Are we Selling Online Research Short?

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We’ve all had that InMail ‘An opportunity that may be of interest’ from a head-hunter who hasn’t really read beyond your job title before sending you a friendly copy-and-paste note. Delete.

Which is where online sourcing and research sometimes get it so wrong.

Although much of what we do at Write Research involves getting on the phone, or setting up coffee meetings with our clients, I’m actually a big fan of online channels – despite those regular speculative approaches that give it a bad press.

So it’s not just InMails?

Not at all. The remit of online research goes well beyond finding people to fill vacant roles. Here are a few ideas for putting online channels to use:

  •  Active and passive talent identification: It’s easy to use online channels to connect with active talent, but a big plus of online channels is getting your message out to passive talent. Online channels can be used to great effect to build talent brand.
  •  Market mapping: what does the talent landscape look like in your target market or industry sector? Use market mapping to gauge talent availability, propensity to move roles, attrition rates, attraction techniques, and perceptions of your brand as an employer.
  •  Competitor mapping: what does good look like in your industry? Online research can help you build a picture of organisational structures and operating models. Beyond people and roles, online research channels can be used to learn about competitor market offering, positioning and perceptions.
  •  Salary mapping: find out what the market is prepared to pay for certain roles, individuals or specialisms across a variety of markets. Use this insight to shape your employee value proposition to ensure you offer a compelling opportunity to the right person.

Top takeaways for online research

If you’re going to capitalise on research channels, here are some tips from experience of online strategies:

  1. Run online talent attraction activities in partnership with offline recruitment, marketing and employer branding efforts. At Write Research we believe in a balance between desk research and actually getting our clients out there talking to people. To be most effective, online activity needs to be completely aligned with any other brand-building activity.
  2. Keep the momentum. To build a strong pipeline from online channels you need to manage it actively. Think of online research as an ongoing business need. To be effective, you need to regularly refresh the pipeline, adding more people when others are discounted.
  3. For sourcing, use a range of channels including old favourites like LinkedIn and Xing as well as social channels such as Twitter, Google Plus and Behance as well as your own database. In order to access talent in all markets you need to know about the local channels of choice and job-seeking habits.
  4. Manage expectations about what’s available from online research. When it comes to sourcing, you can be pretty confident about gathering information such as name, employer, contact details, social profile and current status. From this first step you can decide if the individuals are fit for any of your and then take the engagement offline.
  5. Hone your skills. Make sure you’re always looking for the right people to deliver, not just more of the same or replacements. There’s a real skill to the type of research that fills a talent pipeline with an eclectic, diverse, balanced pool of fantastic people.

So you see, it’s not about speculative approaches or long lists of names with a certain job title! In an environment where data-driven decision making is becoming the norm, and where the influence of social media is taken seriously by CEOs, I think online research is a really powerful and underrated tool in our industry.

Online research provides much needed secondary insight from that can be put to use in a multitude of ways – at the start of a project to get buy-in for example, or to bolster in-house capacity. Secondary research goes way beyond LinkedIn: alumni, conference event speakers and delegates, WhatsApp, press articles, company articles, company accounts that provide a holistic view. Supplement this with primary research to glean information no one else has access to for compelling business insight.

It’s cost effective, drastically cutting the costs of working with traditional recruitment agencies and head-hunters, and it’s used especially well in fast growing environments where clients have rapid growth plans.

So next time your organisation has a question about people, why not make online your first port of call?

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