The lowdown from LinkedIn – it’s all about the individual

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about LinkedIn and their aggressive approach in turning their platform into Temptation Island when it came to moving jobs. My ire was drawn from all the fabulous new ways they’ve conjured up to move jobs. Clever display adverts that put my head under a fancy job title, jobs I might be interested in floating down my newsfeed and a daily digest of jobs I might like on a weekly basis, usually at my weakest on a Monday.

The post had quite a lot of interest from business owners, to recruitment consultants to, would you believe it, LinkedIn themselves. They got in touch and wanted the chance to explain their vision and why my view, though valid, might have different facets unconsidered in the original piece.

I was put in touch with Wade Burgess, who is a Senior Director for LinkedIn focusing on hiring solutions. We touched on many topics surrounding the platform, so I’ll try and give you the most interesting bits below!

The first question I had was a self-reflection one.

How do LinkedIn see themselves first and foremost, a knowledge hub or a recruitment platform?

Wade said that the LinkedIn mission was to connect the world’s professionals, they want to provide people the chance to be more productive and they want to give people throughout the spectrum the chance to improve their economic situations. That goes from graduates just starting out, to new businesses seeking venture capitalism.

He spoke of a professionals career timeline (how very Facebook) and highlighted certain blips along the way as the recruitment function. Those represent transition and usually success, so the job function of LinkedIn is an important component of the site and its future success. The rest of the timeline is the ‘continuum’ that represents LinkedIn.

I asked the question, is LinkedIn the enemy of staff retention?

To which the simple answer was, yes, it is an enemy if you have something to fear.

Wade said, ‘If the only way you can manage your staff retention is to hide opportunity, then maybe you have something to worry about’

He referred back to similar issues being raised twenty years ago when high speed internet first started hitting offices. The same questions were raised then, ‘do we want to give people access to the outside work from behind our walls?’ The debate lasted for years, with most companies finally giving into the inevitable.

Giving LinkedIn access to your staff gives them the opportunity to see how talented the people are around them. Do people feel inspired by those they work with? Does the talent at their company match the talent they have at their own company, if the answer is yes, LinkedIn can in fact strengthen the employees allegiance to the brand they’re working for.

I touched on whether LinkedIn’s allegiances lay with the organisation or the individual.

The answer was pretty emphatic; it’s all about the individual. LinkedIn believe there has been a fundamental shift over the past ten years. An employee used to be an individual with a corporate brand tattooed to them. Now organisations, especially in disciplines like media are thousands of individuals who voluntarily help firms extend their brands. People are now more like independent brands in themselves and the challenge businesses face is how to inspire them to work online to help achieve the company’s objectives.

I also touched on the subject of spam messages that fill your inbox as well as the various group discussions.

LinkedIn know this is a problem and they’re looking to fix it over the next year. They’re not interested in traditional metrics like time on site or number of logins. They’re interested in the value you gain from being on the site. Too much noise reduces value, so they’ll be bringing in filters to take care of that.

It would be interesting to know whether LinkedIn will allow you to filter job applications or recruitment approaches. How badly would that affect revenue streams for LinkedIn? Something has to give though because, once you pass a certain level in your career, it feels like harassment from recruitment agencies is inevitable.

One thing is for sure, LinkedIn believe they are giving control back to the little man. Reid Hoffman will say in his new book that everyone is now ‘an entrepreneur of one’. He believes LinkedIn is a platform to showcase your professional business talent, build your contacts and share and consume information with like-minded people. 62% of the UK’s professionals now boast an account, so he’s in a good position to make assertions like that.

If the social network is helping people in that way maybe instead of seeing recruiters as an irritant, we should see their in-mails as a sign of success that our name is being found and it’s being associated with the good work we’ve done online? Or maybe we can just hope that LinkedIn work a little harder is filtering out the noise that dampens the generally good experience you face on the site?

It’ll be very interesting over the next year to see if they successfully manage to deal with this major challenge they face…

@PeterWood33 from @SteakLondon