Corey Bockhaus shares how he launched and grew Lockheed Martin’s talent communities

Even if they're not ready for a job yet, we want to bring them into this virtual space. Corey Bockhaus
Back in January 2018, Corey Bockhaus, Recruitment Marketing Analyst at Lockheed Martin, launched the company's second online, private talent community (their first in five years since Military Connect) — Engineering Connect. The goal of this community was to engage with the engineers that make up a critical talent segment for the company — in fact, 60 percent of Lockheed Martin jobs were engineering-focused at a time where 50 percent of that talent group was retirement eligible.

“The whole concept of the talent communities is simple: We needed a way to replenish specific critical talent segments,” said Corey. “To do that we started by attracting talent, inviting them to these exclusive communities, nurturing and engaging with the talent and then down the line converting them to Lockheed Martin employees.”

To make this community launch successful, the first thing Corey needed to do was get stakeholder buy-in.

“The idea for a talent community makes sense on paper, but if you don't have any employees willing to take some time out of their day to answer questions the community has or interact with them in a positive way, it loses all its value,” said Corey. “So, the first thing we did was get stakeholder buy-in.”

The earliest internal adopters on Engineering Connect was the University Relations and Recruiting Team because it provided another way they could connect with people on campus. Corey also met with their technology council early on to find the topics they should be talking about and the content they should provide for the engineering community.

The structure of the talent communities is modeled after the style of a private Facebook or LinkedIn community.

People will come to these communities, but if they don't think they're valuable they aren't going to use it. Corey Bockhaus
Corey and his team wanted Engineering Connect to be a place where people can share articles, answer questions, and interact with each other. To develop these standalone communities, they used a vendor called BraveNew. They also wanted to make sure they were closed communities, where members have to apply to join or be invited.

“We get a lot of names from our critical sourcing and University Relations and Recruiting teams and then we send those students invites,” he said. “We also have links for our talent communities on the website and have call-to-actions that come up in our job search module if you're looking for a job in that area.”

“In the community itself, we tailor a lot of content to our specific audience,” said Corey. “We do quarterly tech talks and webinars dealing with early career related information like how to interview or build out your resume, as well as technical webinars that focus more on projects they might work on it if they were to join Lockheed Martin.”

Then, Corey focused on building pipelines for their targeted talent segments.

They found most the talent for their pipelines through work with their University Relations and Recruiting and critical sourcing teams at different recruitment events across the country who invite people who fit their criteria to join the community.

“Even if they're not ready for a job yet, we want to bring them into this virtual space,” said Corey. “Brand awareness is a big goal here, so we're really working to show them who we are and what opportunities we can provide them through the community.”

Corey said they also had to give a lot of thought to what the content split would be within the community.

Brand awareness is a big goal here, so we're really working to show them who we are and what opportunities we can provide them through the community. Corey Bockhaus
“Originally in the engineering community we thought the content should be three-to-one technology-to-career, but as we launched we found our audience had more questions on the career path side, like how to build out their resume and what interview questions they should be ready for,” said Corey. “We adapted to incorporate more of that content in the community.”

But they also wanted to make sure they had a section for the engineering topics identified by their technology council — including autonomy, cybersecurity, directed energy, data analytics, sensors, technology and exploits, signals and communication, and manufacturing.

“We generated content and articles on these topics or went out and found similar content, including sources from outside Lockheed Martin, to help spark conversation,” said Corey.

They also made sure to include a campus section with more content around executing an engineering job search as well as an engineering insights page with videos of Lockheed Martin engineers showing what it looks like to work there.

Then, in July 2018, Corey used the insights and learnings from launching Engineering Connect to launch their third community: Cyber Connect.

After being identified by their critical sourcing team as critical talent for the next three to five years, Corey and his team set about creating a community to give candidates interested in cyber intelligence and security an understanding of what it might look like to have a career at Lockheed Martin.

“Just like with Engineering Connect, we had to meet with stakeholders first, who this time were our cyber fellows and cyber subject matter experts,” said Corey. “We knew the cyber community could be a little apprehensive with what they want to be a part of, so we really wanted to provide value. We decided the best way to provide value is to show off our experts at Lockheed Martin.”

Corey said this whole experience has been a huge learning opportunity for him.

The whole concept of the talent communities is simple: We needed a way to replenish specific critical talent segments. Corey Bockhaus
“I had no idea what a talent community was when I started working on Engineering Connect,” said Corey. “The team had already been working on the community and I came in to take it to the finish line. But, from the conception of Engineering Connect until it launched, was about three years.”

Corey emphasized that, even though they expedited that timeline with Cyber Connect, he thinks it's the right move to take your time in launching a community.

“You have to develop a lot of infrastructure,” he said. “You have to make sure you have enough internal support to make it a success, and that the content you're providing is relevant.”

Corey has already seen some success and tangible results from Engineering Connect and Cyber Connect.

He said Engineering Connect has grown from 200 members when they launched to more than 6,000. “A lot of that was a natural progression,” said Corey. “As we started to build more content and solidify the direction of the community, we invited more and more people.”

Cyber Connect has grown at a slower rate (120 members to 500 since launch) but because of the type of talent they're looking for, they have seen some promising hiring results.

“Out of the folks that have been invited at least seven have gone to interview, and one has actually accepted an offer,” he said.

But, according to Corey, most of the success they've seen is within the community.

“When we host webinars and tech talks the attendance books up,” he said. “And then through word of mouth we hear people say they've heard people talking about how much they love Engineering Connect. Further down the line we'd like to see more tangible hiring results, but for now our value is in the positive feedback we get from the interactions.”

Throughout the process, Corey said the biggest challenges they've been up against are time and buy-in.

You have to make sure you have enough internal support to make it a success, and that the content you're providing is relevant. Corey Bockhaus
“People will come to these communities, but if they don't think they're valuable they aren't going to use it,” said Corey. “It's important for them to get a chance to talk to some of our experienced professionals. A couple months ago, we had a gentleman ask a question about a resume and we had a senior engineer answer within 20 minutes. That value is immeasurable. But getting those people to buy-in at that level is a real challenge we had to deal with.”

He said a lot of the success in overcoming that challenge comes down to finding the right people to engage with in the community — and holding them accountable to stay engaged.

“It's a fine line because it is all through volunteering,” he said. “But it's important to find that balance.”

To help keep their subject matter experts engaged Corey regularly reaches out to them and has quarterly meetings to go over how the community is functioning and which perspectives they could speak more from.

For anyone looking to build out similar communities, Corey emphasized the importance of figuring out how they're going to function and being patient.

“You definitely want to ask a lot of questions, or even just observe and see how the community interacts, and then take what you can from that to generate the right kind of concept,” he said. “You're probably going to fail a few times before you succeed.”

He said one of the first things you need to do is decide the function of the community: what it's going to do, what you are going to use it for, the content structure, and who your audience is going to be.

“Tailor it specifically to the group you're looking for,” said Corey. “Make sure you have stakeholder buy-in, especially executive leadership, and work to identify who your experts are and ensure they can help. And make sure the people you're investing in to help you can actually return on that investment.”

Corey Bockhaus has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2017. You can follow him on LinkedIn.