Sullivan’s name is on the firm, his wife is his partner, and there’s no doubt he’s the sensei. But over the years, Burnett came to be an alter ego, presenting at conferences, consulting with companies in the U.S. and globally, writing and co-authoring articles by the dozens, and, when Sullivan himself was unavailable, Burnett was the public face of the firm.
Now, after a decade with, Burnett is leaving for a global role as director of strategy for UK-based BraveNewTalent.
“I have never before seen a company with as grand a vision as this,” Burnett said in a conversation Sunday. “It’s what convinced me (to take the job).”
So enthusiastically did he speak of the company and its plans to “defragment the social landscape and the knowledge landscape and bring it together in a way that will be a complete solution,” that if his excitement could be harnessed it would power a city.
“I’m not really abandoning the work that I have done with John (Sullivan). BraveNewTalent is addressing the emerging issues we’ve identified; things we don’t have solutions for,” says Burnett.
BraveNewTalent was founded almost three years ago, getting its first injection of investor money only this year. Although it counts McAfee and IBM and Microsoft among its clients, the company has focused mostly on India and Europe. It’s coming to the U.S. soon, and seeing it through its debut will be among Burnett’s first order of business, when he joins the company January 3.
Enterprise adoption of BraveNewTalent’s platform will be a challenge, says Burnett. “The world’s top and emerging talent is ready for a new model, as are truly progressive organizations, but garnering widespread adoption at the enterprise level will require a lot of work.”
At first glance, BNT appears similar to other business-oriented networks. But that’s deceiving, says Burnett, who explains that BNT is aiming to engage professionals for the long term, not just when they are looking for a job. The way companies use social networks now, he says, attracts job seekers who remain engaged only until they find work. “They are recruiting tools,” he says, and get “short-term engagement of active job seekers.”
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BraveNewTalent aims for a different audience. “One of things that attracted me most about BraveNewTalent is that they made delivering value to the talent the primary goal, i.e. it’s a talent-centric solution,” Burnett says.
In the company’s grand vision, narrow-casted talent communities will be developed, where content will be targeted, useful, and current. These communities will have characteristics drawn from other sites; LinkedIn’s professional tone, for instance; Facebook’s strong social interaction; Quora’s crowd-sourced information, and so on.
In an email before our conversation, Burnett explained BNT this way: “It pairs skills communities with organization-supported talent communities, creating a diverse ecosystem where developing talent, organizations that leverage talent and individuals/organizations that impart knowledge and skills can robustly interact in a way that has become the new norm for those active on social media.
“While integrated talent management is a buzzword we hear a lot in this profession, very few solutions are truly integrated, instead they offer suites of silo’d tools. The BraveNewTalent Community Platform that is currently under development (you’ll be able to see the first glimpses of it around Christmas) addresses employer branding, holistic labor sourcing (all labor types), development, performance management, and retention without any reference to traditional HR departmental boundaries, it’s truly exciting.”
Even after he begins his new job, Burnett says he anticipates continuing his active involvement in commenting on talent acquisition, offering his insights on emerging trends and developments, and continuing his relationship with John Sullivan. “We’ll discuss issues as we have,” said Burnett. “BraveNewTalent addresses the disconnects that John and I have observed, so, in that sense, it is an extension of our work.”