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Building Online Communities for Talent Attraction

A competitive regional economy needs a strong community of talent, not merely a group of strong  companies with talented employees within their walls. Speed and efficiency are of utmost importance  to product development, so today’s companies need resources beyond the limits of their employee base.

That’s why the quality of talent in your community is vitally important. And talented people  communicate and connect, first and foremost, via the web. By building an online community, economic  developers and their private sector partners can nurture an on-the-ground community of talent for future growth.

The hub of such an online community is the talent attraction portal. Its goals should be twofold:  to deliver compelling messages to the target groups of talented people you want to attract to your  community, and to reinforce the commitment of your talented residents to their home.

What’s the secret? Driving traffic to the portal. The portal needs energy and it needs action, particularly the kind of action that connects people and jobs.

Taking a Strategic Approach to Talent Attraction Portals

A best practice in establishing a talent attraction portal is to set the strategy first. How are you going to use the portal to build an online community?

How can you endow your portal with stickiness – the ability to attract and hold visitors? What characteristics will make your portal useful? You need to anticipate and provide answers to questions that your target audience will ask and understand what they perceive as value by getting involved with an online community.

Even this is not enough to make your project successful. A talent attraction portal needs more than high stickiness. It needs vigorous marketing. Continually. Before the portal is launched you must have a plan to generate and drive traffic to it, day after day.

The plan should incorporate multiple channels: Social media, search engines, partner networks, directories and referrals by friends and families all have a role. Connecting through schools is a tactic used successfully by a number of talent-attraction portals, such as

This is a dual portal serving south and southwestern Virginia. Launched in 2006, it is managed by Virginia Economic Bridge, with funding from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. The portal is aimed primarily at 15,000 high school alumni who have moved out of the region during the past 20 years.

“Return to your roots,” viewers are urged on the two sections of the portal, and “It’s time to come home for good.”

High schools, school contacts and lists of high-school reunions in both south and southwestern Virginia are featured prominently on the portal, which was named one of the 2009 Top 50 Government Innovations by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University.  Connecting with schools is a clever tactic to make use of a community of expat students that already exists and give it form and function through a talent attraction portal.

A Bridge Between Talent and Available Jobs

Tactics to draw visitors and reward them with appealing lifestyle information are important elements of online community building, but the central resource is the job board of a talent attraction portal. This is true of and many similar sites.

Your strategy for building an online community should include continuously feeding job-related information to your portal in a creative and sustainable way. This requires working closely with
regional employers – the more the better. It’s a constant and time-consuming job to maintain
communication with corporate recruiters and HR departments, but keeping your portal filled with job
opportunities is what brings it to life.

You can see this principle in action at FUEL Milwaukee, the talent attraction and retention portal of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

At job-related activity is constant. News items are only a few hours old, and there are non-stop event announcements. The portal’s content positions the regional talent pool as being the most engaged in the country.

But as always it’s the job board – here called the Career Center – where the heart of the action is.  Individuals can find job postings published by 59 corporate members, and can create personal member profiles to network with other members based on shared interests.

Participation by members only is a smart tactic for generating data through the portal about talent attraction in the Milwaukee area, and it is also a powerful tool for building an online community that bonds. It generates a multiplier effect of communities within communities. FUEL Milwaukee’s networking group on LinkedIn has 9,492 members as of early August 2012, and their page lists a variety of other groups ranging from business associations to Milwaukee Brewers fans. They’re all at home online.

Talent Attraction Portals Require an Ongoing Balance between Visitor Value and Traffic Generation

In summary, a talent attraction portal needs a strategic focus to bring in traffic and add value for the participants. Carefully planned content and services on the portal will encourage groups to form organically according to their similar shared values, interests, and opinions.

People within the talent community will stay engaged because of the value of participating in these groups and the employment opportunities constantly being presented, which they don‘t want to miss even for a day.

Attracting the right kind of talent to your online community will strengthen your physical community. With careful planning and continuous, committed effort, your talent attraction portal can be the lively central meeting place for your community of talent.


Learn more about Yfactor and how we can help your community grow at

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