that it's an ongoing process that requires a lot of consideration around how they currently interact with their employees, prospective employees, and what their vision is for future success.
I think that ties back to corporate marketing and the company's overall stance in the plate in the marketplaces, in tandem with recruiting. A holistic approach is really what needs to be taken as it relates to all media to ensure that the EVP/brands are in sync with that talent community.
The last thing is attracting candidates at the top of the funnel does not necessarily translate into an amazing experience. It's the things that we care most about: automation, careful consideration of the content/messaging, and segmenting the audience that are key. What might be good for your business might not necessarily be good for mine. Those are all variables to consider, which is why I often say that it's not like a 24 hour turnaround type deal. It can be, but usually that's not successful.
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