Crowdsourcing Your Employee Requirements.

Last week while walking through the streets of San Francisco, I was reading a tweet by Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang that stated electronics retail giant Best Buy was looking to hire a digital strategist. Immediately I clicked on the link and read something amazing: they were looking for someone who at the very least had a minimum of 250 followers on Twitter.

Jeremiah Owyang's Tweet about Best Buy Digital Strategist Position

Of course I could do the work needed for Best Buy, but before I knew it, another interesting development took place. It appears that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) the company decided to apparently crowdsource the job description. What a surprising and excellent move! Often times I find that companies that are looking for people to fit specific jobs list a vacancy description with much more “fluff” than is actually needed or desired in the employee. At one of my previous spots, I remember being asked about what my successor would need to have in order to be the best fit in the company. I, of course, listed the duties and responsibilities that I had encountered during my time at the job & that somehow got translated into the job description.

In the case of Best Buy, I’m fascinated that the CMO of Best Buy, Barry Judge, made this remark: “we discovered that many people had other ideas for how this job description should look.” It seems to me that he gets it and this is going to be a truly remarkable experiment. The specific role that Judge is trying to fill is Senior Manager, Emerging Media Marketing and I would assume that this role would fit in perfectly as a community manager or evangelist or something to that effect. If you’re going to have someone with a customer/audience facing role, are you sure that your internal teams know what best to look for? I would imagine that the community knows more than the company – and that’s pretty much what Judge is doing.

So how are they trying to accomplish this?

The fine folks at Best Buy have created a website called Best Buy IdeaX where you, the customer, can participate and submit your ideas through 5pm Central Time on July 14, 2009. What is the IdeaX site? It is the company’s own social network where people can share ideas on how to make the company better – through idea posts, popular vote and discussions with the rest of the IdeaX community. It’s on the IdeaX website that you’ll fill out your comments using a stated parameter as shown below:

Unfortunately the “winning” job description doesn’t receive a prize…merely satisfaction that their name and idea was chosen to be the definition of the job.

Barry Judge’s post on this whole experiments is filled with really good ideas and rationale for how it should be. If anything, Judge recognizes the power of crowdsourcing when he says that he recognizes that a “large group of people will come up with more ideas than a small group.” Isn’t that basically the definition of crowdsourcing? Neville Hobson, part of the great podcast team that produces For Immediate Release seems to agree.

On the flip side, it’s admitted that this position is a new one – to me it makes perfect sense to seek out advice if you don’t know how to qualify a job, ask those who may know and what possible obstacles to avoid. That’s still crowdsourcing.

Now if you read Judge’s post in full, you’ll notice that he hasn’t given the entire ship away. Rather, he’s allowing the community to pitch their own ideas for a limited part of the position. By this I mean that at the very least, Best Buy has some roles and responsibilities that are non-negotiable which is very fair because after all, it is their employee and they have a mission they want the employee to complete, but you as the community can expand on the role if it’s too limited. With respect to the basic qualifications, Judge has made it clear that there are some legal items to adhere to:

Legally, a basic qualification has to be objective. One has to be able to use the qualification and say conclusively if a person has it or doesn’t either via the resume or other visible evidence (CV, Portfolio, etc). Fabulous personality, creative communicator, effective leader, great dancer; while great things in a candidate and person, are not verifiable via a resume, cv, or other document, thus are not technically legitimate qualifications. Those more subjective things are important, and are discovered or identified in the interviews.

Overall, when the community is solicited for opinions, make sure that they understand what specifics you’re asking for. Judge makes it explicit that certain criteria must be objective based. Hope that the community doesn’t squander away this opportunity to provide some valuable input. I, for one, would love to know what comes out of this and to see if this can be made into an awesome case study.

Note: I checked the Best Buy link for the Sr. Manager, Emerging Media position and they indicated that the position “has been filled”. Not sure what that’s about since they’re just starting to crowdsource, but most likely it will be up after July 14 once all suggestions are in.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."