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The Internet age of talent: What employers can learn from the GameStop fiasco

“Technology is the great equalizer that can dramatically improve the quality of a person’s life through the click of a mouse button.” 

Aside from touchscreens and touchpads replacing the need for a mouse, IBM’s Dimitri Kanevsky was spot on, in his 2012 White House address, about technology leveling the playing field for anyone. Nearly a decade later, his characterization of technology perfectly explains how common investors were able to challenge those in traditional positions of power using GameStop stock. 

While the power struggle isn’t as emphasized in recruitment, technology has steadily bridged the gap between employers and job seekers. So, what does the recruitment industry have to do with the GameStop fiasco? Employers have a unique opportunity to learn from recent events about employer branding, digitization of rigid industries, and the power of community and communication as they look to attract, engage, and hire top talent.

Framing the fiasco

Last week, a community of Reddit users, known as r/WallStreetBets, decided to mass-purchase GameStop stock. When this happened, some trading platforms, including Robinhood, temporarily halted the purchase of these stocks based on “financial requirements, including SEC net capital obligations and clearinghouse deposits.” Ultimately, these series of events were problematic in two ways. Firstly, Robinhood was put in a financially vulnerable position, which they have since addressed by raising 3.4 billion dollars from investors. Secondly, Robinhood, and other platforms, were met with significant user criticism on social media. While controversy has seemingly subsided, GameStop’s stock volatility led to a clear financial and perception fiasco for both investors and participating trading platforms.  

Can tech re-energize recruitment?

It’s safe to say that none of this could have happened without a new wave of financial technology – like Robinhood’s mobile application – that has successfully turned the finance industry on its head. 

For years, finance reminded us of rigid banking systems, tedious data collection, and an older workforce calling the shots. Today, tech companies have re-energized this industry with applications that put financial power back in the average citizen’s hands. Whether it’s Public’s social approach to investing or SoFi’s collective financial services, FinTech has become one of the market’s hottest trends with a collective valuation of over 1 trillion dollars.  

FinTech’s immense growth has been aided by strong financial planning interest from millenials and Gen Z. If those same generations make up 60% of the global workforce, shouldn’t the digital transformation of the HR and recruitment industry follow a similar trajectory? Like finance, HR and recruitment underwent a significant digital transformation in recent years, but that level of transformation has not been the same. 

With the increasing complexity of consumer technology demands, further saturation of communication channels, and equality gaps potentially widening, the demand for a stronger generation of qualified talent is there. While it has taken some time, AI recruitment technology has emerged as the breakthrough tech for addressing hiring with speed, scale, and quality in mind. Furthermore, recruitment software like Hiretual have found ways to centralize the sourcing, market research, engagement, talent rediscovery, and data reporting aspects of recruiting that every hiring team needs to be successful. 

Bullish on digital skills

Image Credits: Canva

With technology leveling the playing field, digital skills have allowed the Internet generation to become the most well-rounded and resourceful generation of talent history has ever seen.

Look no further than Reddit users, like those on r/WallStreetBets. It’s filled with people who know how to energize an audience, sell their insights, and effectively engage with other users to maximize reach. These are the three most important things every business needs in their workforce to grow and retain a loyal following in a post-pandemic digital era. 

For many reasons, hiring this year isn’t going to be easy. In industries like tech, Hiretual CEO Steven Jiang describes 2021 as a period known as the Great Rehire, an all-out war for top  talent. 

“Talent acquisition teams should continue to be open-minded about change and embrace technologies that will help them cut through a content-saturated digital environment and emerge in front of their candidates with all the information needed to have an impactful conversation,” said Jiang. 

As job seekers get more digitally savvy, a new generation of recruitment technology will help companies build a continuous network of potential talent by leveraging AI and data intelligence to make the Internet recruiter-friendly.

Robinhood: a study in community and employer branding

If the GameStop situation was any indication, company interactions with community members have a significant impact on branding.

Let’s use Robinhood as an example. Their brand is based on building a community for every investor. However, when they temporarily stopped this community from trading GameStop stocks, backlash ensued on social media. One individual suggested that, “the irony couldn’t be more clear: Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor and [Robinhood] is doing the opposite.” 

Not only should Robinhood’s situation remind employers of a community’s impact on branding, but any actions that upset those members can swiftly hurt a brand (and a company’s pockets). Virgin Media learned this lesson the hard way when an internal investigation found that roughly 7,500 candidates cancelled their Virgin Media subscriptions because they had a poor job interview experience. While the damage seemed irreversible, Virgin Media’s former Head of Resourcing, Graeme Johnson, worked to raise “candidate experience standards” and quantitatively improved the likelihood of candidates recommending Virgin Media to others.

Aside from employers identifying and understanding their respective candidate communities,  they should align their company’s mission with their candidate experience. Employers must understand who their communities talk to, and transparently communicate with them on platforms, like social media. As we saw with Virgin Media, taking actionable steps to address one’s community can potentially reverse any existing damage and improve brand appeal.

The best investment employers can make

The GameStop controversy is uniquely informative. It allows groups both inside and outside of it to reflect on their decisions, actions, and practices moving forward. 

Employers can learn how to better attract talent from recent events by analyzing their technological capabilities, investing in relevant communication channels, and understanding how their community actions impact their brand. For job seekers and consumers, they are reminded of how much information and leverage they have thanks to modern-day tech. While GameStop (and Dogecoin) stocks might not take common investors #tothemoon, it might just help them shift financial and employment power back on their side.