Wayne Gretzky and The Zen of Talent Engagement in a Web 2.0 World

I’m a big fan of Wayne Gretzky, in fact, he’s one of my heroes. He’s arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, and certainly the most prolific scorer, in part because he always went where the puck was going, not where the puck had been. At TMP Worldwide, we consistently strive to ensure that we are leading our clients where the talent is going, not where the talent has been. For the past 17 years, TMP Worldwide has worked diligently to ensure that our clients are ahead of the recruiting curve. Today, being ahead of the curve means making sure that our clients are harnessing the power of Web 2.0 to activate their brands and build branded experiences that will help them attract top talent.

Since 2004, when Tim O’Reilly coined the term “Web 2.0,” there has been significant confusion about what that term actually means. Some people want to know where they can “download” Web 2.0, others think it is limited to emerging social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In fact, Web 2.0 is a much larger and more powerful concept that refers to new principles of design and development centered on user desires and behaviors. Web 2.0 tools and technologies – also known as the “participatory web” – have empowered individuals and given them the opportunity to have their voices heard. From book reviews on Amazon.com and travel tips on TripAdvisor to insights on work experiences, company cultures, and employer brands on sites like Vault.com, JobVent.com, and GlassDoor.com, individuals now have a way to participate in conversations that previously they were only able to observe or share with a close-knit circle. The Internet has allowed conversations to spread – at light speed – around the globe and be heard by millions within minutes. With participation comes influence: individuals’ opinions and reviews have the power to change the behavior of other individuals. A bad review on Amazon or TripAdvisor causes other users to pass on buying a book, eating at a restaurant or staying in a hotel. A bad review of a company’s culture could stop a user from applying for a job.

With the explosion of social networking options, individual voices are joined together in conversations and dialogues via Twitter, Facebook, Hi5, Orkut, and an ever-expanding universe of sites and tools, exponentially increasing the reach of the individual. People have been given the power to share through the use of YouTube (think of it as a free television broadcasting tool), RSS feeds (think of them as syndicated newspaper columns), and podcasting (think of them as radio stations) to name just a few outlets.

Lev Grossman, in his 2006 TIME Magazine cover story naming “You” as Person of the Year said of Web 2.0:

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

TMP Worldwide was one of the first agencies to truly understand its clients’ need to harness the power of the Web 2.0 revolution. The thought-leaders in TMP’s Innovation Lab grasped the idea that people trust people and by enabling people to interact with each other, by allowing them to begin dialogues and conversations, organizations could truly leverage the participatory nature of Web 2.0 and their own employer brand evangelists to influence candidates in a positive way. Central to Web 2.0 are the ideas of authenticity, transparency, and trust. Today, there is an inverse relationship between control and trust: Companies must give up some control in order to gain the trust of their current employees and their candidates.

Companies that first listen to, and then participate in, the conversations around their brands have the power to influence public opinion and this has a direct and obvious effect on that company’s ability to attract talent. Companies that don’t participate run the risk of having their brand hijacked by outsiders who can then exert influence over the applicant pool. Companies need to understand that if they don’t define their own employer brands, someone else will.

TMP Worldwide’s work with Web 2.0 ideas began with message boards and chat rooms and quickly evolved. We were the first agency to develop a full, in-world recruiting event within the SecondLife virtual world, allowing candidates to interact with companies and with each other. We pioneered the development of a Facebook widget called “Work With Me” which allows companies to power their employee referral programs with the largest, fastest growing social network. We were an innovator with the use of Twitter to share career information and job postings – catapulting Verizon’s Twitter-feed from launch to a place on the “Top 50 Employers Using Twitter” rankings in just two months. We were early adopters of mobile technology, leveraging Bluetooth and SMS messaging as well as QR tags and image recognition. We are deeply involved with and engaged in the use of Web 2.0 tools across multiple industry verticals and are often called upon to provide expertise at public events such as the Conference Board, the Social Media Summit, and SHRM to name just a few. All of our work in this area has been designed to fit strategically into a customized, overarching and integrated employment communications plan as well as to deliver demonstrable return-on-investment for each of our clients. 

As we move toward the next iteration of Web 2.0 – whether it is called Web 2.1 or Web 3.0 – we will continue to ensure that we position our clients at the forefront of emerging technologies. We see the next evolutionary step in this process being “brand activation” – a process that is less about new technology per se, and more about using technology to create immersion and engagement. Using Facebook as an example, we believe that it is no longer about simply having a Facebook page, it is about what you do with a Facebook page.

We believe that the next iteration of Web 2.0 is about the convergence of immersive media – mobile, video, photo, etc. – with employer brand and that these media will become delivery vehicles for participatory brand experiences. Our vision is to leverage these Web 2.0 channels to create engaging brand experiences that our clients’ target audiences will want to share with others. In this way, we will combine the viral aspects of social media with the experiential facets of emerging technologies, allowing our audiences to participate in conversations with people they trust.

We also know that the gateway to social media and shared experiences is through search engines. People start their web experiences more often than not on a search engine – usually Google. Because social media is highly visible to, and indexed by, search engines, if we build atomized and ubiquitous Web 2.0 experiences – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. – search engines will find them and make them discoverable by candidates. Thus, Web 2.0 and search are inextricably linked and must be thought of as vital components of a truly integrated digital strategy. 

Yes, I am proud of the agency and our legacy of innovation. Yes, I have been a bit boastful, but it is with a didactic purpose. Candidate behaviors have changed. Now employer behaviors must change. Employers need to embrace new tools and technologies, new media options and new paradigms of candidate engagement. It is no longer enough for employers to pick and choose from the pieces of Web 2.0. Creating a successful digital recruiting strategy is no longer about ‘or,’ it’s about ‘and.’ It is about determining the best way to weave all of the Web 2.0 components together to form a truly integrated digital strategy. 

As I said at the top, companies must go where the talent is going, not where the talent has been.

Let me know what you think.

Want to know more? Reach out to me and join the conversation.

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SZE

Steven Ehrlich
Written by Steven Ehrlich

Fueled by an addiction (and brand loyalty) to Diet Coke, Steven has spent the past 18 years as a complete "tech geek." As an early adopter of everything from the Apple Newton and the Compact Disc to Satellite Radio and the iPhone, Steven has focused on the use of emerging tools and technologies to enhance both brand articulation and recruitment for a multitude of organizations including Yale University, Exelon, Walmart, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Steven is constantly on the move, both in the office and out, working with TMPers and clients alike to explore, develop, and implement strategic initiatives leveraging social media, new technology, and innovative employer brand delivery channels. He is one of the agency's thought leaders and is often found in front of a crowd - large or small - yakking away about some new thing-a-ma-jig or a socially-enabled whos-a-what-sis. At TMP Worldwide, Steven has met some of the brightest, hardest working, and talented people with whom he has ever had the pleasure to work. He is an advocate and brand evangelist for the agency and loves coming to work every day.

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