A Hot Jobs Market Requires Organizations to Strengthen Talent Acquisition Strategies

Kimberly Lanier, Director Business Performance Improvement
Dwain Young, Associate Director People Advisory and Organizational Change

Fierce competition among organizations for too few workers has created a job seeker’s market. Unemployment has remained at a historically low rate of 3.6% since the end of April, and employers were seeking to fill 11.5 million job openings as of the end of April after hiring 6.7 million during the month.

But for a temporary increase in unemployment due to the pandemic lockdowns, this is largely the labor environment that organizations have been operating in for the past five years, although recently it has grown more acute. The situation is not expected to materially change anytime soon. In a recent Protiviti-Oxford survey on the future of work, 83% of global executives indicated that retention and turnover would remain a top concern over the next decade.

Given that backdrop, organizations are painfully aware that in order to achieve future business growth, they must adapt their talent acquisition strategies to appeal to thoughtful candidates and efficiently and quickly secure their employment. To accomplish that in today’s labor market, we suggest that employers prioritize five key areas:

  • Company brand and reputation
  • Candidate experience
  • Current and future talent needs
  • Talent costs
  • The recruiting process

In this first of two blog posts on talent acquisition, we’re focusing on company brand, employer reputation and candidate experience. A second post will explore the other priorities.

 Company Brand and Reputation

Organizations that require talent in today’s hyper-competitive environment need to ask themselves two questions: “How can we attract people in new and unique ways? And why would they want to work here (vs. a competitor)?”

Unlike previous generations of employees and employers, job candidates today are looking beyond monetary compensation. They are giving more weight to the company’s purpose and values, culture, ability to grow professionally, and employee experience, all of which encompass the organization’s employee value proposition (EVP).

The EVP can be thought of as the total rewards package provided by an organization in return for employment, and it will change as companies grow, whether organically, through mergers and acquisitions, or through initial public offerings. In addition to salary and bonuses, benefits, and the potential for career development, the EVP includes a company’s values, mission and culture, which have become increasingly important considerations for job candidates.

Many employees are leaving organizations that they view to have toxic cultures and are taking what they believe are more meaningful positions in companies with desirable cultures, even if it comes with a pay cut. Chances are — thanks to reviews on career sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Fishbowl and other tools — job candidates already have a feel for an organization’s culture. Consequently, companies must protect their reputation by responding to negative reviews and setting the record straight.

Unsurprisingly, after COVID-19 introduced work-from-home practices on a large scale, flexibility has become a key differentiator when candidates are assessing organizations. In particular, employees with children or long commutes — or both — have grown used to working remotely or at satellite locations and are reluctant to return to more rigid routines, as illustrated in recent studies conducted by Robert Half (parent company of Protiviti). This presents organizations with opportunities to introduce accommodative schedules, such as allowing employees to work remotely at least part of the week and synchronizing work and school hours.

Of course, these talent acquisition and retention efforts are not blanket solutions. There are four key generations in the workforce — baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z — and each typically brings a different perspective on work values, as well as career goals. Millennials and Generation Z workers are not only likely to seek flexibility because of children, for example, but they also tend to emphasize a company’s purpose and values. Baby boomers and Generation X workers may place stability and boosting their savings as they near retirement ahead of other concerns. Still, the various generations share some ideals, too. Like their younger associates, many in the older cohorts have embraced flexibility.

Candidate Experience

While conveying an organization’s mission, values and culture is critical to attracting potential talent, creating a positive candidate experience in the recruitment phase hinges on an easy application process, proactive communications and a social media presence that showcases an organization’s history, brand and culture.

People have become accustomed to services like Amazon, Uber and Expedia, where they can shop, hail a ride or book a trip with a few clicks on a computer or mobile device, and they want the same experience when job hunting. Admittedly, applying for a job is a more complex transaction than ordering a shirt online. But if a company fails to provide similar convenience, candidates will likely lose interest early in the process, a drawback that could show up in reviews on influential career sites.

In addition to convenience, organizations should consider the following questions to determine whether they are providing a competitive and compelling recruitment experience:

  • Is your careers page easily navigated, does it provide information that job seekers want upfront, and does it make your brand more attractive?
  • What do your social accounts say about you, and do they link to your EVP? What are your ratings on employer reputation sites and job search engines?
  • Are job descriptions concise and focused on real skills, abilities and daily duties rather than qualifications? Are they easy to read on a mobile device? If you require degrees or certifications for certain jobs, are you excluding a large amount of the available talent pool?
  • How quickly do you respond to a candidate’s application, and do you have multiple touchpoints to communicate your interest? Are the next steps regarding interviews, assessments and the decision-making timeline clearly communicated?
  • As many as 90% of recruiting emails aren’t personalized at all; do you stand out by adding in personalized details about why you’re reaching out to each candidate?

Adapt to the Climate

Organizations should anticipate continued labor shortages and hiring difficulties for the foreseeable future. As companies navigate this challenging environment, it is important that they remember that, compared to previous generations, job candidates place as much importance, if not more, on an organization’s mission, values and culture as on salary. By emphasizing brand and reputation and delivering a positive recruitment experience to candidates, organizations can place themselves in a stronger position when competing for workers.

Stay tuned for the second installment on talent acquisition strategies, which will examine current and future talent needs, talent costs, and the recruiting process.

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