Job seekers who want to send a resume and cover letter to Zappos for open positions are in for a surprise. The e-retailer removed job postings from its career page. It’s not that Zappos isn’t hiring — a company with thousands of employees is always recruiting — but it wants to get to know people before there’s a job posting at stake. The career page invites visitors to become "insiders" by signing up and starting conversations with different teams inside Zappos.
The Zappos approach is just one example of a Web 3.0 talent community, a loosely defined buzzword that describes a variety of online communities where companies and individuals come together to talk about areas of similar interest. HR teams are tapping into LinkedIn groups, CRM systems and branded sites to grow organic conversations with people who share interests relevant to the company missions. The goal of these communities is to shift from a short-term, immediate-hire mindset to an evergreen recruiting strategy that values meaningful relationships and shared interests.
For Marvin Smith, talent community strategist at Lockheed Martin, the litmus test for a true talent community (as opposed to a network or pipeline of candidates) is that members can speak to each other—not just read about a company’s culture or receive email alerts for job openings. Smith and his team built Military Connect, a Lockheed Martin-branded talent community that helps service members retain professional knowledge and connect with fellow veterans. He shared with us a few lessons for cultivating communities that last:
5 Steps to Building a Talent Community
1. Build from within: The most important part of building a community is internal support, Smith says. For instance, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson has spearheaded several internal initiatives around diversity and inclusion, and Smith’s team will launch a talent community around these issues in 2015. "If you don’t have that foundation of people that are passionate around that subject or passionate around whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, it won’t work," he says.
2. Think in marketing terms: Marketers use a variety of tools to have two-way conversations with customers, from HubSpot’s inbound marketing platform to innovative customer service approaches to social media interactions. Their goal isn’t much different from HR’s: Engage people by building rapport and brand awareness. Smith says HR should take a cue from the marketing playbook: "If the community is going to last and going to be able to solve problems, be able to get an ROI, then you’re going to have to think more about it in marketing terms than in just hires, because the community is more of a longer-term strategy."
3. Create personas: Just as brands think about their target customers, Smith and his team consider personas for their talent community audience. They built Military Connect to engage three groups: people thinking about leaving the military, people in transition from the military to civilian life, and veterans who’ve made the transition but haven’t found their dream jobs. "Let’s give people information that would help in each of those cases and see if we can solve some of the problems and the challenges that each of those personas are facing," he says. It must be working. About 25 percent of the 2000 community members have applied for jobs.
4. Take your time: The last thing HR managers want to do is launch a community before it’s ready. "We typically start slow, test the community, make sure everything’s right, maybe have a couple thousand people on it and then make revisions and so forth and then go live with it," Smith says. Remember, it’s a long-term strategy and not one that should be devised overnight.
5. Constantly curate: Content keeps a brand top-of-mind, whether or not the company is hiring. Managers should continue to engage talent communities with relevant articles and conversation-starters that make people think about their industry or areas of personal interest. Smith curates 200 different sources every day and he has an internal group of people who comment and share those articles with different people. "It’s an indirect way of staying top-of-mind, bringing value to that group of people, and then when somebody is looking, it’s very natural for them to inquire of Lockheed Martin people, what do you have going?" he says.
So what's next for talent communities? Smith says they'll create more personalized experiences, similar to the relationships that headhunters built with individuals before the Internet boom. "We all have access to the same people, but it's going to be the ones with a relationship that are going to win the day," he says.
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
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The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock