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Friday, May 11, 2012

Strategic choice: Create and nurture nimble talent networks


How refreshing it was to hear it. Not that I disparage LinkedIn as a valuable sourcing service; it is used by more recruiters than any other online network. But for the first time of late I heard a recruiter at a decent-sized company lauding the use of Quora to source and network, not LinkedIn. Quora is an expert network where questions are posed and answers are given about a variety of topics from a variety of industries.

That’s one of the biggest wins when it comes to recruiting these days – being flexible, nimble and opportunistic. Finding where your target talent is and going to them. Then creating talent networks and nurturing them, on their own ground as well as yours, whether you hire them or not.

This is a critical key to hiring and retention and one of many valuable takeaways from the recent San Francisco event War For Talent, Winning the War for Startup Talent. And what an appropriate place to have the event, since San Francisco is the center of the startup universe these days (and the past few years).

Blech. War for talent? I know it’s a highly competitive marketplace for the highly specialized skills needed today, especially those needed for technology startups. According to economists quoted in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, “Job growth since the end of the recession has been clustered in high-skill fields inaccessible to workers without advanced degrees or in low-paying industries.”

As I wrote recently, it’s not really a war; it’s a mobilization of innovation and motivated minds — the leaders, the builders, the doers, all the combined skills that make up the “startup” and of course the money that make it all happen, with barriers to business entry lower than they’ve ever been.

Take the opening keynote speaker at the War For Talent event, Ron Conway, co-founder of SV Angel. Ron talked about how recruiting and hiring should be the number #1 priority for startups, that these firms are the job creation engines.

He emphasized that anyone can be recruited at any time and referenced his time advising Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Early on Zuckerberg spent hours a day recruiting (still does) and was quoted as saying, “If you're not fatigued from recruiting, you're not doing your job. You should always be replacing yourself.”

In fact, a lot of companies are fatiguing their recruiting teams left and right, trying before they buy in today’s market (and trying to find before they buy). For example, developing internship programs and then sourcing whom they should really hire over time. Remember, many highly specialized skills are a rarity in hot markets like the Bay Area.

But even if you've got a great product and your growth trajectory is vertical, those are only table stakes in Silicon Valley and other markets. People want their minds blown to join a company – they want the emotional connection with everyone they’d be working with and for.

Recruiting industry thought leader Kevin Wheeler referenced this week in an ERE.net article that 2.1 million people resigned their jobs in February, the most in any month since the start of the Great Recession. He goes on to write:

“This is startling given that the economy is not strong and that millions are out of work. The natural inclination would seem to me to be to hunker down and hang on to the job you have, no matter how bad it is. That is what happened in previous recessions. Yet these were disgruntled, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled people who voluntarily, many without other positions or jobs lined up, chose to leave.”

Again, it’s the mobilization of innovation and motivated minds and the companies that are winning are creating and nurturing flexible, nimble and opportunistic talent networks.

Go ahead. Blow their minds.

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