Talent Circles

Saturday, March 24, 2012

5 New Dolphin Dance Steps that Lead to Talent Networks

The didgeridoo wails, the wood blocks clomp together in hypnotic rhythm and the painted dancers move together in synch, smacking their spears and knives on the water, calling to the sea and the dolphins of the deep to drive all the edible fish to shore.

It’s called the Dolphin Dance. It’s a traditional Aboriginal dance of a specific tribe living on the Western coast of Australian. I got to experience it yesterday in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. In fact, I’ve had the privilege of being here all week for an amazing new recruiting conference called the Recruiters’ Hub Conference (RHUB), the brainchild of Phillip Tusing, founder of RecTec. (You can find highlights from day one here and day two here.)

Besides opening the conference, I also had the unique opportunity to give the closing presentation – a high-level talk on Talent Networks – and that is where the Dolphin Dance connection comes in.

Over 12 years ago I entered the HR and recruiting tech marketplace with a company called Tapestry.net. We touted talent communities and our own proprietary candidate matching algorithm that we called IQA – interested qualified applicants. Our talent communities (as we called them) consisted of databases of software developers, IT pros and bilingual Japanese professionals (which was the primary origin of the company). But they weren’t really communities because there was only one-way communication with them – meaning we sent them job postings from our paying employers, some applied, we screened and presented the short lists to our clients.

This is what most talent acquisition sourcing and recruiting platforms have been doing for ages – dancing on the water’s edge to draw the fish to shore (to eat some and throw many more back – what a waste – but not encouraging the fish to play and spawn and stay active). Those are only talent pools, what we’ve been sourcing in for a long time, as old as recruiting itself and predating the internet by decades, if not thousands of years.

Then came the rise of social networks and social recruiting was born, although again that is misleading, since we’ve been sourcing online pools since before the internet was public and before all things social. Queue other online origins pre-internet like IBM’s SHARE and UNIX networks, Compuserve, AOL and Yahoo User Groups. Also, I worked at San Jose State University in the late 80’s and early 90’s and we were already online using email, checking out other university websites, and the human resource department was sourcing from internal pools throughout the entire state system.

I had the honor of meeting and listening to Greg Savage, founder and CEO of Firebrand Talent Ignition in Australia, and I was pleasantly surprised to be echoing what he’s been evangelizing for the past two years.

Social recruiting strategies are the precursors to true talent communities, and whether companies are using the very social backbones of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others to transform pools to networks and communities, or whether they’re using new “middleware” talent network platforms to do it, the talent return is greatest when the following new Dolphin Dance stops are added.

New Dolphin Dance Step #1 – Network Members Don’t Have to Apply for Jobs to Belong

Because you want like-minded folk to aggregate around your brand, you need to allow them come together around other topics relevant to them, whether they apply for a job today, tomorrow or next year.

New Dolphin Dance Step #2 – Network Members Participate in Collaborative Activities

Whether problem-solving on virtual white boards, attending interactive webinars, playing world of work video games with each other, or just hanging out in a virtual chat session, encouraging collaboration among outside folk as well as inside creates community.

New Dolphin Dance Step #3 – Network Members Mentor One Another

With collaboration comes informal mentoring – current employees, recruiters and hiring managers may mentor referrals they know (or non-referrals they don’t), as well as other community members mentoring each other on career development and more.

New Dolphin Dance Step #4 – Network Members Learn of Inside Connections

This is already happening today with LinkedIn and Facebook and other social business networks, but talent network platforms also facilitate this back-door knowledge or whom I already know at companies I may be interested in, or may have friends who would be interested in.

New Dolphin Dance Step #5Network Members Learn More About Employer Brands and Jobs

Of course they do. I know many recruiting folk argue that the main reason why people check out companies is because they’re looking for jobs, not because they want to hang out and dance.

But it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the finding the right specialized talent in smaller networks who want to grow professionally and learn how to dance with peers, potential employers and colleagues better than they’ve ever danced before.

Queue the didgeridoo.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Recruiting, Retention and Playing in the Rain

A few raindrops we ignore. They’re an annoyance, an inconvenience, and we wipe them away with our hands as we hustle through our busy days.

But as the heavens open up and the deluge begins, we become soaked to the bone or we run for cover quickly. Either way the water pools in front of us and we have a choice: rush inside and dry off, watch from under an awning, or we splash through the rushing water together, milk carton boats in hand.

That’s what it’s like with marketing – we want to seep into the mindset of our buyers, and with recruiting that means seeping (and soaking) into the mindset of job applicants. Attracting talented folk to our organizations is an art more than a science – we start with a lot of rain, a funnel and see what squirts out the tiny end.

Then what? The part that’s missing is the middle ground, the engagement, the playing in the rain together before we source and recruit. We hire and we pray (and work hard) for the right fit and employee longevity.

Some voluntary turnover is normal and churn happens, but according to Bersin & Associates, the average cost per hire for all U.S. companies is around $3,500, which can add up. (And for those keeping score at home, this month the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the first American National HR Standard addressing cost-per-hire, the first HR standard developed solely through the sponsorship of the SHRM.)

Whatever your costs are and how they compare compare to other companies, the higher the voluntary turnover rate is for new hires in year one, the more dramatic the cost per hire numbers can become.

That’s a storm no talent acquisition leader or CFO wants to face. And yet, marketing and recruiting don’t play nice together with retaining candidates long term; they don’t run out in the rain to race to the street river, milk carton boats in hand, solidifying the relationship before the hires are made and after.

A recent article by Dr. John Sullivan titled Do You Need a World Class Retention Program? A Checklist of What It Takes, Dr. Sullivan shares “the most thorough and comprehensive checklist on retention that you will ever see.” I highly recommend it. Surprisingly though, there was really no reference to recruiting as retention partner, and there were only three references to CFO’s playing a role in number-crunching the cost of hiring, turnover and retention.

Let’s go back to marketing rain. Marketing brings in new leads that are generated are then passed over to sales to follow up on and eventually close. Some of them at least. Those in the lead pipeline may be nurtured and marketed to so as to inch them along to close.

Then what? Those that do close become customers and are handed over to account management and customer service folk and then – a year later when it’s time to retain their business and a percentage say thanks but no thanks. “Just wasn’t the right for us.”

User adoption correlates tightly with customer retention, and yet, marketing gets them to the door and sales closes it, then marketing and sales sit on the porch and have a few beers, watching the rain and the employment branding and job applicant kids out playing in it. You’d think that an integrated marketing strategy includes a retention investment, but it’s not.

Same with recruiting talent, regardless if we’re talking contingent, retainer, corporate, RPO — but the argument is that, after the final candidates are presented, even closed, “management” leadership takes over and whatever happens 3, 6, 12 months down the road, isn't recruiting’s problem.

But I’d argue that insightful leaders understand that reducing turnover, increasing team retention and improving overall quality of fit with workplace culture are huge initiatives in an ever-changing and highly competitive social talent economy. That means everybody pre- and post-onboarding on your team plays a role in “user adoption.”

Recruiting is marketing and sales. Marketing and sales should be customer service, but it’s not. Marketing and sales should be partners in retention. The milk carton boats must be made, together.

So make it rain and let’s play.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Learn to play nice with girls in tech playgrounds

Come to think of it, they’ve been all men. Unshaven men wearing “Alcatraz” t-shirts and smelling of taco trucks and Mountain Dew and playing Rock Band or World of Warcraft or Words with Friends.

Okay, that’s a unfair exaggeration, and my apologies to my tech brethren, but it is true that every single technology company I’ve talked shop with of late has had all men creating system architecture, managing IT infrastructure, setting up databases, working out UI, crunching code, fixing bugs and dressing up the software.

All men, with the exception of one recent interaction where there was one woman in a development team of six. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen more female founders and CEO’s in Silicon Valley than actual practicing technology professionals, so that may make more of a difference at some point.

In fact, most of my career in tech marketing, HR and recruiting has included more female counterparts than men. Although certainly not equal, there were more women in the workforce the last two years outpacing men – and of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women.

However, in a recent article about IT professionals, “while hard numbers related to the number of women who work in high-tech as technical support or managers in the private and public sectors in the U.S. today are hard to come by, some studies estimate women constitute 15% to 25% of the ranks at most, and about 8% of managers…To be sure, women in the U.S. aren't coming out of undergraduate and graduate programs in computers sciences in huge numbers. As of 2009, only 18% of graduates in computer science were women, according to the report.”

Time to evolve, gentlemen. My two little girls, both of whom take smart device usability to uncanny levels, may want to be in tech someday and I’m going to be right there urging them on through school and into their careers (and I will battle you, my tech brethren). According to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute, an organization dedicated to increasing the role of women in technology, there needs to be a culture shift inside companies today. They need to recruit from bigger candidate pools and advertise positions more neutrally, removing stereotypes and culture references that tell “diverse” candidates to stay away. When hiring, make sure that at least one woman is in the running for every tech job as well as being a part of the recruiting and hiring management teams.

We’re not talking rocket science here. In fact, it can all easily start online today with talent networks, circles, pools, communities, playgrounds even – whatever you want to call them. You can attract like-minded people, male and female alike, interested in specific yet gender-neutral careers, skills, hobbies, technologies, your brand – you name it. Let them communicate with one another, challenge one another without malice, commiserate and collaborate about career commonalities, whether they apply for a job with you today, tomorrow or a year from now (or never).

Of course you’ll promote your brand – you should never stop promoting your brand – but with women dominating today’s colleges and professional schools (for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same), I recommend you learn how to play nice with girls in tech playgrounds.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith: High Tech and High Touch

Mari Smith, probably the ultimate Facebook guru (see my review in March 2011), is also the author of The New Relationship Marketing that came out last October.
Social networks tend to be perceived as channels, or as conduits that enable us to broadcast information in order to attract attention, and more often than not we may forget the key premise of social networking that Mari Smith's book reminds us of: "People do business with people they know, like and trust." So the whole point is: how do you get to be known from people, how to you get them to like you and how to you earn their trust? It's all about building a relationship that matters to both parties. It's precisely what "the new relationship marketing" is about.
Mainly targeting "a business person feeling the pressure to shift to using social media marketing to better understand the new soft skills required for success on the social web," the book is also extremely reassuring and designed to overcome apprehension. The social web is not going to eat you up: anyone can carve up his piece of the always-on society on his own terms. After all, the operative word of the social web is ultimately conversation. Strike it when you want it and how you want it. It's up to you to decide.
Like Erik Qualman in Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence, which I reviewed earlier this year, Mari Smith dispels the threat that social networks still signify to many people. You don't need to turn into social media addicts to survive. You need to know what you want to accomplish and work at it in a consistent fashion — as well as leverage key real world social values, and traditional soft skills. High tech is ultimately high touch — i.e. the ability to communicate your core values, to structure the relationship circles that matter to you, and incrementally build on these relationships. Nobody is expected to become an influencer overnight, but it's up to each of us to create the environment that enables us to create the flow (flow into is the latin root of influence) that others will want to join. In the end, to understand social media, try to forget about the Rolodex metaphor. It's not so much about who you know as it is about who knows you!
This book is just as endearing as its author — enchanting by all accounts to use one of Guy Kawasaki's favorite words.
Originally posted on my personal blog.