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Keeping Priorities in conTEXT

February 15

Last week I took my family on a long overdue vacation. It was a pristine week in the Sierra Nevada Mountains - completely disconnected from my "work family." Since mobile coverage virtually blankets every corner of this country, I wanted to be sure to unplug and give my complete attention to my wife and kids... something they usually don't get from me. To make sure this would happen, I placed my Smartphone, iPad and laptop in the hotel room safe and we went about our adventure. And after the initial withdrawal subsided, I actually found myself relaxing and enjoying myself... but there was much more to this story.

Before I left, I was doing some research for a client which made me realize how far into mobile the world has come. According to the CTIA, almost 300 million Americans are mobile subscribers, communicating courtesy of a quarter million+ cell towers, sending nearly two billion text messages annually. There's literally no escape! Additionally, a survey recently released by Ruder Finn states that Americans are spending an average of 2.7 hours a day on the mobile Internet connecting socially, managing their personal finances, or even advocating on-the-spot on issues of concern. I knew that I was well within all of those statistics on my trip; I was a mobile subscriber, utilizing one of those cell towers poorly camouflaged as a pine tree trying NOT to send text messages or check my e-mail on the mobile Internet.

Keep in mind that just because I put my mobile device away, didn't mean that my son or wife forfeited use of their devices. How could they? We needed to take photos and video and we always do that by mobile device.

Within the first hour of MY phone going away, my son checked Facebook at least five times, checked Yelp to find a restaurant for dinner, e-mailed a college professor about the upcoming semester and was texting with friends. My wife, who's the first to ask me to put my phone down and pay attention, was checking e-mails, editing videos, texting with family and looking at maps of the area on the Internet. Even my eight-year-old daughter was playing games and reviewing photos and videos of the holidays. I felt completely out of my element without having one of these amazing communication and boredom busting devices!

My point in sharing this story is how intertwined our lives have become with mobile and how diverse this world is. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet American Life Projects, African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web with cell phone ownership at a resounding 87% of the demographic. Of families earning less than $30,000 per year, 75% of them own a cell phone and nearly 60% access the Internet via a mobile device!

My social experiment drove home two important ideas as they relate to Talent Acquisition:

First, those companies that don't have their mobile house in order are missing out on a huge opportunity to attract a multi-dimensional, culturally-diverse audience. Companies who are optimizing search and are able to drive candidates via a mobile website are winning the game. Currently, in other countries, users hold a cell phone camera up to a corporate headquarters building or a retail store facade and are served jobs that fit their specific profile. Augmented reality is happening across the globe — but in the US, many companies still haven't made it possible for candidates to view simple job postings on their mobile device, which is the first step.

Secondly, spreading a positive word and managing your reputation are critical. Just as my son utilized Yelp to find everything from restaurants to ski shops, he immediately discounted those establishments with a low rating or negative comments. Websites like Glassdoor.com can really change the attitude of potential candidates doing research on an organization if they are not managed appropriately. In the Ruder Finn study I mentioned earlier, they state that people use mobile to communicate "on-the-spot issues of concern." If an employee with a mobile device was having a bad day, was terminated or was passed over for a promotion, odds are that person will use the device to disparage their employer, which can really injure the company's chances to recruit the best and the brightest candidates.

I survived my week without mobile, even if my family did not. And I'd like to thank my son for allowing me to use his mobile device to check my messages at least twice a day... Please don't tell my wife.

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