I’ve been hypnotised. I’ll come back to this point in a sec.
Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been busy tripping across the Tasman Sea from NZ attending 2 inaugural sourcing events in Australia, the Australasian Sourcing Summit (10-11 August) in Sydney and SourcEvent (17-18 August) in Melbourne from the seasoned Australasian Talent Conference (ATC) crew. I had the honour of running 2 sessions in Sydney, presenting on Winning on Facebook and Emotional Branding in Sourcing. In my latter session we talked about such things … you know, typical conversation starters … as the human centipede, cult leadership, and supermarket shopping and their place in sourcing.
People have asked me which event I preferred. Being straight up I’d like to say that I honestly gleaned different things from both events. Sorry to both sets of conference organisers for not declaring a winner or a loser. I think Sourcing in Australia and NZ was the winner overall this time round. The enthusiastic vibe and eagerness to learn from the attendees was damn strong across both events. Sourcing appears to be a hot topic and some argued it is a vocation in its own right. I now tend to agree. Sourcing-specific events will now surely become a mainstay in the years to come - maybe we’ve now caught up to the USA in this respect. I did very much enjoy hearing from and meeting the Northern Hemisphere contingent (Jim Stroud, Bill Boorman, Kevin Wheeler, Glen Cathey) at SourcEvent. These guys are subject matter experts and deep thinkers and have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they draw upon and share. But I also learned lots from the local sourcing presenters at both events. For example, it was great to learn about the corporate sourcing models and approaches at both Ernst and Young Australia/NZ (Australasian Sourcing Summit) and Deloitte Australia (SourcEvent). I even gleaned some creative community building ideas from the non-technology / in-real-life approach to indigenous careers at Qantas. The range of topics at both events was diverse. I felt a bit spoilt for choice in the afternoon of day 2 at SourcEvent, with the high number of interesting breakout and unconference sessions and presenters.
At both events, I was constantly thinking about what exactly is ‘sourcing’ - is it just finding talent or is it both finding AND attracting? I’m not sure this was answered with gusto and different presenters and attendees seem to have a different focus. There were different approaches and personal preferences to sourcing presented. At one end of spectrum are the just-in-time / treasure hunting / information analytics approaches, using talent mining, boolean, x-ray search etc. This is the school of thought that views sourcing as a science. At the other end was a focus on the “softer side” like employer branding and immersing oneself, as a sourcer, in various talent communities online and pipelining talent back, most typically into a CRM or ATS; viewing sourcing more as an art. A human and enduring approach to sourcing versus a clinical, CSI-esque, and potentially de-humanised approach, with many variations in between.
Various presenters were asked what they viewed as the key attributes, the DNA of a sourcer. I agreed with the terms mentioned, especially in light of where they sit on the continuum, but was left wondering if in some cases a sourcer should be stronger on the human psychology side to understand the motivations and needs of their jobseeker audience. Sourcing can often involve building a relationship with a prospect over a period of many years (thanks Jim Stroud for providing a quick overview of the types of questions to ask in building a meaningful connection). I know lots of recruiters and sourcers and they haven’t had this level of emotional engagement with me about my career and career aspirations - I may be now inspired to move into a company and lead their talent acquisition function but they would never know. I would have liked to have heard more about the jobseeker experience and viewing sourcing from the jobseeker’s side. A comment from Bill Boorman resonated with me. He said we are not in a war for talent, but in a war for other people’s talent - this to me involves looking beyond the “finding” bit of sourcing. But I also get the argument that different people are better suited to one side of the continuum or the other. A lot of this is situational to me and I would like to add another angle - thinking of sourcing as a game - I’m thinking a lot about this.
After listening to Kevin Wheeler talking about the future of sourcing, we need to also consider if sourcers will be extinct in the near future, considering the fast evolution of technologies, predictive tools, algorithms, and process automation. Should we be thinking of sourcers in robotic terms? Or maybe in purely economic, measurement-based terms - thanks Brent Pearson.
One surprising but positive personal developmental outcome for me, was around how to THINK in deeper analytical, conceptual and creative ways when approaching a sourcing strategy or project, or if I was in a position to build a sourcing team. The tools and technologies are important, but so is the intent and how we use these tools and technologies. I was slowly hypnotised by various presenters to think about planning, prioritising and refining the search criteria (Glen Cathey is in the image at the top of this post), and to think about ways to see more patterns in information beyond the immediately obvious (thanks Simon Townsend). Also interesting is the use of things like mind maps and heat maps in a sourcing context and techniques to cluster and synthesise information (eg into verticals, skills matrices, talent maps) - thanks Christain Le Loux and co.
Most presenters talked about sourcing as something sourcers in a sourcing team should do, but there are opportunities to think and look more broadly. We need, especially in Australia and NZ, to more actively tap into referral networks. One presenter referred to all their firm’s employees as sourcers, but I’m thinking broader than that and now have some ideas on how to get the public to be sourcers.
I’ve enjoyed playing with some of the sourcing tools and tricks over the past week to uncover people (aka retrieve information) on the social web in places I thought would not have been possible a few weeks ago. And I’m still thinking about the events, which has made organising my thoughts tricky. It’s like when you’ve been to a thought-provoking movie, you’re still thinking about it days or weeks after. I’m bursting with creative ideas and feel very itchy to apply my learning.