Referrals 2.0: What HCM Has Learned From Groupon and the “Like” Button

By Jim Milton - Originally posted on Oracle Applications

There are a billion consumers connected to one another via social networks. One billion of us! That’s a lot of eyeballs and a lot of opportunity for marketers to reach us online. They can choose to interrupt our conversations with low-performing display ads, or become the topic of conversation so that we spread the word more naturally through trusted recommendations and referrals. Marketers are increasingly choosing the latter because of its effectiveness. And employers have caught on to the concept with an eye toward driving talent referrals and job sharing.

It makes intuitive sense. We pay close attention to what our peers, family members and colleagues are telling us, while we tune out banner ads and telemarketers. On the flip side, when we’re happy with a product or service, we often refer our friends to brands without realizing we’re doing it – by passively sharing, “tweeting,” and “liking” brand-content into the newsfeed. The impact of our new recommendation habit is enormous, given that the Facebook newsfeed, for example, has become the most trafficked page on the most trafficked Website in the world. We call these endorsements “Referrals 2.0.” and harnessing them is now central to brand and product marketing strategy. Case in point: Groupon’s entire business is built on this concept.

So, Where’s The Connection to HCM and Jobs?

Until just a few years ago, HR decision makers were not ready to do what today seems almost obvious. Now they see the benefits of connecting their high-performing Employee Referral Programs to the world of online recommendations and social sharing. Since every employee is connected to their friends on social networks, it is relatively easy to make every employee a “social recruiter,” given the right technology.

The truth is that at first, most HR departments adapted to the rise of social networks by treating them as just another place to advertise – missing the concept of Referrals 2.0. As job seekers, we began to see HR’s old-school, post-and-advertise approach in action. Most of us became accustomed to seeing jobs advertised on LinkedIn, or to being contacted directly by strangers (i.e., recruiters), inviting us to consider opportunities that we may or may not have been interested in. Like telemarketing, this experience felt disruptive at its worst. Then, something happened.

A few innovative employers began promoting jobs through their employees, tapping employees’ social networks. Employees were systematically prompted to share jobs in a targeted way, and job seekers from China to Canada to Brazil started receiving relevant recommendations from their friends: “McGraw-Hill is a great place to work – you should check out this IT Manager position.”

Happily employed workers – looking to help their friends get jobs and to earn a referral bonus – routed hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of e-mails, LinkedIn messages, tweets, and Facebook posts (similar to the one above) to their passive and active job-seeking friends online. Hundreds of thousands of job seekers began “bumping” into and applying to job opportunities that they might not have discovered had it not been for a friend sharing a job with them. And unlike the case of a stranger reaching out via LinkedIn, the recipients of these job posts viewed the employer endorsements from their trusted friends with open eyes and open ears.

Many hundreds of hires and happy talent acquisition leaders later, the concept of Referrals 2.0 was validated as a force-multiplying, transformative approach to sourcing quality talent. Yours truly, along with my team members from SelectMinds, were brought into the Oracle family to become a strategic piece of talent sourcing machinery for Oracle’s existing and future clients. If you haven’t heard about it, our product module is called Oracle Taleo Social Sourcing.

After talking with dozens of Oracle sales people, clients, and prospects, I can report that the excitement for our product and the Referrals 2.0 approach is palpable. For me personally, the real proof of concept came just the other day. A friend of mine shared a link to a product manager job using Oracle Taleo Social Sourcing – just after sharing a Groupon deal for a new, local restaurant and liking a new healthy fruit juice drink that I’m in love with. There, in my Facebook feed, the world of social brand marketing had crossed paths with recruitment — proof that times have changed for HCM indeed.

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Jim Milton is a Product Strategy Director at Oracle. Jim helped build Oracle's Social Sourcing product which was acquired from SelectMinds. Prior to Oracle and SelectMinds, Jim's work spanned consumer and enterprise markets: After graduating from Syracuse University, Jim held various Enterprise Sales roles at LinkedIn and TheLadders, and began his post-collegiate career as a technical recruiter. While still a student at Syracuse, Jim was founder and head of product development for an online (mp3-based) music startup that helped pioneer use of social marketing and gamificafion. Jim is passionate about driving the next generation of innovation in recruitment technology at Oracle.

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