Beyond Talent Pools: Building Dynamic Communities

Building a social network is only the first step to getting the best candidates. A social network helps you gather potential candidates together and it provides a way to deliver and receive information. But typical social networks tend to be weak at getting candidates excited and engaged about working for you. Part of this is because we have not yet embraced the idea of creating communities rather than talent pools.

We know that one of the ways to improve engagement is to personalize communications and provide potential candidates with the kind and depth of information about the organization and position that they desire. Acquiring the best candidate means you have to sell the organization to her by understanding what she needs and wants. You do this over time by learning about her needs, concerns, and interests. As you learn, you or the community provide relevant information and answer questions.

While we all may agree this sounds ideal, we also know that it is not an easy thing to do using traditional tools and technology. Because we have limitations of time and scope, we can only ever treat a handful of candidates in a personal way. Even with technology, most candidates receive boilerplate and generalized information that is rarely exciting or very informative.

So along comes social networking. Over the past half decade, the popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks has soared. Almost all large organizations have some sort of presence on one or both of these networks and perhaps on others as well. Many organizations have large talent pools with hundreds or even thousands of candidates, yet we are still challenged to screen them, learn about who they are, and communicate in a personal way. Getting people to join was only the first step to creating a dynamic and useful community that can quickly provide you with the quality candidates you need.

Community vs. Talent Pool

The most important concepts to grasp is the difference between a talent pool and a community. We toss the word community around, but most of us do not have a very clear definition of what makes it different from a database.

A talent pool typically is a group of people with selected data about them attached. It is the equivalent of a filing cabinet and only contains static and most likely out-of-date information about the potential candidate. They are hard to search and the data we have about a candidate rarely give us much insight into what a person is really like. And most talent pools do not allow the candidate to engage with the recruiter or others in the pool.

A community is entirely different. First of all it is two-way: both you and the candidate exchange information and both of you give and get. But a community also has several other distinguishing features:

Collaboration and Sharing

People in a community share information and often work together to solve problems or come up with new ideas. They are organic and alive with conversation and sharing of opinions and thoughts. True recruiting communities would include your employees as well as potential candidates talking about the organization, what it does, how it does it, and who does it. This give-and-take process is the best way to personalize the company and provide candidate with information about what is is like to work there. It saves you the need to tailor responses or have lots of facts at your fingertips; the employees and perhaps even other candidates will provide what you need.

Feeling Included

Being part of something is also a key ingredient in a community. By being with others of similar interests and through sharing ideas, people come to feel part of the team. Good communities make recruiting much easier because candidates already feel like they know people and relate to them. When candidates actually get hired and start work, they have people to talk with that they already have met on line and have shared with.

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Similar Values

No one is forced to join or stay in a community. Unlike a database, I can remove myself from the community and move on. Therefore, people who stay in a community and engage in conversation are most likely to have the same values as the people in the organization. This means that cultural compatibility is much higher and it become easy to spot those who aren’t really comfortable in the culture your organization has.


People are looking for authenticity from organizations, and it is within communities that so much can be explained and made available. Employees may bring up issues and discuss how they were resolved, while candidates may also contribute their ideas. Member of communities are much more likely to share their feelings and express their true opinions about issues. Potential employees feel that the organization is open and honest in its communication.


And finally, those in an active community are truly engaged and interested. Here is a statement from Richard Long, Deloitte New Zealand’s manager of talent acquisition, about its recently developed Facebook community aimed at university students and graduates:

“Our strategy is to create dialogue and conversation with students and engage with them — all the while further developing the page with their feedback in mind — quite an organic process. All through our page we have given students the opportunity to tell us what they want to see and hear. The content of our page is provided by our own Deloitte graduates and summer interns, and the fans themselves. My team really only administrates and develops the site to allow more conversation to happen between the fans and Deloitte grads and interns they are interested in hearing from. The result is we have built a community of students engaged with the Deloitte NZ brand, who are talking to us and have a sense of our culture and how we can support their career aspirations.”

This nicely sums up my major points and gives solid evidence that taking your social network to the next dimension — that of turning it into a true community of engaged and energetic people you can tap into whenever you have an opening — is the right way to go.

In a future article I will talk about how to start moving from a talent pool to a community and I will talk about the concerns many of us have over privacy and confidential information. We have a ways to go, but creating communities is the beginning of a new era in recruiting.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


20 Comments on “Beyond Talent Pools: Building Dynamic Communities

  1. Thank you, Kevin. A thoughtful article.
    IMHO, the development of community relies upon the explicit or implicit assumptions of trust, loyalty, and reciprocity. These have been (and continue to be) sorely lacking in most economic organizations today.

    However, I see two factors which may tend toward the growth of “Corporate Pseudo-Community”, where the organization pretends to care about and take an interest in the group:
    1) A continuing high rate of unemployment/economic uncertainty may create a “New Organization Man” (or Woman), who is willing to sacrifice for the chance of security, if not wealth (as was the case during the Dot.Com Era).
    2) A new cohort of young people who haven’t yet been lied to/misled/had their realistic or unrealistic expectations dashed/”failed to read the fine print”/etc. in a major way. As P. T. Barnum would probably say now: “There’s a cohort of suckers born every generation.”


    Keith “Thinks Things Can Get Somewhat Better With Hard Work and Occasional Setbacks” Halperin

  2. I love the idea of community. I know as an intern that I do not want to be just another person. I don’t want to be selected because of some statistical facts. I want to be selected because I am who I am. You have to take the time to get to know your employee and their likes/ dislikes. What can your employee give you and what can you give them? Like advertising you have to keep in mind what your customer wants.

    -CKR Interactive Intern

  3. Thanks Kevin, as ever a great article.

    I’m currently looking to make the jump from having no talent pools to creating talent communities. I would be keen to see or hearing about what success looks like and any pitfalls of moving to this approach (apart from just inherent cultural challenges!).

    Looking forward to the follow up article.

  4. Kevin – you have championed the Talent Community concept for quite a while and this terrific article continues that effort, and I am always intrigued by your thoughts on the subject.

    For the past 8 years my firm has provided Talent Community (TC) services for clients where we manage the Community for our clients by providing a consistent flow of information about what makes the client company tick and what their workforce and management is like. We have been the conduit to personal interactions and meetings between the Community and the client’s staff.

    Finally with the advent of the Social Web, in late 2008 we began to change our process to take advantage of the new realities. This month, after a long process of change, we are launching an entire new set of services that make use of our past TC experience and online capabilities. Similar to the Deloitte experience, our program will also unfold over time as it is extremely important to let the TC members (both client employees and those we are attracting to their TC) show what THEY want to glean from their Community. Being flexible and in tune with the TC is the key.

    One thing I can share from past experience is that the participation numbers that some are expecting from a TC is way too high. The perception from Linked In or Facebook with their millions is that a company TC should also be huge. This is absolutely the wrong perception for a well functioning company specific TC. Facebook Fan pages and Linked In groups are great as marketing vehicles and their numbers can be large, but the engagement is typically extremely low and random (don’t confuse a contest for a free IPad for example as the type of interaction that you need to build a successful TC…). A TC with scores of participants – not thousands – that are from functional and regional areas that the company needs to improve their business is much more valuable.

    As an industry, we are still evolving the Talent Community concept. A company that realizes this as a willing partner and is fully engaged in sharing their story in an open and enthusiastic manner will be able to make the most of their TC efforts and will lead the way to a better Talent Management and Acquisition process.

  5. The comparisson is not that sinple any more Talent Pool vs Community. All of the Talent Pool solutions or databases will link to online profiles and synchronise with user consent. This means the talent pool or database IS up-to-date. Surely the combination of Talent Pool and online Profiles is the answer with very targetted relationships and communication being formed and taking place over the Talent Pool. The best of both and far more targetted than jumnping on a broad professional network ?

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