Back in 1999, I was working on the development of a piece of software that allowed the recruiter to reach candidates that were coming together in newsgroups, on-line, to converse about their specialist subjects. It was while delving into this world of on-line groups that I had a light bulb moment - I realised that tapping into these communities, or 'special interest groups' as we referred to them back then, could be the future for creating a more robust and credible recruitment supply chain.
Fast forward 5 years to 2004 and as the managing director of an HR search and selection business I remember standing in front of the rest of the company at an 'off site strategy day' and saying "the future for us is to change from being recruitment consultants to community managers." Cue tumble-weed and long, embarrassing silence. I may as well have said I had sold the company to aliens from outer space and I was moving to the new head office on Mars. Of course my team were polite about the whole thing, which is more than could be said for my industry peers who wasted no time in tossing away my business card and scoffing that I obviously didn't understand 'real' recruitment.
Unfortunately, despite being convinced that this was the right strategy for the industry and the company, I struggled with how we would bring this to life given the tools at our disposal at the time - the telephone and a relatively 'flat' and uninspiring set of web tools.
"The recruitment equivalent of telephone banking?" Hmm. I wasn't sure.
Now of course, everything has changed. Social media tools and frameworks suddenly make the idea of communities as a source of talent a reality. 'Communities' and 'social recruiting' are the buzzwords on every recruiters lips all of a sudden.
But whilst we might be on the verge of realising the vision I suspect that it will only become a reality for the smarter corporates and perhaps a small number of 'new breed' businesses who truly 'get it'. Try as I might I cannot see it happening for the vast majority of the existing recruitment industry players and I don't think, despite what I'm reading elsewhere, that we will see the traditional recruitment consultant re invented as a 'community manager'. Here is my rationale:
Perhaps most importantly though, community managers are, and need to be seen as, embedded and trusted members of the community, not someone who's prime motivation is to take a slice of it's value.
Tomorrow, I will once again stand in front of a group my colleagues from across the business and lead what is the first step of an exciting journey of reinvention in the face of the worst threat to our business model we have ever seen. And fundamentally I believe, as strongly as I did 11 years ago, that communities will be at the heart of that new model.
The difference this time is that with social media frameworks, I can actually see how we can bring the vision to life.