Part II: The Reality of Social Recruiting and How to Approach It

In Part I of this series, I suggested that one of the largest challenges to staffing firms pursuing and taking advantage of “social recruiting” was achieving a clear understanding of what it really is and what it implies. I noted that that my definition of [the general concept of] "social" is this:  “processes and systems enabling electronic/online, engagement-rich, value-adding connections and relationships.”  And “social recruiting” will be arrived at as you each make choices over several years to evolve your own specific technology-enabled, talent ecosystems and business processes. …. I think that we are only at the beginning of something we are calling "social recruiting."  That is: the beginning of understanding how to leverage “social networks” (like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), “social media” (like Twitter, YouTube, etc.), and other “social tools” (such as 3rd party services like Ascendify, Bullhorn Reach, Jobs2Web, Monster Beknown, etc.,  or solutions like Insight Squared that address the so-called “big data” and analytics that come along with all these social networks, media, and tools)--as well as a whole set of other converging important technologies (mobile, unified communications, etc.).

There is no holy grail to quest after and find.  As the world becomes more “social,” so to too will our business processes and operations, as pointed out in a recent McKinsey/MIT study, “Capturing business value with social technologies.”

Staffing, the sourcing and recruiting of talent, has always been a social business:  people needing people, people helping people find the people they need (and helping people find the people who need them), getting to know people, connecting, building and leveraging relations.  Staffing firms have always been very social, with a fairly stable set of technology tools (phone, fax, email, databases, workflow systems, job boards, etc.).  But now this set of technology tools has been and is transforming rapidly.  Some point out that we are moving from “systems of record” to “systems of engagement," i.e. systems that make us more “social" (think about the difference between a relatively static “candidate database” of resumes and a dynamic database of relationships with talent).  In any event, a massive wave of different technologies (ranging from “social networks” to “smart phones”) is certainly reweaving (tightening and expanding) the fabric of interactions through which we accomplish our value-added ends.

So what does this all mean for staffing firms, talent acquisition, sourcing and recruiting?  How should we be thinking about getting to the next level of talent acquisition processes, practices, and tools that will allow us to succeed in a new “technologically social” world?

I think there are two basic shifts in thinking and planning that need to occur.  One is a shift from thinking about your business as one that “delivers people/workers as products” to one that “provides talent as service.”  The other shift involves a shift in thinking about your technology platform as one that tries to manage records and transactions within a relatively controlled, proprietary enterprise environment of your firm to one that is structured to manage continuous engagement (which really the core of being able to provide talent as a service)

Here in Part II, we will focus on the shift in thinking about your business as one that “delivers people/workers as products” to one that “provides talent as service” by striving to achieve an ideal of “continuous engagement” and organized dynamic connectivity with the people who possess the talent and skills (Part III will later focus on the supporting technology). 

Think about “continuous engagement” in terms of a virtuous circle of four distinct, yet mutually reinforcing, processes that staffing firms will be fairly well acquainted with:  Sourcing, Recruiting, Referrals, and Branding:

While a staffing firm might think of the first step in Sourcing as a “job requisition,” a staffing firm thinking in terms of “continuous engagement” will know that the first step in Sourcing is actually Branding. Branding is really about the sending of signals and planting of information and meaning in distant candidates (or reinforcing it in close ones that are part of your talent community.  Rather than thinking about managing resumes and candidates, think about managing living relationships with people who have potential to deliver the talent and skills that your clients are going to need. If your processes and infrastructures are designed and engineered correctly, you should get to a point where your marginal cost of bringing 1, 2, 3, ... N new “candidates” into your community (and keeping connected) will be approaching zero. 

Unlike the traditional “serial algorithmic” recruitment model of (job req -> search -> find -> recruit -> place-> END and START AGAIN), the “social” recruiting model of “continuous engagement” is not only organized around those basic serial tasks, but rather consists of a broader range of processes that support engagement and the formation of (to some degree) self-sustaining talent communities that can support and generate themselves.  This process, in turn, can support a robust network of communication in and at the fringe of a community that actually flows into, reinforces and sharpens Branding.

“Continuous engagement” is a process paradigm that is necessary to be able to provide clients with “talent as service” options and efficiency, and it is one of the two basic shifts in thinking and planning that must be undertaken for a staffing firm to pursue “social recruiting.”  You can look at “continuous engagement” as being  kind the of heart and soul of “social recruiting,” a necessary core component of "social recruiting" (in other words, it’s not simply using some "social technology tools”—the business change must occur internally as well as externally). 

It should also now be clear that the term, “social recruiting,” is a bit misleading as it really involves the whole continuous process cycle depicted in the diagram above and encompasses the traditional processes of Referrals, Branding, and Sourcing as well as Recruiting raised to a higher level of integration and complexity (which can only be achieved with modern technologies, as will be discussed in Part III of this series).  

In closing, I’m reminded of a poem, called “The Roman Fountain,” by 19th century Swiss poet, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer:

The fountain jets and falling fills
Full the marble basin round,
Which, losing itself, overspills
Into the second basin's ground;
The second swells, to fullness grown,
The third receives the frothed excess,
And all these take and give as one

And rush and rest.


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