Devin FosterJuly 07, 2021
Topics: Candidate Experience

Total Transparency: Transforming Your Candidate Experience in a Tight Labor Market

Hiring is back for many employers, but that means new challenges have landed in the hands of HR. This blog recaps the July 8 episode of Talent Experience Live, where Will Staney, CEO & cofounder of Proactive Talent addressed changing candidate expectations and how to adjust your candidate experience to meet them.

How can we meet hiring demands that keep on climbing — even though there aren’t enough job seekers looking for work — while maintaining a strong employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts?

Candidates expect more from the experience employers are providing — they want to see improvements in a variety of areas, from what's available in compensation and benefits to work-life balance, diversity and inclusion, and modern work policies.

Watch the full episode below to get Will’s insights on how organizations can revamp the candidate experience, or check out highlights below!

"Why can't we fill empty seats?"

There are no internal job descriptions at Proactive Talent, Staney said. Instead, he and his team hire based on key result areas (KRAs), like the top four or five things a candidate would need to achieve and to be successful filling the role.

"Anytime I'm hiring a leader on my team — because we're scaling so fast and have a nontraditional model — their internal job description, their KRA is something we write together," he said.

"I want everyone to write their job description and if they're not enjoying what they're doing, then let's change it. Let's change the job description around things that you enjoy doing, and we'll fill the gaps with people who enjoy doing those things."

As for bringing on new talent, businesses are also working through what feels like a catch up — a mad dash to make up for time taken away by 2020. It's an added blow to organizations that can't get new people to fill empty seats.

And some industries are struggling more than others.

"The hardest-to-fill job right now is a recruiter," Staney said. "Hiring's increasing across everything else, and so the first thing that companies need to hire are recruiters."

"Recruiters have been through a lot this past year."

As service industries move into the next phase of pandemic recovery, there have been about 300,000 jobs added in June alone, according to Staney.

"Everyone is a tech company and needs engineers now, so that's increasing; thus increasing the need for recruiters," he said. "Everyone and their mother is trying to hire great tech recruiters, but really just recruiters in general — it is a candidate market right now."

Candidates are turning you down. But why?

There's plenty to ponder about labor market conditions. Is the position hard to fill because of the job itself, like frontline roles? Is your company offering competitive wages, but also emphasizing its culture and benefits to appeal to potential talent?

While pay is important, it's only the baseline of what could be standing between your company and high-performing candidates. They're turning down jobs right now, as well as missing interviews, and organizations have to get to the root of the matter.

RELATED: $15/Hr Isn't Enough — What Candidates Really Want

A competitive market can become a bidding war, according to Staney, but candidates want remote and hybrid work options and flexibility. And that's a game changer when your company is competing for talent.

"A lot more companies have been in the remote work state that we've been in because of the pandemic and have realized that it's actually working for some companies," he said. "Others are going back into the office; others [follow] more of a hybrid model."

Staney said changes like these mean that a tech company of a small town suburb competing with others of similar size and location will now take on the big guys in San Francisco, Austin, and New York, for example.

Candidates are demanding more from you.

Changes in candidate expectations have prompted organizations to prioritize work-life balance and flexibility, but there's no one-size-fits-all formula for attracting and engaging with talent. Candidates are seeing life through a new lens, according to Staney, which directly impacts a company's talent acquisition strategy.

"They expect a better quality of life," he said. "People are waking up and saying 'OK, I don't know if I really ascribe to this whole [idea of] I'm going to work 9-5 with the majority of my day spent working until I'm 65 or 70 [years old], and then I get to retire and enjoy my life a bit.'"

The younger generation of workers especially values work-life balance and company culture.

"Candidates want to feel like they're a part of something bigger than themselves and that the company they're working for and with has shared beliefs and morals," Staney said.

He predicts a shift toward "conscious capitalism," where he said people will hold less value in compensation — even taking less pay if it means they're in a role where they enjoy the job.

Hook, line, and sinker: Keeping your people

Getting talent in the door might seem like the main goal during the tight labor market, but retaining them as employees — for long periods of time — is too often overlooked. Keeping people is just as important, if not more than, bringing them on board.

In addition to compensation, how can organizations retain talent, especially when good workers are hard to get? It goes well beyond an attractive company culture, a sense of belonging and modern perks, but Staney said retention is actually quite easy.

"Stop treating our employees like they are assets or just a resource, and treat them like human beings who want to grow, and learn new things, and get more responsibility, and be pushed and challenged in new ways," he said.

With that comes equality versus inequality. For instance, CEO's make a lot more than their secretaries do, according to Staney. "We need to fix that," he said. Since compensation is in constant flux right now, organizations should reassess how they're compensating talent regularly throughout the year, and make changes to increase retention.

Staney said more importantly than money, it's about "knowing your employees, listening to them, and making it a two-way conversation," in addition to creating a strong sense of belonging through DE&I programs.

What's the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion truth factor for candidates?

Promoting a culture that's rich in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has become a primary tactic for attracting talent. Ideal career sites highlight DE&I through videos with user-generated content and testimonials, commitment statements, employee resource groups, and more.

RELATED: Diversity Isn't a Problem to Solve. It's an Initiative to Support

But where does it really matter for candidates? How will they know that your company really makes a difference in DE&I?

"By being honest and transparent about it," Staney said. "Here's the thing: Few companies are good at this. This is a problem that's hundreds of years old. So we're not all going to be great at it right out the gate."

He called out a big problem: when companies say they're great at DE&I to attract candidates but don't back it up. Honesty from leadership is a must in all DE&I promises. "They get there and they have cognitive dissonance," Staney said. "They get there and they realize that it's not as diverse as they expect."

We need AI, automation, the human connection — and data

AI and automation can help reduce bias in the hiring journey — but they cannot fix DE&I challenges on their own. It's important to remember the human side of the equation, and the role everyone places in improving diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

According to Staney, we must incorporate data. It's the driving force of tech that can allow innovations in DE&I such as measuring DE&I throughout the hiring process, as well as advising hiring managers.

"Data has the power to really push the DE&I conversation internally because data doesn't have emotions," he said. "Data does not get defensive."

It makes it possible, according to Staney, to approach a hiring manager and recommend unconscious bias training, as an example. Data will indicate which candidates the hiring manager accepted or rejected, and generate information on which ones met the job requirements versus which ones didn't make the cut. Does the data show bias against different representations?

Bias likely happens unconsciously, and it takes data to provide guidance and help inform DE&I strategies.

BLOG: 9 Ways For Recruiters to Prioritize Hiring for Diversity

Staney also said organizations should be able to see their customers in order to best serve them. They must know — and represent — each group. Otherwise, it's easy for organizations to disqualify certain populations just to meet a quota, rather than to have equal representation of their community.

"Think about why you're doing diversity," Staney said. And avoid doing it for a "profit motive." He said no board should need a profit motive to be diverse; instead they should do it because people should be regarded as human beings.

"You need to represent, and you're going to get better ideas, and your company's going to be overall more successful because you're being an inclusive company focused on belonging and a unified mission," Staney said.

"Change is something we really need to get used to."

And that applies to internal programs, processes, growth, and culture, according to Staney. So what are organizations doing about it?

DE&I is just a slice of what organizations are working to evolve. Staney said most companies are addressing technology and program building, and above all, strategies for learning and development, DE&I, retention, and how everything comes together.

"At the end of the day, people want to join a company where they feel like they aren't stifled," he said. "Change happens really slow because we as humans naturally don't like change."

However, if we can adopt the mindset that change must happen in order to keep up with business needs, then we'll become more open to change and set goals accordingly. Staney also added that organizations should maintain balance when it comes to changing their ways. Moving too fast and growing too aggressively can cause companies to lack intention in their cultures.

"Then you wake up one day and you have a culture you don't recognize," Staney said, "and then you have a lot of HR fixing to do."

Recruiters want to market a culture that feels good, technology that helps them work as efficiently as possible, and people-driven relationships with other people.

Start improving your candidate experience today — request a demo to learn how Phenom's Candidate Experience can help!

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