In the early days of the 20th century, fish-processing plants in Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market would throw open their doors early in the morning, quickly vetting and then employing many of the assembled fish-processing workers waiting outside. That process is largely the same, today—employers place job ads online or (less and less often) in print newspapers, figuratively throwing open their factory doors to begin vetting and choosing among the people who respond to those ads.
That’s all changing, as talented job seekers reject this approach. So employers have hit on an alternative to the bureaucratic recruitment system: Talent Hives. These are communities of people interested in an employer (whether because they’re job hunting themselves, or just curious, or because they’re fans of the product or service the organization produces) and willing to be in two-way touch with that employer over time. (For the simplest example of a Talent Hive, think of a Facebook (FB) company page or a LinkedIn (LNKD) group). Talent Hives are popular because they’re easy to set up, and because the two-way and group communication makes it easy for companies to learn more about potential job applicants (including people who are currently working for their competitors) even when they don’t have open positions.
To qualify as a full-fledged Talent Hive, an employer’s online talent community needs these four elements:
• Stickiness—a Talent Hive needs to provide useful, relevant content (not just an employer’s job ads, since many or most of its Talent Hive members won’t necessarily be job hunting when they join the community) to keep hive members hanging around long enough to hear when the employer is hiring.
• Community—lots of employers send out e-mail newsletters, but that mailing list doesn’t constitute a Talent Hive. True Talent Hives allow their members to interact with one another in discussions, product reviews, suggestions, and in other ways. In fact, the member-to-member interaction on a Talent Hive is one way employers can see who’s sharp and knowledgeable (not to mention plucky and creative) BEFORE a job opening arises.
• Private, two-way communication—if you’re going to vet and woo talent for the long term, you’ve got to make it easy for people to converse with your company’s leaders, and vice versa. Talent Hive members can be valuable sources of feedback as well as evangelists for your brand, if you can switch out of the standard corporate One Size Fits All communication model (example: “Your application has been received by Human Resources. If we see a fit, we will contact you. Don’t call us”) and staff your Hive with live human beings.
• Energy—a Talent Hive that sits frozen in space won’t do your recruiting (or marketing) efforts any good. For a Talent Hive to thrive and become a pipeline for your hiring needs, it’s got to have energy flowing through it (the same, of course, is true for your company). Virtual events, polls, quizzes, opportunities to interact with the company’s employees and managers, and networking-and-advice-sharing possibilities for members are the things that keep a Talent Hive buzzing.
Could a Talent Hive supplement (or even replace) your company’s traditional recruiting efforts? Here’s one way to think about that question. Would you rather have most of your company’s recruiting activity focused on complete strangers (the people who search the big job boards for job ads, for instance) or people who already know and get your brand—your customers, vendors, ex-employees, and partners?