Eye on Talent

Two tech innovators are changing the way HR can attract and reward top performers.

More than Just Rewards

By Marta Chmielowicz

Picture this: It’s 2030, and your company is struggling to grow, not because the services you provide are unnecessary, but because you simply cannot find the right employees to fill your most important positions. According to Rainer Strack of The Boston Consulting Group in a recent TED talk, this scenario may become a reality.

The workforce is aging, and by 2030, there won’t be enough workers to fill jobs and keep major economies growing, says Strack. Once the last of the baby boomers retire, there will be a major deficit in the global talent pool that may cause an overall labor shortage in many of the world’s largest economies and a huge skill mismatch that can’t be abated with technology.

Strack says that a solution to this impending problem is a major shift in company culture towards appreciation and recognition. A survey conducted by the BCG found that the top priority for job seekers worldwide was being appreciated for their work. In comparison, salary was number eight.

According to Rideau Recognition CEO Peter Hart, the desire to create a company culture that attracts, retains, and engages people using recognition was the main impetus behind the Vistance platform, which won the 2017 HRO Today Forum North America iTalent Competition in May. The iTalent Competition seeks to recognize companies for innovative new technology that improves HR, recruitment, or talent management processes.

“Ninety percent of companies have recognition reward programs, yet according to the Gallup organization, more than 60 percent of employees don’t truly feel valued or appreciated,” Hart says. Furthermore, research has shown that the absence of recognition in the workplace was the second leading cause of stress and burnout among employees, and that these effects were not mitigated by rewards.

These statistics highlight a major difference between recognition and rewards that was never proven before the development of Vistance. “Our entire industry has been built around the reward, and many people think that just giving something to the employee is what recognition is all about—but this is not true,” Hart says. “Recognition is a feeling—an intangible thing.”

According to Hart, Vistance is the first platform to take an analytical, data-based approach to recognition that measures the relationship between various methods of recognition and key indicators of performance and uses this data to identify ways to implement more effective recognition programs. With this data, Vistance can predict future employee behaviors as well as ways to improve performance through manager interventions. This allows companies that previously relied on rewards to tailor their recognition programs to fit the specific needs of their employees and the strengths of their managers.

Rideau’s recognition-quantifying platform was developed in two phases. “In phase one, we established causality—we knew that it was recognition that was driving performance and not the other way around,” Hart says. “In phase two, we established correlations, and we found that the amount of recognition that a manager would provide to his team was correlated to the company’s KPIs, i.e. turnover, engagement, productivity, customer satisfaction, etc. We proved without a doubt that managers who got recognition right had better-performing teams.”

But how does Vistance apply this information in a practical way that actually improves performance? Hart says the key is the Vistance RQ score.

“All managers get an RQ score that allows them to see how they rank against all other managers in the organization,” he explains. “We then suggest that they can improve their RQ score by taking an online skills assessment that basically tells us what their strengths and weaknesses are in managing people. Then, we prescriptively serve online educational modules that are geared towards the specific things they need to become better people managers and to draw out the best in others.”

These learning modules address five key dimensions of recognition:

• Recognition talking
• Appreciative listening
• Acknowledging intent
• Praiseworthy actions
• Rewarding giving

A manager’s improvement is assessed through changes in their RQ score, which takes into account both their performance on Vistance online assessments and direct input from company employees.

According to Hart, the key to improving recognition results is focusing resources on the education of managers.

“What we need are leaders—managers [who] are going to create ‘employee patriots’ who will stick with you through good times and bad, who will be more resilient, more tolerant, and more engaged,” he says. “That only comes through inspired leadership. I think companies could stop spending money on rewards and invest in education for managers and have much higher engagement scores, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and higher productivity. We’ve proven this, and that’s what Vistance is all about.”

The use of Vistance has been shown to improve several key indicators of performance. A study of Vistance client outcomes that examined a sample size of 25,000 to 30,000 employees determined that managers with a top RQ score compared to a bottom RQ score had 18 percent higher sales, 2-3 percent higher customer satisfaction, and 4 percent better employee engagement. “For our clients, these numbers are huge,” says Hart. “Not everybody’s going to get these results, but I think that what we’re contributing to is driving cultural change and behavioral change, and that creates a culture that attracts, retains, and engages people.”

And Vistance is only going to keep expanding. Hart says that the system has already become core to Rideau’s integrated platform and draws data from all of its other programs. In the product roadmap, Rideau is working to add new modules related to engagement, leadership, and time management. Further, Rideau intends to incorporate licensed content from well-known authors into the platform.

Hart believes that in the next five to 10 years, Vistance has the potential to transform the entire HR industry. “Recognition won’t just be about the rewards anymore, and people won’t think of recognition as an afterthought,” he says. “What we’re doing is going to become a must-have—all corporations are going to need it, and they’re going to need it because of this upcoming talent crisis.”

From Post to Post

By Christa Elliott

Much has been written about how job seekers can stand out in a competitive marketplace, but what about employers? According to MRI Network’s 2015 Recruitment Sentiment Study, 90 percent of recruiters say the market is candidate driven, up from 54 percent in the second half of 2011, and employers are feeling the pressure to compete. With thousands upon thousands of job listings available on hundreds of job boards and career sites, many organizations struggle to market their vacancies well, attract qualified applicants, and most importantly, to understand why their job listings are failing.

That’s why in 2014, Kieran Snyder launched Textio, an “augmented writing” platform that banishes underperforming job listings by predicting their success before the employer posts them. Specifically, users can submit a job post to Textio, and the platform will score its predicted effectiveness on a relative scale of 1 to 100. For example, job posts that get a Textio score of 50 will fill faster than 50 percent of similar jobs on the market. The higher the score of the post, the better it will perform comparatively. For those descriptions with an initially low score, Textio provides real-time guidance on how to improve the post before publishing it. A winner of the 2017 HRO Today iTalent competition, Textio also analyzes the performance of every post using information provided by users to generate insider knowledge of effective keywords, phrases, and formatting.

These outcome details include the number of applicants, time to fill, and even applicant qualifications and professional backgrounds. From there, the platform provides real-time guidance for optimizing a job listing. The result? Employers can create job listings that not only lure in more candidates, but also attract the right ones.

“In the case of job posts, the whole goal was to help companies figure out how they might write better posts so that they could attract a different audience, a more qualified audience, a more diverse audience that could fill some of those tough roles faster,” says Snyder. “As we started talking to leaders about talent, HR, and diversity and inclusion a couple of years ago, we realized that they spend a lot of money communicating with candidates in the form of job posts, emails, and other writings but are not all that happy with the return that they get on that investment.”

Snyder’s goal became to help organizations and hiring managers get their proverbial money’s worth in the talent acquisition space. The first step was to identify HR’s primary challenges in communicating to current or future applicants. What Snyder found is that many HR professionals underestimate how quickly the talent space—and by extension, differentiating keywords—changes.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that they know what’s going to work,” she says. “Maybe it worked a few months ago and it got a great response, but it may not actually be that those patterns are going to be most effective in the market today.”

One of the elements that has changed, according to Snyder, is the formatting that job seekers prefer. She also says that in today’s market, formatting posts to have about a third of bulleted content is optimal for engagement. Raising the proportion to half results in a big drop off in the number of female applicants. Decrease the ratio to a quarter of bulleted content? The number of men applying for the role will decrease.

Keywords that might have intrigued candidates in April could become commonplace by June, so Textio constantly updates its suggestions for better communications. According to Snyder, the rise and fall of the phrase big data in the financial and tech industries is a great example of this phenomenon.

Just a few years ago, big data had a home among the industries’ trendiest buzzwords, and using the phrase almost guaranteed a group of qualified applicants. But as with most things that are trendy, once the term gained popularity, it began to lose its differentiating effect and experience backlash.

“What happened with big data is that it became so popular that it actually became a bit of a cliché,” Snyder explains. “And today if you include big data in a technology or finance job post, it actually detracts from its performance, and those roles will fill much more slowly. We’re starting to see the term AI ride the same curve.”

Conversely, there are also many keywords—which vary by industry—that have gained traction in the past year. For example, in the tech industry, the following keywords became more effective in 2016:

• Gender identity
• Systems engineering
• Security clearance
• Minimal supervision
• Written communication

The solution to the cliché-keyword problem—not to mention the most effective means of finding keywords that work—was creating what Snyder refers to as a “data loop.” This translates to continuously collecting performance data from the 10 million new job posts that Textio analyzes each month and using their outcomes to create the criteria for the next 10 million posts that come in. With this data, Textio has insight into the best style and wording for attractive job listings.

Once the data loop was established, the next challenge was translating that information into actionable guidance that could be understood universally by recruiters and other talent acquisition professionals. Many recruiters are excellent at selecting and communicating with prospective candidates but lack the deep technology background necessary to generate and decode data sets. Understanding this disconnect, Snyder wanted to ensure Textio made it as easy as possible for recruiters to obtain a straight-forward analysis of the job listing that they’ve created, answering the question: “Will this post attract the perfect candidate?”

“I think that if you talk to anybody with a foundational technology that uses machine learning, they’ll say that they’re only as successful as their ability to build an experience on the right data set,” Snyder says. “Then the flipside of that is translating all of that data into guidance that a real person can follow—even if they’re not a statistician or a linguist.”

In its three years as a business, Textio has assisted with over 250 million job posts, and data analysis found that companies that use Textio’s recommendations to get a high score (90 or above out of 100) see an average of 25 percent more candidates qualified enough to interview, 23 percent more female applicants, and a time to fill that is two weeks shorter. Textio’s measurable success is one of Snyder’s greatest points of pride.

“The results are really statistically quantitative. You can measure them, which I think is really unusual for HR tech. I don’t know of too many other products that will actually promise you results for your pipeline, and that really speaks to the power of the dataset and the technology,” she says.

This data-driven approach has also informed Textio’s plans for the future. Data exchange customers—customers who agree to share the outcomes of their Textio-enabled listings—account for about 90 percent of the company’s business. Snyder plans to make it easier for those users to share the results with Textio. Specifically, she wants to introduce a closer workflow between Textio and the job distribution systems or applicant tracking systems where people publish their listings. Textio will eventually be able to automatically publish the modified posts it creates directly to those systems.

Research collected by the platform also revealed that many Textio users are not content to only glean insight into job listings. Rather, they have tried to use the service to improve other forms of business writing such as recruiter emails and social media messages. In response, Snyder hopes to expand Textio’s services to include assistance with other communications.

“One of the biggest examples here is around candidate recruiting emails: the emails that say ‘Hey, I saw you on Linkedin, I love your background, please come work for my company,’” she says. “The kind of writing that works for a good email is going to be pretty different than what would work for a good job post even though they’re both in the recruiting context, so that’s a big area of focus for us.”

Posted August 17, 2017 in Innovation

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