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Tell a Different Story: Meaningful Talent Acquisition

It’s time to build a talent-centric acquisition process.

In the world of work, expectations have changed. From Facebook to Amazon to Google, people interact with world-class technology every day. For free. Yet most companies compete for talent like the internet has just been invented. Top initiatives tend to be career fair booths and online portals that are often referred to by applicants as black holes. This type of approach is the standard and, as such, is sometimes effective, but it won’t last. As recruitment and training technology advances, and a workforce that expects to move for a job, the competition for talent will continue to rise.

To stand out from the pack, employers need to develop a strong value proposition beyond pay and benefits. They also need to think about the candidate journey from start to finish and develop a system that is optimized every step of the way.

Prospective employers first should know the answer to the key candidate question: “Why should I work here?” Too often, this gets answered in generic ways: great pay, good benefits, flex time, great culture, family atmosphere, opportunities for growth, and strong professional development. In the new economy, these answers are table stakes. Transactional HR elements are foundational, but often lack inspiration or emotion. They don’t differentiate one company from the next.

Developing a strong candidate value proposition gives the organization a spearhead—something ownable and unique. It’s a promise the company is making to its customers and its employees alike. Nike epitomizes this sentiment in its mission, "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world." Most people who use Nike products are not professional athletes. Clearly, Nike defines “athlete” more broadly, as in, if you have a body, you’re an athlete. But, why should you work at Nike? If you have a passion for helping every person, regardless of fitness level, achieve athletic and health goals, Nike’s mission might be parallel to your own. This starts an employment conversation in a very different place than money or logistics. It’s a conversation that inspires. It calls the employee to buy into something bigger. When they do, they’re set up to be more dedicated and loyal.

Next, your candidate value proposition should be reflected in every step of their journey. Successful organizations will think of their talent journey as a system from attraction to advancement.

A human-centered design approach puts the employee at the center of the talent journey—not the company. Consider the well-known storytelling arc of the hero’s journey. Companies often think of themselves as the hero of the story with their employees as aids along the way. The result is a lackluster talent journey, making an individual jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops. These types of employee experiences have a big impact on an organization, shaping the internal brand perception of an organization, which ultimately is reflected to the customer. Being intentional about each step in the journey is imperative. The first step is building brand awareness for talent attraction.

The candidate is the hero of the talent journey. Placing the individual in the center changes how an organization connects with prospective talent. Career fairs are a start, but leading organizations are looking beyond these experiences. In 2004, Google posted billboards around Silicon Valley and Harvard Square with math riddles. One read "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com.” This creative approach led applicants to a website that required them to solve a different riddle before being allowed to apply. For Google, the goal was to curate top talent before getting humans involved.

When Danish creative agency Uncle Grey was looking for talented front-end developers, they placed ads and hired gamers to sponsor them within the online game Fortress 2. These are great examples of knowing the target audience. Both Google and Uncle Grey found talent where they are instead of expecting the talent to come to them.

The talent journey doesn’t stop with getting attention. Leading organizations follow through with speed and personalization. Ubiquitous new technology has made information much more transparent. Consider real-time tracking of a UPS or FedEx package. Once an order has been placed, the buyer is notified at each stage of the shipping process including arrival and departure times as the package stops at each location. We’ve come to expect that if a package takes more than two days to travel across the U.S., it seems slow.

Tracking packages is much more complicated that tracking resumes. Translating the modern-day shipping logistics experience to the employee application process highlights how antiquated processes can improve. When applications are submitted online, applicants may or may not receive a confirmation email. Then, they wait until they either hear back or assume the position has been filled. This is just one area where the talent journey can be modernized and help to fulfill on your employer value proposition.

Your organization is not the only one looking for top talent. Top talent often already have jobs, and have choices. To be competitive, companies need to think beyond conventional messages and experiences. You need to tell a story that inspires and deliver experiences that back it up. The key is looking at the organization through a talent-centered lens, and being honest about how the current experience is perceived. Is your organization the hero, or are you giving your prospective talent a way to align with your mission?

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