CHRO Perspective: Co-Innovation Through Crisis and Beyond
As CHRO at Kuehne+Nagel, a global leader in logistics and transport solutions, Lothar Harings has seen talent acquisition and management trends rise and fall. In his view, new expectations from candidates, employees, and customers demand that HR leaders reimagine the talent experience.
Speaking at this year’s IAMPHENOM, Harings shared how his company is staying competitive in an evolving labor market with intelligence, automation, and an experience that increases talent attraction, engagement, and conversion while keeping people at the center of every process.
Shifting Expectations: Today’s 3 Key Labor Market Drivers
So what do today’s employees and candidates want most, and how can organizations deliver it? According to Harings, the three most important labor market drivers today are:
Purpose and belonging
A combination of digital and human touch
Excellence in service
Purpose & Belonging
Now more than ever, people want to know that the work they’re doing matters — that it’s contributing real value to the organization and the greater good. Workers want the ability to integrate their personal and professional lives, and to feel they have a voice in shaping the future of their careers.
Meanwhile, instilling a feeling of belonging has grown more complex with the sudden shift to remote and hybrid workforces. “How can you transmit this idea of belonging to a company when you are not physically present? I think it's a big challenge for all of us,” Harings noted.
To connect with candidates and employees on this level, employers need to find a way to weave purpose and belonging into TA messaging.
Harings explained how this concept played out at K+N when it came to attracting candidates to the company’s healthcare transport services division during the pandemic. As a leading provider of healthcare transport logistics, K+N ensures supplies reach facilities on time and according to quality standards — traditionally the central message.
But when K+N re-shaped the message from “we deliver products to hospitals” to “we help hospitals save lives by ensuring they receive critical supplies,” the impact on engagement was immediately noticeable.
“This gave such a boost to our people,” Harings said. “All of a sudden, they really understood the bigger purpose of what they were doing, and how their specific tasks helped ensure the highest possible level of service and quality. It helped them realize their work really matters.”
Digital & Human Touch
Using technology is essential to creating the kind of experience that meets these new expectations. But tech alone isn’t enough — companies need a combination of digital and human touch to engage employees and candidates.
“I truly believe that technology and AI will not replace human beings, but it can and should enhance the experience. It should help us,” Harings said.
It’s up to HR, however, to ensure that human interaction doesn’t get lost in a sea of technology and digital solutions, Harings continued, and that every person feels treated as an individual and receives a personalized experience at work. In fact, HR professionals should act more as consultants and mentors for career development.
“Our way of talent development and of succession planning will be very much more employee-centric than company-centric. And that's, I think, a fundamental change,” said Harings.
Excellence in Service
Companies need to recognize that it’s their people, not their product, that will make the key difference in customer engagement and market share. Employers should extend the same principles of service excellence to their employees and job candidates, too — those who serve as the face of the company when it comes to serving customers.
“I consider this a great opportunity for HR to step up and be more in the center of the strategy,” said Harings. “As a matter of fact, in our company, I think it's absolutely clear that the key differentiators are our people in the crisis, where even sophisticated systems were not able to manage all the chaos.”
In fact, K+N refrained from enacting layoffs when the pandemic hit — a demonstration of service excellence to employees that has paid off in terms of strengthened trust and engagement, Harings noted.
Designing the Talent Experience with Phenom
Kuehne+Nagel partnered with Phenom in 2018 to transform their talent acquisition and management processes with a new level of intelligence, automation, and experience — and keep all talent stakeholders at the center of a holistic, streamlined approach.
“This platform enabled us to have an integrated approach between external search and internal mobility,” Harings noted. “It helps us now drive the development of the four key roles within this process: the candidate experience, the recruiter experience, the hiring manager, and HR.”
K+N’s key Phenom products include:
K+N can now deliver deep personalization to career site visitors, boosting attraction and conversion with tailored content, images, and AI-driven job recommendations. Candidates also benefit from a chatbot that’s available 24/7 for FAQs and seamless site navigation.
With these career site updates plus efficiency-building tools that dramatically reduce manual tasks like screening and interview scheduling, recruiters now have more time to function as the valuable talent advisors they are while building more meaningful relationships with best-fit candidates.
Meanwhile, K+N is enabling a sense of belonging for employees — whether remote, hybrid, or on-site — and actionable internal mobility with the help of Phenom Talent Marketplace. A convenient employee portal gives employees hands-on control over their career journey, with AI-driven recommendations for internal roles, skills-gap analysis, and suggestions for career development opportunities to close those gaps.
“The technology is there to provide transparency, empowering people to make their own choices,” Harings said. “And then HR and hiring managers are there to support those choices,” he explained.
The Power of a True Partnership: Results that Make an Impact
Implementing new technology isn’t known for being easy, but Phenom was there to support K+N throughout the journey, recounted Harings, ensuring the solution design matched their vision for how technology should serve their people. “A true partner acts on eye level,” he shared, and is willing to experiment, iterate, and learn together.
Harings also attributed success to being empowered to make changes without going through a complicated request process, as well as practicing continuous and proactive change management.
The results of K+N’s enhanced talent experience? Multi-faceted success that speaks volumes:
Increased candidate attraction
1.8 CRM profiles
Increased candidate engagement
8.6M job seekers
11M career site visits
29M page views
Increased candidate relationship-building
27% apply conversion rate
430K talent community subscribers
12% campaign conversion rate
Increased employee engagement
44K talent marketplace sign ups
4K employees made referrals
13K referrals received
Of particular value, noted Harings, is Phenom Referrals which makes it easy for employees to refer their professional networks to open roles, accelerating recruiting efforts while contributing to long-term retention.
In less than a year after implementing Referrals in combination with their internal Talent Marketplace, 11,000 referrals were made, 6,000 referrals applied (54% conversion rate), and 500 referrals were hired. “This is a conversion rate of 10%, which is, as you know, ten times higher than a normal conversion rate when you have just an external offer,” Harings shared.
Leading Your Organization through an Evolving Talent Market Landscape
New technology. New approaches. New messages. New goals. They’re all essential to thriving today, as changes occur at a dizzying pace. When it’s time to make transformation happen, Harings advised keeping three principles in mind, which have shaped his own success as a leader:
Authenticity. Leaders need to gain trust through honest, transparent communication. “I think the key element is, try to stay authentic. Don't try to separate you as a person from you as a leader,” he shared.
Curiosity. “Curiosity, for me, is the best indicator of future success,” Harings said. In fact, recruiters should assess job candidates for curiosity, he added — it’s a predictor of their willingness to learn and grow.
Do it. We’re inundated with endless information — so much so that it can prevent action in favor of performing analysis after analysis. His advice? “Do it, monitor it. And if it's wrong, correct it, but don’t go into the endless loop of another analysis.”
All sage advice from a CHRO who has led his company through crisis and beyond.
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