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Jacelyn Swenson, Manager at IBM

Managing the Greater IBM Connection, IBM's Social Media Community

 
Jacelyn Swenson, Manager, IBMJacelyn Swenson

The Four Key Areas needed to run a successful alumni network.

"We do know from ongoing polls that we conduct that it's important for former IBMers to stay connected to their former colleagues. And they also stay connected in this community because of the job opportunities that are available and their interest in getting back."

Jacelyn Swenson has managed strategic programs and delivered high ROI in the corporate, non-profit and agency environments for 30 years. Currently, she is leading IBM's Alumni Relations worldwide and managing the Greater IBM Connection, IBM's social media community for past and present IBMers.

Welcome to a Talent Acquisition Channel special edition of TotalPicture Radio. I met Jacelyn at the SelectMinds 2011 Annual Client Conference in New York.

Prior to her focus on community-based social business marketing, Jacelyn managed worldwide teams to deliver strategic programs that generated market presence, sales pipeline, and business revenue for IBM's software group division.

Jacelyn Swenson Interview Transcript TotalPicture Radio

SelectMinds provides social recruiting and community management solutions helping companies source talent and new business through the online connections of their current and former employees. With SelectMinds technology, companies can automate and scale the benefits of enterprise social networking for recruiting, branding, and new business development. For over a decade, SelectMinds has powered the corporate alumni networks and social employee referral programs of many of the world's best brands.

Welcome to a Talent Acquisition Channel special edition of TotalPicture Radio. Joining us today is Jacelyn Swenson with IBM. I met Jacelyn at the SelectMinds 2011 Annual Client Conference in New York. Jacelyn has managed strategic programs and delivered high ROI in the corporate, non-profit and agency environments for 30 years. Currently, she is leading IBM's Alumni Relations worldwide and managing the Greater IBM Connection, IBM's social media community for past and present IBMers. Previously, she managed the marketing and communications strategies in business development initiatives for the Center for CIO Leadership, a non-profit, independent organization founded by IBM that is supported by global thought leadership, research, education, and outreach. Jacelyn, welcome to TotalPicture Radio.

Jacelyn: It's my pleasure, Peter.

Peter: Let's start off by having you tell us a little bit about the Greater IBM connection. I've been on your homepage but obviously since I'm not an IBMer or a former IBMer, I can't go any further than that but it looks very, very in-depth.

Jacelyn: It is in-depth and, in fact, we have created this community in direct response to the needs that have been expressed by our former IBMers. As you noted in your introduction, it's an opportunity to connect our current and our former IBM employees because we see it as a wonderful way to promote networking and collaboration, because there are a number of things that this population has in common and that is that they have common experiences, values, and high professional standards.

Peter: There are more than 100,000 members in the connection?

Jacelyn: We actually have more than 135,000.

Peter: Wow. How long has this been in operation?

Jacelyn: That's an interesting question. The actual online community has been in operation since 2006 but if we were to go back in time and look at IBM's past history, we actually had an IBM Club that was formed in 1920s. So the whole spirit of networking and collaborating and staying connected with your colleagues has been part of the fabric of our history and it has always been important to stay in touch. The whole notion of Once an IBMer, Always an IBMer has really stuck and is part of what makes us so unique as a company. With the advent of social media in these type of communities coming into play, it just seemed natural to create an online community in 2006 that could meet those needs from a virtual standpoint.

Peter: We'll kind of take this a step further. I have a good friend who just boomeranged back into IBM. Is this a common experience?

Jacelyn: I would say it is. And, in fact, we have a number of opportunities through the Greater IBM Connection. Among those is our Career Center that we make available and through that we post IBM jobs that are currently in need throughout the world. Oftentimes, we direct those to our alumni because there are many opportunities where those who have been and left IBM are very interested in coming back and their skill set may be the exact set of what we're looking for. It's a common trend that we see and we actually see that growing.

Peter: Jacelyn, can you tell us from your perspective what are some of the benefits of maintaining an alumni network?

Jacelyn: A number of benefits. First as I tapped in earlier, very important to stay connected with our community from a networking standpoint.

We do know from ongoing polls that we conduct that it's important for former IBMers to stay connected to their former colleagues. And they also stay connected in this community because of the job opportunities that are available and their interest in getting back. Thirdly, I'd say another area of interest is merely staying connected with the thought leadership that's coming out of IBM and some of the strategies that we're putting forth and the initiatives that are touching everyone certainly through with many of our campaigns such as Smarter Planet, for instance.

Peter: You had mentioned the Career Center. I'd like you to talk about some of the other related links on the Greater IBM Connection. One is volunteer via IBM's On Demand Community.

Jacelyn: That is a very exciting area. I mean, part of the fabric of all IBMers is our sense of community and our sense of giving back and being involved on our own communities whether it's our local community or our global community. In fact, I can share 2011; we just came off of our centennial which was a very exciting year for IBM. During that centennial year, we wanted to underscore the importance of volunteerism. And, in fact, we tracked the alumni and the number of hours that they volunteered through the course of 2011 and it exceeded to 11,800 service hours that we were able to track by our alumni alone.

Peter: That's amazing. In addition to SelectMinds CommunityConnect, you also use TalentVine and that is a link on the Greater IBM Connection. Tell us a little bit about some of your experience with TalentVine.

Jacelyn: I'd be happy to. Just as a distinction I should point out, we have Career Center and we have TalentVine, two very similar areas on our site but directed to very distinct populations within our community.

The Career Center is directed to IBM currents. As you mentioned in your intro, what makes us unique, this community, is the fact that we encourage current IBMers as well as former IBMers to join this community so we can promote that sense of collaboration. The Career Center, as I say, is directed to IBM currents and the TalentVine is a place on the site that is directed only to our alumni members. And, this again, is where we post all current jobs that are available in IBM around the world. And what we are tracking - some trends that we're seeing already that we're tracking is that the number of applicants from our alumni population are being shortlisted for manager positions in an ever increasing rate and we're very encouraged by that. So it comes back to your question earlier in terms of boomerangs. We feel as though this population, they understand the culture of IBM. They appreciate the value of IBM and many times having left IBM for various reasons want to come back and we're seeing that play out through those who are applying for this type of positions that are available.

Peter: And how long have you been using TalentVine?

Jacelyn: We actually launched it as a pilot back in February of 2011.

Peter: Why do you limit it to the alumni's and not to current employees?

Jacelyn: Partly through tracking and working with our HR colleagues. But again, the Career Center, you can consider as a sort of a mirror image of the actual jobs that are being posted. Peter: Right. Jacelyn: TalentVine gives us an opportunity to track those who are alumni, who are applying for those positions. The Career Center gives us an opportunity to track those who are current who might be vying for other positions.

Peter: And from my understanding, you also maintain Greater IBM on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and XING, is that correct?

Jacelyn: That is correct.

Peter: How are you able to somehow connect and track all of you social networking efforts?

Jacelyn: They're not connected; they are unique communities upon themselves. We do maintain a very active involvement in terms of leading discussions, responding to member needs, monitoring conversations and providing thought starters to conversations or if there are questions that are post on any of those communities, we can provide a response to those or if there's any sort of query or need to express by any of our community members.

Peter: I'm wondering if you track any activity from IBM's retirees on your alumni network. And if so, have they helped in recruiting or leveraging their expertise?

Jacelyn: We absolutely do track the retirees. And, in fact, they're another subportion of our population as well. We consider our IBM retirees very important members of our community. And, in fact, given that we just completed our centennial year with all the visibility and awareness that was raised about IBM's history and those who worked at IBM over the last 100 years, we got a surge of retirees who express interest in joining our community. So we have quite a significant percentage of our population who are retirees. To your second part of the question, they are very helpful in terms of identifying those in their own personal networks who might be interested in opportunities at IBM. They're extremely helpful and their own thought leadership and connections they might have for business opportunities and for networking purposes. So we value greatly our retirees.

Peter: How are you able to track the results from all of your alumni efforts and what kind of metrics do you use? And are you able to really identify winds that occur in hiring through your alumni network and through TalentVine?

Jacelyn: There are a number of ways. Some of them more obvious ways or certainly measuring how many are in our population and we watch the growth of that. But that's more of a quantitative standpoint but qualitatively, we look at what they're saying and the level of involvement and engagement they have in any of our discussion thread for instance and how many will attend a webinar, how many are offering to share some of their expertise, and how many are forming their own local communities that might be oriented towards - through their geographic region or their area of expertise. We have many subgroups within our community. So that's one way. Another way, obviously, is we've already discussed is tracking how many alumni are responding to IBM opportunities. We also have and working closely with our marketing and sales folks, there are a number of alumni who are in various capacities whether they are business partner or a customer or in some type of industry influencer. We have a way of connecting with them through our marketing and sales force. And in many opportunities, there've been cases where our alumni have facilitated business opportunities and we were able to track that as well.

Peter: That's really interesting. I'm wondering if all of your efforts around your alumni networks are on the radar screen of your senior leadership at IBM and how they help support your efforts.

Jacelyn: Very much on the radar screen of our senior leadership. This is an initiative back in 2006 that was launched and supported by our most senior executives and that support continues to this day.

Peter: One last question for you. What advice can you share with other global organizations who are considering launching an alumni network? What insights can you give us?

Jacelyn: I'd love to share that. I would say I would boil it down to probably four key areas for folks to focus on if they wanted to launch and run a very successful alumni community. The first I would say they need to clearly define their target community. What I mean by that is do you want only alumni or would you like to include your current population as we have? These are considerations to take in mind. Secondly, I would say it's very important to identify what the needs are of your population. If it's going to be alumni, what is it they're looking for? How can you fulfill that through this community? Thirdly, I'd say it's important to build a compelling and useful, intuitive working platform, something that's very easy to navigate, to access information that you're looking for readily. And then finally, I would say it's very important to engage your alumni so you develop that loyalty and you can continue to foster that community growth, keep them engage to keep them coming back.

Peter: It seems to me that if you build the kind of rich community that you have at IBM, it's very compelling to alumni to want to participate in that because they can connect with old friends and colleagues and really still feel a part of that community.

Jacelyn: That's exactly the feedback that we get. As I mentioned earlier, the whole sense of Once an IBMer, Always an IBMer is something that resonates with all of us. And, in fact, the whole notion of IBMer has taken on its own "life form" if you will that it's something that we all embody. Once you've walked through these doors and spent time within IBM's walls, you get it. And there is a sense of loyalty to the company. There's a strong sense of support and belief in our ideals and our values and people want to stay connected to that.

Peter: Jacelyn, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us on TotalPicture Radio. I really appreciate your willingness to do this.

Jacelyn: You bet. Thank you for your time today, Peter.

Peter: Thank you.

Jacelyn Swenson leads IBM's Alumni Relations worldwide and manages the Greater IBM Connection, IBM's social media community for past and present IBMers. You'll find this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's totalpicture.com for resource links and a complete transcript of today's interview.

With SelectMinds technology, companies can recruit top talent from within their employee's social networks and from their own private secure employee and alumni networks. This referral-based environments drive recruitment, new business development and lead to great new hires in substantial business growth. Visit selectminds.com to learn more or call 877-276-3978 to set up a free demo today.

This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration. Join our Facebook community to join in the conversation and subscribe to our newsletter on our homepage totalpicture.com. Our interviews link your business with your customers, prospects, employees and passive candidates.

Peter Clayton

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.

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