The difference between Talent Networks and Talent Communities

If you have been around the HR & Recruiting blogosphere long enough (or been to enough conference booths) you’ve probably heard about Talent Networks or Talent Communities.  Both were born out of the concept that every recruitment or sourcing campaign you run should not only be about finding applicants for a specific job but also be about building a collection of talent that you can engage with and leverage when recruiting for future positions.  And while both aim to achieve this same goal, they come at the problem in much different ways.


What is a Talent Community?

This is a weighty question that I’ve tried to answer before (see post) but here’s my condensed answer.  A Talent Community is a member community built around a common or shared interest (like all communities).  When someone joins a talent community, it is to engage with like minds and share common interests.  The interest needs to revolve around an industry (chemical engineering), skill-set (Ruby on Rails) and is not typically job specific.  The community is a destination that people go to for information sharing and open dialogue with fellow members.

In this content, it is hard to imagine a generic company community centered only around jobs or employment can be sustainable.  While peopl may be interested in hearding more about future opportunities at a company, it is unlikely they are looking to log in or engage in dialogue with other prospective candidates one company at a time.  For this reason, the word “Talent” in the community is more of a internal description for your recruiting organization.  Once you build a relevant industry or thought leadership community, you may use it as a recruiting tool, however, from a marketing perspective you market it as a thought leadership community to candidates for people to join and engage in conversation.  This gives candidates a reason to come back and interact and makes this a true talent pool.

It’s key to remember in Talent Communities is three dimensional as content is created and shared between candidates and your organization.  Content is created by all members and shared with all members.


What is a Talent Network?

A Talent Network is an opt-in candidate database that enables you to build candidate talent pools & pipelines for future employment opportunities.  Candidates can opt-in to this network via the job apply process or on your Career Site and want to hear about your company and employment opportunities.  Engagement is flat with all content created by your organization.  Relevant targeted content is broadcasted to specific populations of individuals in your Talent Network.  This is done to keep them engaged with what is happening with your organization while providing them relevant information so they don’t feel like they are being spammed.

Why does terminology matter?

A lot of people get confused with Talent Communities.  Many vendors refer to capabilities for building “Talent Communities” when in truth what they are providing are the Talent Networks described above.  This is not to diminish the value of Talent Networks as they can provide tremendous value.

It’s more about proper expectation setting with the candidate audience.  There is a preconceived notion about the level of engagement afforded in a “community” and if that engagement is not there, the network being created is something the organization won’t be able to live up to.


The Value

When speaking about the value that both Talent Communities and Talent Networks provide, let’s look at them separately.

The value of Talent Networks is easy to directly correlate.  It can be measured and is seen in better candidate experience and better return for every job ad placed.  For every job distribution campaign you run, an opt-in process can capture around 70% of candidates that would have dropped off the apply process (which is typically high).  These candidates that you’ve added to your Talent Network can lead to on average 20% more applicants when engaged with for future job positions.  All of this is happening automatically for the same cost that you already spend to market a job.

The value of a Talent Community is harder to tie directly back to explicit savings.  Building a community that is successful and thriving can take a lot of work and requires a good deal of attention.  Recruiters and other employees need to be engaged to help foster the dialogue and ensure there is compelling content to engage the audience.  Typically, leveraging a “community” is considered a direct sourcing activity.  A recruiter or sourcer targets specific community members who content and activity demonstrate their fit with the organization’s culture and needs.

This sourcing is not limited to communities built by the sourcer’s organization and many organizations leverage 3rd party communities today (such as Stack Overflow) instead of creating their own.  Other organizations build robust recruiting content strategies developing hybrid strategies that include both community and network functionality.

No matter what you are doing it’s important to define your source tracking and recruitment metrics for these activities.


It’s all about Content

When building your Talent Network, you need to keep in mind and determine how you will engage with different members in the network audience.  Content is King and the more targeted the content you can provide to candidates and hence the more value you offer, the more likely candidates will be to take action by applying or by referring someone else on the job content you send their way.

Let’s face it.  If you go dark for 2-3 months without engaging with a candidate in your Talent Network, what is the chance they will respond to a job listing you send to them?  A continual stream of valuable content should be sent to candidates to keep them warm and interacting with your brand as you both wait for the right fit in your organization.


The Big Finish

Overall, I think Talent Communities in our industry to date have been mis-labled.  The concept sits better in theory than in execution.  Building and keeping engaged a community is a full-time job and many times this skill-set does not exist within your HR department.  In contrast, Talent Networks (and what many mis-label as “Talent Communities”) already exist, have success stories in a number of different organizations and can be largely automated with recruitment technology.  It’s about ensuring you are setting the proper expectations with your candidate population.  With candidates understanding that they are opting-in to engage with a company around employment, companies are getting permission to engage and provide great content to these candidates.

This enables them to develop mind-share with candidates and continually engage so that when the right position or opportunity presents itself a candidate will be more apt to be aware for it and consider applying for the position.  This is a longer term strategy that can help you improve your overall apply rates and better match your employment connections with the right opportunities.

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