Talent Talk: Conversation with Gavin Heaton (socialmediajobs)

gavinheaton Gavin Heaton wears many hats – uber blogger, commentator, lecturer, story teller, author, marketer, employee (SAP)  and job board owner. An authority on social media, and one of the original brains behind the hugely successful global initiative Age of Conversation , Gavin dishes out daily wisdom on his popular blog Servant of Chaos.

We caught up with Gavin recently and he shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects including his socialmediajobs.com.au experiment,  the art of story telling, and engaging talent in the bold new world of social media.

Gavin can be reached at gavin (at) servantofchaos.com or on Twitter

DT: Gavin, can you share a bit about your background and how socialmediajobs.com.au came about?
I have worked in marketing for over ten years on both the agency and client sides of the business. Over the last three or four years I have been interested to see how social media is changing the way that I do my work — from planning and strategy right through to the implementation of marketing and advertising activities. One of the big trends that continues to impact us all is “disintermediation” — or “cutting out the middle man”. SocialMediaJobs.com.au is an experiment in disintermediation — it came about as a result of my knowing lots of smart people and wanting them to get good, challenging and stimulating jobs. There was/is no grand plan. It simply exists to “connect the connectors”.

DT: What have you learnt from the socialmediajobs.com.au experiment? Where do you see it going and its place in a landscape dominated by large job boards? Is commercialisation an option in the future?
I have run a couple of similar online experiments in the past … and each failed because I simply did not spend the time taking care of it. They were too far out of my field of expertise which meant I had to spend a lot of time learning a new domain. But a jobs board … well, I have hired, fired, and been headhunted – and I have done a lot of work on what it takes to attract talent and build a workforce – so it was a better fit straight out of the box. I also have some unique value to add in this space — I understand social media. I am known for my work and for my blog, and an truly excited by the idea that I can help smart people get good jobs.

Like anything related to social media, the niche has huge potential – the challenge is knowing what your niche is. For me the site is a perfect fit — a narrowly focused jobs board for Australian social media practitioners. It is pretty granular. And I don’t accept roles that aren’t social media-related.
At the moment, there is no intention to commercialise the site. But it is always open as an option.

DT: Social media is all the rage lately, but many  are still skeptical about its value. What do you think is the ROI for companies, especially in the context of attracting talent.
GH: Social media has huge potential for businesses. I have been using the tools of social media (or poorer cousins) for as long as I can remember. There is tremendous upside in terms of innovation, knowledge acceleration and collaboration that is mostly untapped in many businesses. But when it comes to competing for talent — and let’s face it, we all want the best — access to social tools can make the difference to many job seekers. This does not just apply to Gen Y, but to any motivated worker who wants to contribute / create a positive impact in their careers. Smart employers are just starting to figure out that we are more than just our job descriptions — we come with bountiful knowledge and expert networks that can not just help us do our work but also deliver innovation and new thinking from beyond our four walls or even our industry.

ROI is always an interesting question. You really need, firstly, to define what you WANT to measure. What are your objectives for going into it … For example, how much will you save on Gen Y recruitment costs and up-skilling by making Facebook available on your network? What unforeseen innovations will come to your business via an extensive social/expert network?

However, I also think that ROI needs to be re-thought. If you go into a “social” project asking “what’s in it for me”, then you are bound to fail. You need to first ask yourself, “what value can I deliver the people in my network”. Then figure out whether you can afford it.

DT: You are passionate about good storytelling. A vast majority of companies don’t have success stories like APPLE for instance, how can organisations tell compelling stories in order to attract attention, especially those of job seekers.
Much of my blog is about storytelling … it is an art that is fundamental to our lives. And yet, we often forget the basics. We need to start with a beginning, middle and end. But to tell a COMPELLING story, I use the P-L-A-Y framework. Your story needs to tap into aspects of P (power), L (learning) and A (adventure) – but to also deliver a Y (yelp of surprise). By working with this framework you can begin to craft the stories that will inspire and attract high quality talent.

But the thing to also remember is to begin capturing the stories of your current employees. Give them the authority to tell their story – allow them to describe their day-to-day jobs. Provide access to blogs or webcams and YouTube, for example. Increasingly, businesses need to become content creators … and these type of projects can really drive social media adoption.

DT: Can you shed some light on “the age of conversation“. As far as recruitment is concerned, what  are companies not getting and should be doing better in the age of conversations?
The Age of Conversation is a book that captures hundreds of stories from across the globe. It talks about the power of stories to transform individuals and their workplaces. It deals with the need to humanise business and the challenges that come with being “transparent” and always online.

When it comes to recruitment, there are many opportunities. I have mentioned before that “blogs are the new cv” – and my view is that clever use of social networks and analysis can help you identify and reach quality candidates. Moreover, you will be able to identify those candidates whose personalities and values most closely align with those of your business. This reduces churn. And it results in a happier workforce.

DT: As companies compete for talent, ’employment brand’ becomes a critical differentiating factor. From a marketing/branding perspective, what do you think companies need to do well in 2009, in order to stand out?
GH: Companies should consider the overall offer they make to candidates. While we know that salary is important, it is also not a key factor in a candidate accepting a position. Businesses need to think about how they can be sustainable. They need to consider community programs. In social media, we call this “participation” … but participation requires commitment and action. It is no longer about “marketing” and what you “say” — a good reputation requires action. You need to become a good storyteller, but also a good story creator — you need to be the catalyst for connection with your customers, employees and business partners. Only by taking an ecosystem-style approach will you stand out.

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