What is a talent community? That was the central question to kick off the SHRM Talent Tomorrow conference near Washington, D.C. on Sunday, April 29th. Is it a place where like-minded and like-skilled people can come together to share ideas and link with one another to improve their job prospects? Maybe. One thing that all the panelists (@thisislars, @fishdogs, @Jessica_lee, & @cjmdatl) agreed upon was that the ‘community’ aspect and ‘engagement’ are the most important elements.

Let’s tackle engagement first. If you are building a true talent community you have a way/portal to interact with potential talent. You can collect information on them, and reach out to them…but when you reach out, what do you say? This is a key issue especially when many job seekers view a button on a corporate website that says ‘join our talent community’ as code for ‘if you press this button get ready for email and text spam from our firm’.

Engagement is also not just relegated to the social media sphere, all too often recruiters get caught up in ‘new’ engagement tools and forget about proven practices such as career fairs, open houses, etc. Essentially anything to get potential talent physically connected to your current talent. Now, more holistic talent experts will say that I am oversimplifying this. Their answer would be: “What social/cyber engagement allows recruiters to do is turn those physical interactions into higher-value interactions because you can weed out/cultivate relationships prior to a first face-2-face interaction.”

One way to bridge the virtual/physical engagement gap is to do something that brought more than 50 like-minded, like-skilled individuals out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to attend a talent conference. Dice, SHRM, and Clearancejobs deserve credit for practicing what they preach, engagement is about more than a virtual conversation – bringing people together is key.

Back to the concept of community: Wikipedia defines community as: A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). An organization’s talent community can take advantage of the time and space dimensions of this definition, the ‘relationship’ dimension ultimately then becomes the crucial success factor.

When this session started, the central question was: What is a talent community? Perhaps recruiters should focus less on answering that question and more on answering: What is our firm’s strategy for fostering healthy relationships with potential talent? The answer to this question will include much more than talent communities. Perhaps an answer will unfold during the conference stay tuned to #shrmtalent on Twitter and you may find out.

Charlie Tierney is a : Chef Humanist Artist Realist Leader Innovator Energizer Traveler Ignoramus Earthy Romantic Nerdy Expert Yuppie Talent Strategist, Manager at Deloitte Consulting, posts do not represent his employer.

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