"There a big need right now in business to really bring more transparency to business and bringing clients/customers closer to your business and sharing that. (Social networks) are a great tool where we can do that and owning your own story, owning the conversation, because if we’re not out there doing it, they’re going to be out there somewhere else – on Glassdoor, the Vault – talking to other people…" - Anthony Knierim
Welcome to an Talent Acquisition Channel special edition of TotalPicture Radio from the SelectMinds 2010 Annual Client Conference in New York. Joining us today for the 2nd in our series of podcasts recorded at the SelectMinds Conference is Anthony Knierim, Global Talent Communities Specialist for Aon Hewitt. Anthony, along with Tim O'Connor, Global Staffing Leader at the recently merged Aon Hewitt, definitely raised some eyebrows during their presentation. For starters: Anthony built the Aon Hewitt career portal. Designed it, coded it, built it, and remains the webmaster. What you see on the Aon Hewitt career portal are real people: Real employees of Aon Hewitt. Anthony has a background as a recruiter, and approaches his current role with a recruiter's mindset. Did I mention he developed an iPad application for use at college recruiting events?
"I went to our leadership and I said I had an idea to gather information on people at these events in a really seamless way and help us with our branding to make it seem very progressive. I said instead of making branded Chapstick and wiffle balls, why don’t you just get me a couple of iPads? I’ll make a mobile application... I only asked for email from the students and actually by the time they hit the submit button on the iPad, they already have an email directly sent to them with information on what the next steps are, so they don’t have that feeling of, 'Okay, I just gave you my resume. What are my next steps?' It already tells them, 'You can join us here, join our talent communities. By the way, here’s our Facebook page and here’s what to do here. You can engage with us, find jobs and then on our end, it gives us information on understanding of where these people came from, what campus and we can go out and find them on the different social networks. It’s really powerful for us and we had incredible results. From the first campus we went to, we had more emails than we had entire resumes for 16 campuses in the previous year."
Interview Transcript, Anthony Knierim
Welcome to an Talent Acquisition Channel special feature on TotalPicture Radio, recorded at the SelectMinds Annual Client Conference in New York City.
SelectMinds enables companies to revolutionize the way they acquire talent by leveraging the social networks their current and former employees have already built to generate high quality referral and re-hire candidates.
The SelectMinds product suite, alumni connect and talent vine leverage an organization’s most valuable asset – their people. With SelectMinds technology, companies can recruit top talent not only from within their employees’ social networks but also from their own private secure employee and alumni networks. These referral-based environments drive recruitment, new business development, brand evangelism, and ultimately business growth.
Peter: Welcome to an Talent Acquisition channel special edition of TotalPicture Radio recorded at the SelectMinds 2010 Annual Client Conference in New York and joining us is Anthony Knierim who is the Global Talent Communities Specialist for Aon Hewitt. As a leader in the human capital industry, Aon Hewitt is committed to providing its global clients with distinctive value through a portfolio of products and services in three main business areas: consulting, benefits administration and HR business process outsourcing.
Anthony, thank you for speaking with us today.
Anthony: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Peter: I was very impressed with your presentation this morning and Anthony went through and if you have not been on to the Aon Hewitt Career Site, I highly encourage you to do so. You are pretty much managing this whole thing and not only that, you pretty much built it from scratch, right?
Anthony: That’s correct.
Peter: Tell us about first of all, how you got into this role and how you convinced management to let you just go out and build their whole career portal?
Anthony: It actually all started, I would say, that one of the major success factors that I’ve had is having leadership that really understands their recruitment model from beginning to end so utilizing internet web strategy to help build out an effective process. I had ideas on utilizing social media and building out an entire website for better user experience, from helping candidates once they come in the door to be better engaged with recruiters and other people in the organization. They’re pushing this upward towards leadership, like I said, I was fortunate to have some excellent leaders that kind of understood and saw my vision and help me sell things upstream to start getting some of the work done.
Peter: One of the interesting things about your career portal is on every single page, you have those very ubiquitous social media buttons for Twitter, for LinkedIn, for Facebook, StumbleUpon, whatever that people can click on so that they can drive traffic and talk about what you’re doing on your site.
Anthony: I think one of the main goals for that is the people that we want to potentially be candidates for our organization, we want to go to where they are, where they’re hanging out online, so we did a lot of research on finding out where these different people are hanging out. So early career people, the college students, they may be hanging out more on Facebook. Experienced candidates could be more on LinkedIn, so the conversations we’re engaging in on those different mediums are different, so the things that we’re posting out on Facebook and we’re posting differently on LinkedIn. We really make that a key point that our career site is a hub where we want people to come in and get information about career paths, jobs, and reply to the jobs, look at the different areas of our business. But out on these other areas, they’re strictly more for engagement, how can we engage with candidates or candidate referrals.
Peter: On your career page, there is one of those links talk live to someone. You are that talk live to someone person, the person.
Anthony: It’s kind of interesting. It’s four hours a day. We do 10 to 12 p.m. Eastern and 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern time where I’m available to help with live questions and most of the goal for this is to help people and direct them in the right way. I mentioned this in the presentation, a lot of companies will put a site out there for jobs and they expect people to understand and know exactly how to find jobs, how to go through the search function because as recruiters that are building a lot of these platforms or if they have had recruitment experience in the past, they think in the minds of a recruiter, like we know how to go find these people. They might not be the best on understanding how to find jobs, so I want to make sure that we have a tool out there where if they have questions or they get stuck in a process and say, “Hey, I might not know how to find this job or what’s the best way to go… I want to learn more about this organization or this area of your business, where can we go learn about that…” I’m there to help you out. We get a wide range of questions.
One of our bigger fears that we had before starting it was if people were going to be asking us about where they stood in the job process or the application process. We strictly state we don’t share that information, so they can see that. It’s only happened to me about 5% of the time where people ask and I usually just say we can’t do that, but I’d love to help you with anything else.
It’s pretty busy for four hours a day.
Peter: Yeah, I’m sure it is. Again, how did you sell to the senior management the importance of really starting to engage with all of these social networks?
Anthony: I think this is a key theme right now with everything in business is that you can see that there is a need on the consumer/customer side. I view all of our recruits as potential customers or clients who are potential clients or they’re potential internals. What I was going back to, is there a big need right now in business to really bring more transparency to business and bringing clients/customers closer to your business and sharing that this is a great tool where we can do that and owning your own story, owning the conversation, because if we’re not out there doing it, they’re going to be out there somewhere else – on Glass Door, the Vault – talking to other people…
Anthony: …getting outsider perspective. I’d rather have a chance to offer them the voice where they can ask me questions. If they’re still going to go to out there and learn about other places, that’s fine, but at least I felt like I had a chance to help give them the positive.
Peter: One of things that really impressed me about your site is that all the pictures of people on your site are real employees of Aon Hewitt which to me up to this whole thing about authenticity which is like a big buzzword out in corporate America and you want people to be authentic and yet you go to most of these websites and we’ve all seen these iStockphoto pictures, the Rainbow Coalition group of people from the kind of funky looking Gen Y up to the gray hair baby boomer, right? What was the decision process in using real people in your website?
Anthony: Actually, that part wasn’t my idea. Our vice president of talent acquisition, Erin Peterson actually had came up with the idea. When we went through our rebranding, she said “I want this to be our real people.”
One of our key slogans we had is whose life have you touched? Erin really made a key point in a lot of our recruiting strategies. One thing was on our weekly or monthly calls we had, she would actually ask people at the end of the call for a session on explaining – any recruiters out there or people in our business tell us what lives you’ve touched. With that, she wanted to make sure that that theme kind of went throughout of being authentic and being open and actually having real associates. She came to me and said, “Anthony, I really want to have all of our associates on the site. I don’t like having these people that I don’t recognize.”
One of our next things on the roadmap that she actually urged for was to actually have our names and location for those people. I’m actually in one of the pictures on their rewards page. Anthony Knierim based out in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and I’m a global talent community specialist just so people can relate… and then maybe have a bio, a little bit about me or what I do in kind of a flash drop down.
Just the whole idea of just trying to be open and transparent. These are real people in our company and you can find this is who we are, you can find us here.
Peter: I think that is really so smart. Speaking rebranding, I mean one day you were Hewitt, the next day you were Aon Hewitt, right? You’ve had to do a complete redesign to all of your websites in a corporate Aon Hewitt name, new graphics. Tell us a little bit about some of those challenges and how you were able to really rebrand the company in a way that keep sort of the identity of both organizations?
Anthony: It’s definitely a work in progress but there are going to be some great things that we’re going to get from Aon with brand recognition specifically with Manchester United our relationship that they have.
Peter: Which is a soccer team.
Anthony: Yup, so it’s one of the largest global recognized brands in the world, so it’s going to be great to be able to partner with them on that front, so one of our challenges with branding was we’re in so many different geographies is how do we brand ourselves where people know who Hewitt is.
In my past, I had done work with retail organizations where it was easy because most of the people that were looking at working with these organizations had already bought their products, so they knew who they were. One of the challenges we get with Hewitt sometimes is if you ask 10 people on the street who Hewitt is, they think Hewlett Packard or Jackson Hewitt, so it was quite a challenge. I love the challenge because that’s one of the reasons I came to Hewitt because I felt I can have an impact on the financial services area on this branding space for talent acquisition.
We had just got to a point where I felt like we were really getting our name out there and then this merger happened. I do have a lot of my work cut out for me and the full branding transition has not been completed yet. So it’s probably going to be another month and a half or so, but it’s a lot of partnerships, marketing communications, and I also do a lot of the designing of graphics, all of the graphics we’re putting out there. So anything that I am able to – per our guidelines – I’m out there trying to create new content every day.
Peter: What’s your background?
Anthony: Interesting background. I was business information systems in college, double major of that in administrative management. I actually interned with a recruitment agency, part of the Allegis Group called Aerotek and then TEKsystems and had a passion from the day one I started my internship. I started doing commercial which is light industrial, anything from forklift drivers to pick packers in manufacturing industry. I did that and the minute I started realizing the lives I was impacting, it was just a passion thing for me.
What I did notice was there was an incredible amount of inefficiencies in this business and even back – when I made the transition only after my internship, I started with the same organization, selling, staffing or recruiting but I wanted it on the tech side, so it was during the big ERP boom, so I’m sure everyone in the financial services are familiar with that time. All these organizations were having huge challenges finding candidates in the ERP space.
It was also around a really interesting time where social media was just getting started, the Facebook in 2005, LinkedIn in around the same time. I was very early adopter. I’ve started building these large communities from the sourcing side of people in ERP, and I just started building out and attracting candidates into the organizations that I was selling to, and I thought this is going to be an amazing opportunity, because I feel like it was so easy for me to go out there and connect to these people where it was very trusting space, because it was a third party environment with LinkedIn, and Facebook wasn’t as big back then, but as far as for the recruiting space.
I kind of had a unique way. I would really go out to LinkedIn to prospect people and then I would actually – the irony of it was, I didn’t get a hold of them until Facebook. LinkedIn, I would prospect them, I’d go on Facebook and I send them a message and some of them are a little weirded out or creeped out I guess I would say, so that I used to joke around and when people asked me job, I’d say I’m a professional creep because back then the social media, it hadn’t caught on yet to be as big as it is now.
Peter: Back then is two years ago.
Anthony: Pretty much a few years ago, so it’s really come a long way. After that, I just really started getting more in the branding and how we can really involve this as integral part of our strategy, not just from the sourcing side but this experience, we want it to be more of our fabric for recruiting.
Peter: One of the things you showed us today in your session here at the SelectMinds Conference was a really cool app that you built for the iPad for going out and doing college recruiting. Can you tell us about that?
Anthony: I had an opportunity to work with our campus recruiting team to go out to Notre Dame University and I actually went to this event expecting to see … I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t been to a campus recruiting event in a few years. I thought that everybody there was going to have this high tech stuff for gathering information on these potential candidates, especially on the branding side, so when I got there, I was really excited to see what people had. I saw the list of all these major organizations, assumed big recruiting budget, so I thought it was going to be some cool stuff. So when I got there to find out only one or two companies had anything and they were laptops to gather information from candidates, but there was a long line behind the people on the laptops because they had to gather so many fields of information.
When we left, I asked the recruiter how many resumes were you able to get today from potential and interesting candidates? He said, “We talked to 80+ or 100+ people but we only got about 15 to 20 resumes dropped off, and it’s such a hectic experience. I don’t even know how to put a face with the name.”
I went back and I started thinking there’s got to be a more efficient way to do that, especially with social media and all the tools that we have nowadays. I went to our leadership and I said I had an idea to gather information on people at these events in a really seamless way and help us with our branding to make it seem very progressive. I said instead of – I said this verbatim earlier – but instead of making branded Chapstick and wiffle balls, why don’t you just get me a couple of iPads. I’ll make a mobile application to where we can get – it’s basically a form where we can get – add as many fields as we want, first name, last name, email. I only asked for email from the students and actually by the time they hit the submit button on the iPad, they already have an email directly sent to them with information on what next steps are, so they don’t have that feeling of, “Okay, I just gave you my resume. What are my next steps?” It already tells them, “You can join us here, join our talent communities. By the way, here’s our Facebook page and here’s what to do here. You can engage with us, find jobs” and then on our end, it gives us information on understanding of where these people came from, what campus and we can go out and find them on the different social networks.
It’s really powerful for us and we had incredible results. From the first campus we went to, we had more emails than we had entire resumes for 16 campuses in the previous year.
Peter: That’s amazing and it’s such a brilliant strategy and tactic because you’re using a new piece of equipment that everybody thinks is cool and you’re capturing data right there on the spot and you’re responding. As you know as being in the recruiting business, the biggest problem candidates have is the black hole. They submit resumes and they never hear anything from anybody.
Anthony: Exactly. It’s definitely been great. We’ve gotten a lot of people that give feedback on either the live chat or the emails that we get back saying, “Wow! It’s great to see that I’m actually speaking to somebody and not an automated robotic response.
Peter: Yeah absolutely and again, it’s all about engagement, right? You’re trying to engage these people and I think again, so much of what you see on many corporate career sites, it’s all push technology. They’re not engaging. It’s just, “Oh, if you want to submit a resume, click here and blah, blah or if you want information, click over here. They’re not creating a conversation.
Anthony: Exactly, and that’s a key point that our leadership is really – they’re bought into and were always looking in . I keep thinking we can do better and I don’t think I’m ever going to stop thinking we can do better in that space.
Peter: Tell me about your efforts around of the alumni network within Aon Hewitt.
Anthony: We’ve done a lot with SelectMinds in utilizing alumni network, so we started building this about 18 months ago. We actually had a – I was not here at the actual time of inception when we started it, but we’ve worked with SelectMinds throughout or we used them as our vendor to help build us. We use it for multiple reasons.
I would say one of the biggest reasons for recruitment, so we’re trying to get boost up referrals from alumni and also the other piece would be to give boomerangs – people who leave the organization, go to competitors or clients or vendors and try to get them potentially in the future to come back and just keep up to date with what’s going on inside of Hewitt that that they might not know.
The other piece for them, the benefit to what we’re really offering them is to engage with other alumni, engage and keep up with information that they might not know of or updates. We had a huge retiree following on there. You might know it, Hewitt used to be a privately owned organization, went public about seven years ago, and within that, we had a lot of people who were former owners and retirees, so it’s a really big, great spot for them that they feel like they have legitimately their blood sweat and tears in this organization and they’d be retired now. We want to give them an offering to keep up, sharing with them things that they pretty much have built and it’s really been a great opportunity for us to help them see the fruits of their labor of what they had.
Peter: Talk to me a little bit about the adoption of this, Anthony, and how you reached out to your alumni network and your retirees to even let them know that this existed and what the benefits to them would be becoming part of it.
Anthony: We had some challenges in the beginning with growth, but actually another great idea by our VP of Talent Acquisition at the time, Erin Peterson said, “Why don’t we try to get some people that were very well networked within the organization who are alumni or retired that would be willing to work with us on this.” We actually have a committee that consists of three alumni, two of them are retired and one is just an alumni who’s gone to another organization, and we meet with them once a month in person. They actually come out and meet with me and SelectMinds and we help drive the strategy for the alumni network.
One of them, Dave Willy is his name, is just incredibly well networked. I feel like there are people in our organization that could have started six months ago that know Dave Willy and he hasn’t been there for a few years. He’s been really awesome in helping us with events. I mean he does everything from, based out of Chicago, he’s a huge big into sports, so Chicago Blackhawks, Bears, Bulls. He does a lot of autograph signing for charities where he offers a lot of alumni and retirees special discounts or special priority to get into these events that he hosts, so we have a lot of great events for alumni because of him and he does a lot of great evangelist work for us through the site.
I would say that since we’ve worked with our committee, it’s really boosted a lot of our numbers in joining and helping people get more engaged on why they’re coming to the site.
Peter: What about metrics, what kind of metrics are you able to show from these efforts especially around your alumni network?
Anthony: Definitely our unique log-ins, I’d say, has been our number one thing that’s grown. Obviously our growth per month has gone up, say in the past 10 months, we actually beat our year goal for 2010 in July for growth, so how many people we wanted…
Peter: Really, in July.
Anthony: In July, we set a new goal and we’re really aggressively following that and then unique log-ins which is how many people are coming in and logging on daily or weekly and that’s really gone up a great deal. We’ve actually worked with SelectMinds, Irene Starygina; she’s our Community Engagement Manager. She works on posting content out on the site.
We’ve partnered with our marketing communications team to give us some inside Hewitt information that is not specifically going to be going out to public but is okay for our alumni and retirees to have access to and I let them speak to each other, so I set that up for Irene at SelectMinds, so they can have a great relationship on getting information out there, anything from graphics for new things that are going on or just really important information about Hewitt.
For a quick example, it was this year, we had out 70th year anniversary and we had some great slide shows of pictures, great content, and we had a really cool Flash design. This stuff wasn’t posted externally on our website, this was all internal for Hewitt people, things like that. We had some great feedback from people on the alumni site especially the retiree side, people saying, “Wow! These were great things I never saw or I didn’t know were out there so I was glad.” They were glad to see it.
Peter: Just for those listening to the show here who aren’t aware of this, the Aon Hewitt merger just took place in October, so this is very, very new that this whole new entity that exists now called Aon Hewitt.
Anthony: That’s correct.
Peter: When you look at the alumni network from the standpoint of referrals which lead hiring, are you tracking that?
Anthony: Yes. We had a couple of leaks before where we knew people were coming over as referrals or applicants from the alumni network, but we had some issues on our applicant tracking system on how they were coded, so we can only hold their hand up to a certain point to where they were applying and then it was up to them to put in the system that they came from the alumni network.
We had a general idea of how successful it was but there was a little bit of a challenge on that side. Like I said, we can match up people who we hired every year and go out look at it manually, but there were a couple of leaks and we’ve really worked a lot this year on trying to crack down and make it a fluid transition.
Peter: What are some of your objectives for 2011?
Anthony: We definitely want to grow our alumni referrals. We want to get more applicants coming out and more hires. Say in the other area where we didn’t have as much, or as a focus before is business development, so that’s something that I personally want to focus on. Partnering up with sales people in our organization and saying how can we utilize this alumni network that’s growing to be very strong now with the numbers of users and the engagement and how can we really get these people involved and if they’re our prospective clients, how can we help grow our business? It’s an area where I really want to get involved or really start focusing on this year.
Peter: One last question for you, what advice would you have for people who are trying to encourage their senior management to get more involved with working with social networks and incorporating social networks within their career portals?
Anthony: A few things. I would definitely say that it’s not a fad. It’s here to stay but in that, that building out a strategy, think small but scalable. I know that it’s really hard to say it that way because it’s something that is very hard to scale but it’s really starting somewhere and if you don’t get out there, somebody else is going own your conversation or own your brand, really getting out in front of that.
I would say that another great point too is just especially in the financial services industry, I can’t stress it enough is that we’re in a time right now where it’s really been critical with people not trusting or not feeling that there’s a transparency between what’s going on with the organizations in the inside and what’s being viewed on the outside and the media really has a lot to do with that. I think that social media is an incredible medium for that to help out with that, so owning those sites and not letting somebody else on them is a segue or transition or a medium, I should say, to really get people out to understand who you are and get them flowing back to your site. Let’s say you can see all these information static on our site, but you can also engage with us and field questions or learn more directly from people inside of our organization. This is us, this is who we are and come engage with us.
Peter: Anthony, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio.
Anthony: Thanks for having me.
Peter: I really enjoyed meeting you here.
Anthony: Thank you.
We’d like to thank SelectMinds client, Aon Hewitt, and global talent community specialist, Anthony Knierim, for joining us today. Please visit Anthony’s feature page in the Talent Acquisition Channel of TotalPicture Radio – that’s TotalPicture.com to voice your opinion.
Working with the world’s biggest brands to acquire top talent and manage alumni, SelectMinds leverages the promise, yet simplifies the complexity of doing business on the social web. It’s social networking with a purpose.
Visit SelectMinds.com to learn more or call 877-276-3978.
This is Peter Clayton reporting. Be sure to join our Facebook community to participate in the conversation and subscribe to our newsletter on our homepage, TotalPicture.com. Our interviews link your business with your customers and prospects.
Thank you for tuning into TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.
About Peter Clayton
Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.