On the second night of #HRTechConf in Las Vegas, I stumbled into a happy hour co-hosted by Degreed and Bridge. These are both learning platforms. I know people come here for recruiting and sourcing deals mostly, and we cover that mostly — but this was an interesting discussion that I think needs to get out there a little bit.

Degreed has a lot of LinkedIn alums, probably from after Microsoft bought it. David Blake, who’s a co-founder of Degreed, wrote a book called The Expertise Economy. I started talking to one of his marketing ladies, the discussion was interesting, and I went by the next day and grabbed a copy of the book. Normally I read magazines on flights, but the credit card machine at McCarran Airport was down, so all I had was said book, and I read it on the flight.

Let’s discuss for a moment.

Different things we call the current economy

Here’s a partial list I’ve seen:

  • The On-Demand Economy
  • The Gig Economy
  • The Knowledge Economy
  • The Social Economy
  • The Longevity Economy
  • The Attention Economy
  • The Platform Economy

There are others. That’s just a jump-off list.

Would “The Expertise Economy” fit?

At many levels, yes. For example, I’d say all these are mostly true:

  • Hiring managers, recruiters, and executives would like to find people with expertise (often probably under-market price too).
  • Having expertise is important to the growth of a business — having a true A-Player is such a game-changer in a department it’s almost unbelievable, provided you don’t burn him/her out.

Where it gets dicey is this discussion of “lifelong learning.” We should want that and ideally we’re doing that in our own lives, but corporations are never going to care about that. You’ve got a few problems:

  • Cost
  • “What if we train ’em, and they leave?”
  • Cost
  • “That’s a HR thing”
  • Did I mention cost?

I went to a happy hour with a bunch of recruiters, sourcers, general HR people, and trainers at a crappy dive bar in Houston in the summer of 2013. They all worked for a big health care company. Probably 45 people there and some of their clients, i.e. internal groups they supported. Literally every person I talked to told me “If revenue ever erodes, training is the first function to go.”

While the pursuit of expertise is important, it’s hard to think of companies actually caring that much about it.

What are the implications for sourcing and recruiting?

There are a lot, actually.

  1. Roles are increasingly going to be unclear to hiring manager and recruiter alike. Very few people fully understand personalization technology, for example, but increasingly people will need that in their departments. In such a world, you’ve got those with true expertise — who you’re gonna need to pay — and those who are good at faking expertise, who might slip through the cracks of a low-context recruiting process. As such, being able to identify what true expertise looks like in a field is important. You might need third-party vendors or people who know what they’re talking about to help there.
  2. There are relatively simple ways for companies to develop internal learning, which would optimally lead to more internal advancement opportunities and less external sourcing, but companies are still reluctant to go these routes because of cost and outdated assumptions.
  3. Recruiters will need to do their homework — and that’s another way to outpace the rise of AI. Right now AI is a scheduling thing in most platforms. But in a short time, it will be a way to identify true expertise and nurture that person into wanting a job with you. When that happens, the half-assed recruiters are now candidates.

What else would you say here? Do you think we’re living in a Knowledge/Expertise Economy, or does that feel like lip service?

Ted Bauer

Originally from New York City, Ted Bauer currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a writer and editor for RecruitingDaily who focuses on leadership, management, HR, recruiting, marketing, and the future of work. His popular blog, The Context of Things, has a simple premise -- how to improve work. Ted has a Bachelors in Psychology from Georgetown and a Masters in Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. In addition to various blogging and ghost-writing gigs, he's also worked for brands such as McKesson, PBS, ESPN, and more. You can follow Ted on Twitter @tedbauer2003, connect with him on LinkedIn, or reach him on email at [email protected]