The implementation of social networks within the context of HR and Talent Management seems to be something of a hot topic in recent weeks. The question of whether companies should utilise popular brands such as Facebook and LinkedIn, or use smaller niche networks developed by business software developers, is another striking debate.

I have my own opinion of the matter.

Take Taleo’s new community and social networking hub ‘Taleo Grid’, which the company launched at the end of last week. Available at no extra cost to Taleo customers, the hub is organised into three distinct ‘Exchanges’: Solution Exchange (aimed at partners), Knowledge Exchange (an online customer community), and Talent Exchange (a social network for candidates and companies).

At the time, Taleo chairman and CEO Michael Gregoire said the grid would “galvanise the world’s largest talent management ecosystem” so that customers, partners, employees and candidates could come together to transform their business performance – but I have to air some scepticism over the move.

There’s good reason for my cynicism, thanks to precedents already set in both the CRM and financial software sectors. Back in 2008, the financial practice and Business Intelligence vendor Adaptive Planning launched the fifth version of its flagship software, which integrated social networking tools and an online hub community of blogs, notes, and forums. Just two months ago however, Adaptive Planning outlined the key features for the sixth version – and wholly omitted any mention of its social networking functionality.

The reception and appetite for social networking communities with business software took a further knock last week. CRM software vendor RightNow announced an acquisition of social networking community builder Hive Live, which CEO Greg Gianforte, stated would help RightMove “meet all the customer experience needs of consumer-focused organizations today.” The response on Wall Street was definitive: shares in RightNow fell by 2% by the close of trading.

Throwing sheep whilst tweeting in Facebook and Twitter may have changed the way Joe Public and companies network with friends, colleagues, clients, and customers, but that doesn’t mean corporations should jump onto the bandwagon with their own versions of social networking sites. Of course, customer feedback and interaction is an important facet for all businesses – but making their own versions of LinkedIn (which Talent Exchange undoubtedly aims to achieve) isn’t the way forward. Fostering a strong community within the realms of established social networking players would create a more independent and transparent platform for feedback and exchanges of ideas.

Furthermore, established and well populated social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook have already shown themselves as robust and effective recruitment solutions. Today it emerged that Japanese bank Nomura, which acquired substantial chunks of Lehman Brothers after its collapse in 2008, had used Facebook to identify and recruit up to 60% of Lehman’s graduate trainees.

Like most things in life, there are more than two sides of the argument. Richard Doherty, GVP Solutions and Marketing, at Jobpartners, spoke with me earlier today about ActiveNetworker, his company’s own internal social network development tool. Whilst Doherty advocates the use of such solutions to “help organisations ensure they retain their key talent through greater engagement and personal brand development within the organisation,” he also identified the need to take advantage of sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for recruitment.

Perhaps the use of social networks within HR and Talent Management is really a tale of twin towns rather than two cities; rather than two schools of thought (internal and external social networks) they should be used in partnership with one another.

What do you think?

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