CEO Jeff Weiner Reveals the No.1 Challenge Ahead for LinkedIn

September 26, 2019

Over the past 12 months, LinkedIn has gained 70 million members (two every second), growing its membership to 645M and counting. At the same time, more than 4 million members were sourced and hired on the platform (a 32% growth year over year).

And while that’s a lot of momentum, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner says there’s a major speed bump: Talent is equally spread but opportunity is not.

“What happens,” Jeff asked, “if you have the aptitude, what if you have the skills, what if you have the grit, resilience, and growth mind-set, what if you’re exactly the person our organizations are looking to hire? What if you’re a star talent but you didn’t grow up in a high-income neighborhood, didn’t go to a top school, and you haven’t worked for a top company? 

“That,” he said, “is the ‘network gap.’”

And that is the looming challenge for LinkedIn — and for you. But we can narrow and even close the gap by, together, taking the Plus One Pledge. That means committing to sharing your time, talent, and network connections with at least one person who doesn’t have access to the same resources you do.

Why the network gap is a problem

Nothing is more important to LinkedIn than helping members find the right opportunities in the global workplace. In early 2018, we launched a product that allows members to apply for a job by asking someone in their network for a referral. This is a powerful tool — Jeff noted that a referral on LinkedIn improves the chances of a job seeker landing a position by 9x.

But shortly after releasing the referral option, Jeff has said, LinkedIn’s head of social impact, Meg Garlinghouse, asked about the effect the new feature would have for our most underserved members, the ones without enormous social capital. “It was exactly the right question to ask,” Jeff said.

Jeff said the most important word in the company’s vision — “create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce” — is every.

But our own research shows that a member who grew up in an affluent zip code is three times as likely to have a strong network (lots of connections from lots of different places) as one who grew up in a poor zip code; members who went to a top college are twice as likely to have a strong network as those who didn’t; and those who worked for a top company in their first job are twice as likely to have a strong network as those who didn’t.

“Two people who are equally talented,” Jeff said, “should have equal access to opportunity.”

What LinkedIn is doing to close the network gap

So, what is LinkedIn doing to confront the network gap? 

Jeff said the company thinks there are three approaches to a solution: products, programs, and people.

  1.  LinkedIn is actively experimenting with our platform to better understand where we’ve introduced unintended consequences — like helping some members more than others — and then we’re looking for ways to undo them. Every new LinkedIn feature is now built and evaluated with an “every member approach” — making sure it’s promoting equal opportunity for all members, regardless of their current social capital.
  2. LinkedIn is scaling programs such as REACH, RAMP, and LinkedIn Coaches that create opportunities for workers who may not fit a traditional profile. Jeff gave a shout-out to other companies in attendance that have built programs to bolster opportunities for nontraditional candidates. Those companies included IBM (New Collar), Adobe (Digital Academy), Bank of America (Pathways), Gap (This Way Ahead), Wells Fargo (Apprenticeship for Veterans), Airbnb (Connect), Genentech (Futurelab), JPMorgan Chase (Advancing Black Pathways), Starbucks (Opportunity Youth), and Microsoft (YouthSpark).

But Jeff noted that those two strategies aren’t enough. There is an opportunity for LinkedIn employees and members alike to work together to solve this challenge — the people solution. Here’s a video that gives a quick look at what some of the people at LinkedIn have done.

What you can do: Take the Plus One Pledge and commit to helping someone with no access to your network

You can start on your Plus One pledge today — just look around in your community. 

LaShonda Rahming, the executive director of talent innovation and solutions for Comcast NBCUniversal, met Jervaun Higgs through a connection in her church. Jervaun was a college junior who dreamed of working at a media company but who was increasingly frustrated by how often he was being told “no.” LaShonda took Jervaun under her wing, opened up her network to him, and today he’s working for Disney.

If you feel that even a hall full of committed people is too few to truly make a difference, consider Jeff’s point on this issue: Companies with representatives at Talent Connect have nearly 13.8 million employees.

“If we’re able,” Jeff said, “to collectively inspire just 10% of the employees at your companies to extend an opportunity to just one person, we could potentially transform the career trajectory of 1.4 million individuals.”

Imagine what scale that could have if you, the wider LinkedIn community, gave your time, talent, and network to someone who’s just starting out and who can use a hand up.

Take the pledge today.

Watch Jeff's full talk below:

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