The worst thing that can happen from any gathering of minds is come away thinking that we have all the questions answered. Far better to come away with new questions buzzing in your mind that you hadn’t think to ask before. From the Social Recruiting Conference 2011 (#SRCONF) last week – superbly hosted by Vic Okezie and Alan Whitford – the stirrings of these ideas – nay, relevations – on social recruiting have come to my mind.
1. It’s recruitment With the small r & Marketing with a big M.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the need for recruiters to develop marketing skills and all of the big brands on show at #SRCONF made mention of it in their presentations last week. I think we are perhaps closer than we might realise to the point where recruitment actually becomes marketing, where the acquisition of candidates is a welcome but secondary outcome for any major recruitment campaign. This idea – pretty close to outrageous so long ago – becomes clearer when you consider an organisation like one of those who presented on stage – an Accenture, for example, a consultancy business who’s always depended upon the power of it’s brand within the extended community of the like minded. We can speculate that for an organisation like this, a recruitment need can become a major marketing opportunity. Need to recruit 100 graduates? Extend your recruitment campaign to bring in 10,000, provide a great experience throughout the journey and embed within them your values as a business. You might end up 100 great hires, but your biggest gain is an army of brand advocates who will no doubt go on to work for many of your client or prospective client businesses. In effect, you may be seeding your client base with allies of your brand.
In line with Matt Jeffrey’s contention that recruitment should formally become a function of marketing rather than HR, this is recruitment marketing with a small r and a big M. The implications for us, as recruiters, is profound. We need to find new skills in marcomms, community engagement and relationship management. Or it won’t be us doing the ‘recruitment’ at all.
It’s unusual to have great presentations, delivered by two popular and charismatic presenters, somehow ending up a little bit flat.
Pepsico’s mobile app – developed by UK mobile recruitment leaders, topbananas – has certainly pushed the marble along when it come to mobile recruiting but it lacked the key feature which prevented it from being a triumph – you couldn’t apply through it. This is a critical break in the candidate journey, and it made the whole case study a little less revolutionary than perhaps we anticipated. Can a mobile app be considered truly mobile recruiting if, in the end, you are directing your job applicant to return to the desktop and apply, presumably by email and with Word? The overwhelming sentiment of the crowd was ‘no’.
This led me think of the role the CV plays in keeping job seekers chained to the desktop. You will never be able to download a Word document onto your phone (and thank f___ for that, imagine if Windows had ever won the phone war?), and so until the industry itself evolves beyond the idea that candidates must at some stage in the application process send in a CV, mobile will remain where Pepsico & topbananas have left it – a great promotional, recruitment marketing and employer branding tool, but not a genuine mobile recruiting app.
3. Size & Hiring Frequency Matters in Social Recruiting
The point was made during the Social Media Strategy Debate segment by industry veteran Keith Robinson, that a great deal of the lessons provided at #SRCONF could not be applied to the small or infrequent hirer. This seems self evidently true, but is consistently underplayed on the conference scene. For a company that hires 1 person every 3 years, it makes no sense to invest in the building of any type of community for the purpose. Size matters in social recruiting, and hiring frequency matters more. The social recruiting initiatives described by the likes of Accenture, Societe General, Unilver and the rest have no bearing for the vast majority of companies out there. And so we have an urgent need to remove from the conversation the sweeping statements that so often plague our community. They are unhelpful when we consider the sheer number of employers out there are something other than MNC sized megacorps we inevitably focus on in showcase conferences like #SRCONF. The butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker – the modern day SMB’s – will continue to be dependent on what they perceive to be the turnkey solutions – staff provided by 3rd party recruitment agencies or candidate traffic driven through job board advertising.
4. Brand Based Talent Communities? More Questions Than Answers
The concept of a Talent Community based round a corporate employer brand has been under strong challenge this year. It’s worth exploring again here, as all the case studies presented at #SRCONF remain based around the conventional notion – that is, you build a Talent Community as an extension of your corporate brand. As panelist Gareth Jones of BruBakerHR has recently argued, this may be building a community around the wrong idea of the job seeker. Read his excellent blog post for a clearer exposition of the thesis. The job seeker is not a permanent category of person, nor even a category that people willingly embrace. It’s a transition phase that most people are keen to get out of as soon as possible. So what happens when the job seeker you’ve brought to your Talent Community, and have been engaging with for so long, actually get’s a job somewhere else? Brand advocate or not, he’s going to disappear. For a global brand like Accenture, who in my speculation may already have been moving down the road to using Talent Community’s primarily as a marketing hub, this may be the enough. But for most other businesses who’s need is primarily to, you know, recruit the people, it might make not make much sense to invest resources and continual commitment in building permanent assets for a ‘community’ that is transient and brand agnostic, and may, in the end, not be a much of a community at all. The argument might be to move into communities that already exist – as Jones indeed argues – those that have self organised around a trade or some other vector that was important to the community. Does this not then offer the 3rd party recruitment agent – routinely, and often correctly, lambasted for being steadfast in their hostility to change – a route back to relevance on the social web? It should for the smart ones, who are now moving into those verticals and building their credibility as fully fledged members of that community
5. Success Cannot Be Your Only Teacher
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Katie McNab, Talent Acquisition Manager at Pepsico when she gamely ventured that she didn’t know everything, made mistakes and were learning as she went. It was important to hear. Too often, we hear of the unalloyed triumph of organisations delivering social recruiting projects, with the reverses minimized and the successes burnished for display. It is the nature of the beast, of course, but the display of success alone can be a poor teacher if it is not also accompanied with equally compelling examination and exposition of the mistakes and errors that were made.
Social Recruiting – change of any type – is risky. It’s only with a balanced understanding of those risks that we will be able to alleviate the cynicism that continues to pervade in HR and recruitment landscape when the topic of social recruiting comes up.
Perhaps what we need is another type of conference – the How Not To Do Social Recruiting Conference 2012 or the ‘Look, Here’s How I Fucked This Social Recruiting Project Up’ Conference 2014? Come Vic, Alan, and the rest – when are we going to get to go to one of the those? I’d buy a ticket. Wouldn’t you?
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