Are You Hiring Applicants or Candidates?

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Recently my financial institution requested that I complete a document, sign and return it to them, via Fax. I laughed out loud when I read their request. Fax? Who uses faxes anymore? I sent it to them in a PDF file via email which satisfied their request. Some organizations are slow to change. I’m finding the same is true when it comes to how some organizations recruit perspective employees. The baby boomers are no longer the largest segment of today’s workforce. Instead, millennials, a few gen Xers and gen Zs are leading the mix.. This workforce seeks employment with a new set of expectations, desires, and requirements. They possess the technical know-how, social media savviness and work-life balance that are unique to them alone.
Just like customer expectations have changed dramatically, so too have employee expectations of the workplace experience. Throw a pandemic on top of this tectonic shift in expectations and you have a tidal wave of change impacting how we recruit and retain employees in our contact centers. It begs the question, is your organization focused on getting hundreds of applications to satisfy a quota and fill positions? Or is your organization focused on recruiting candidates that represent the top talent for the positions you are filling? What’s the difference?
The difference in your approach represents a change in mindset. It’s no different than the question I often ask organizations about their customer experience. Do you want transactions or relationships? Many answer relationships (after all it’s the expected response). We want both depending on what our customers want at any given point in time. It’s the same answer to my initial question, are you hiring applicants or candidates? The answer is both. The differentiator in both situations is how we act in response to each situation.

For customers, we need to provide efficient, quick, error-free transactions. To ensure lasting loyalty, we want to know our customers, value the business they provide and help them when they need us. Our employees, both current and prospective want the same thing as customers especially when it comes to their relationships with their employer. Know your employees, value them for their contributions and help them when they need it, otherwise get out of their way, and let them do their jobs.

If we agree that employee expectations have changed dramatically, if we accept the “great resignation” is underway, and if we believe there is a battle for talent, then why haven’t we changed our behaviors regarding how we are recruiting prospective employees and nurturing the ones we already employ? For example, the latest conundrum facing organizations is policies related to “returning to the office”. Instead of re-thinking the way we work, some organizations are spending days and even weeks trying to navigate a series of policies regarding employee well-being. Could it be that the work environment over the last two years may not be recognized as efficient even though employees may have been doing well in their current environments and work is getting done? Everything changed in March 2020. Even two years later, some organizations still are struggling to figure out who’s on first when it comes to work-at-home policies. Imagine what your employees must be thinking? Perhaps this is the reason for the “great resignation”?

So far, we’ve been talking mostly about existing employees. Like the many marketing strategies organizations employ to acquire new customers, we should be doing the same to acquire candidates (as opposed to applicants) to fill our open positions. It’s been said that brand represents the promise made and customer experience represents the promise kept. Shouldn’t your brand reflect your promise made to potential employees as well? Have you articulated what the brand promise is to prospective employees? An employee brand promise must be aligned to the organizations overall brand promise and specifically identify those elements important to employees.

Take Thomson Reuters as one example. In 2021 they introduced a second global mental health paid holiday and announced permanent hybrid working arrangements for all office-based employees. In February 2022, they announced a new set of work-life flexibility offerings called Thomson Reuters Flex My Way* that includes three components:
1. Work From Anywhere (in country) is a flexible working arrangement in which an employee can work from another location other than the Thomson Reuters office or their home office for up to eight weeks, provided the location is within their work country.
2. Caregiver Paid Time Off provides 10 business days paid time off for employees who need to care for an immediate family member in the event of a serious medical condition that results from an injury or illness.
3. Enhanced Bereavement leave provides up to 10 business days paid time off for employees to grieve, attend funeral services, and take care of any personal matters related to the loss of an immediate family member and up to three business days paid time off for the loss of an extended family.
Based on the number of LinkedIn postings from existing employees, they are excited about these new work environment arrangements. Now imagine prospective employees trying to choose among multiple offers from employers and reading about Thomson Reuters approach to work-life balance. Wouldn’t that be a differentiator? Won’t this help Thomson Reuters win the battle for talent? Thomson Reuters is thinking differently about how we work. Is your organization turning the status quo on its side and re-imaging the work environment?

What are some ways you can bring this re-imagining in your organization?
1. Start by defining your brand’s promise to your employees. Although it’s aligned to the overall brand promise of the organization, it must be specific to what employees can expect from the culture, working environment and day-to-day interactions with colleagues and leaders.
2. Make a good first and lasting impression. There’s no question the tools for accepting and processing applications have improved significantly in recent years. Often the first impression prospective employees have of your organization can be cold and calculating even with cheery templated email responses to completed applications. All this automation is understandable for organizations receiving hundreds or even thousands of applications each month. But is that the way it should be? Shouldn’t our approach be more personal, more directed, more experience oriented? Does your human resource department need to change its approach?
3. Listen to the voice of your employees – prospective, current, and past. Dump the personnel surveys and really take time to listen through roundtables, open forums, discussion boards and social media. Remember your best source of future employees often is the referral from existing ones so you best know what they are saying about your organization to their neighbors and friends.
4. Apply NPS, CES and CSAT for employees. Ask your employees – would they recommend your organization to their family and friends? How much effort is it for them to be employed by you? Are they satisfied with pay, benefits, working conditions, etc. Are you easy to do business with from an employee’s perspective?
5. Use the feedback to create an employee-centric culture. Listen to employee needs and act on them. Demonstrate your commitment to changing the way you work in your organization by defining operating mechanisms among departments and functions at all levels.
6. Pursue design thinking for better employee experiences. From prospect to recruiting to candidate to onboarding to career development, disrupt the status quo by rethinking the employee journey through all the touchpoints within your organization. So many organizations are spending inordinate amounts of time on customer journeys – perhaps its time to turn our attention to the employee journey.
7. Create a culture that celebrates the uniqueness in all of us. A culture that welcomes diversity of thought, cross-cultural knowledge and interactions, freedom to fail, continual learning, and out-of-the-ordinary career development opportunities such as volunteering, job rotations, and global immersion experiences.
8. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Did I mention the importance of communication? Share what’s happening across the organization. Be transparent. Share the company’s successes and shortcomings. Be vulnerable as leaders. Demonstrate authenticity. Have fun.

Organizations are constantly striving for 5-star ratings on social media claiming it’s the lifeblood of their ability to acquire and retain customers. Would your employees give you 5-star ratings not on how you deliver on the customer experience but how you engage them in the growth of the business? Would your employees promote you on social media as a great place to work? The answer to those questions depends on your answer to whether you are hiring applicants or candidates. The time for choosing is now. What say you?

*Published February 3, 2022 by Thomson Reuters, Chief People Officer, Mary Alice Vuicic

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