Carefully planning the candidate experience—from recruitment through onboarding—can lead to better hires and higher retention.
By Darren Findley and Tom Brennan
Talent acquisition professionals are paying more and more attention to the candidate experience, and for good reason. Findings from Engage2Excel’s new research report 2017 Trendicators underscore the importance of a positive candidate experience in a highly competitive market and suggest that a single, generic approach will not do the trick.
Savvy recruiters have incorporated marketing into their efforts, and conveying a compelling employment value proposition to the right audience requires a deep understanding of that audience. Organizations that shape the candidate experience from research-based demographic information will have an edge in the war for talent.
A good place to start in creating positive candidate experiences is with the right combination of social and face-to-face engagement. There are varying attitudes among the generations about socializing with people who work for the potential employer during the recruitment process, and this is a good illustration of the importance of understanding audiences. Eighty-one percent of millennials report that socializing is important during the pre-hire stage as well as the period between offer and start date. Other generations don’t feel as strongly: less than 55 percent of Gen X seeks socialization; for Gen Z, the number is 41 percent; and for baby boomers, it’s 38 percent.
This data suggests that incorporating socialization into recruiting and onboarding efforts can be beneficial, particularly when the top candidate is a millennial. Employers can encourage current employees to connect with high potential candidates via LinkedIn. A sponsored open house is another way to create an opportunity for candidates to get information from potential coworkers.
Between the offer and the start date, it’s a good idea to connect candidates with someone they met during the hiring process—a few interactions can make all the difference. Then, on day one, that first connection can become a mentor. These efforts will create friendships, provide a social support network, and help identify team members who are subject-matter experts.
Planned socializing can also be part of a larger strategy to develop a talent community. The goal is to make candidates feel like a part of the organization before they are hired, even if there are no active openings. For example, an employer could dedicate an area of the company’s career pages or social media sites for the potential talent to access content specifically geared for them. These buttons can also feature invitations to company events, such as product launch celebrations. Organizations that sponsor sports teams could also invite talent community members to games as a way to interact.
The More Personalized the Better
Candidates have many choices today, in much the same way consumers do, but the key to engaging both groups is to make a personal connection. Just as consumers prefer brands with which they can relate, candidates lean toward employers who engage them on a personal level. Of all candidates surveyed, 61 percent reported that receiving a personalized welcome gift at the time of the offer would influence their acceptance of the offer. Millennials stand apart again from other cohorts, with 82 percent holding this opinion.
Given that millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, according to The Pew Research Center, getting personal makes sense. A personalized welcome gift— swag with the company logo for example—that is sent to the candidate’s home at the same time the offer is extended, could be the tipping point. The gift can be even more powerful if it affirms company vision or values and has an accompanying handwritten and personalized message. This is a great way to promote an employment brand, and will likely impress not only the candidate, but also those with whom they share the experience.
Minimize Risk Between Offer and Start Date
But a candidate accepting the offer is not a signal to sit back and relax. The 2017 Trendicators study found that 58 percent of passive candidates will continue to consider competing offers even after accepting one. Among active candidates, the rate is even higher at 71 percent. Considering the time and resources invested in bringing candidates to this point, it makes sense to be proactive about keeping them engaged during this vulnerable period.
The welcome gift is important during this period, as it validates the candidates decision and demonstrates the cultural values of recognition, appreciation, and inclusion. In addition, a couple of personal touches—a phone call or a text for example—can go a long way in keeping a candidate from being tempted by competitors. This is also an opportunity to pay candidates a compliment. For example, praising the way they handled themselves in the interview process is a simple act of recognition, and recognition is a key driver of employee engagement.
The Power of Recognition
It is hard to overstate the importance of respect and recognition. According to the study, 35 percent of respondents ranked respect as the top reason they accept offers. That’s even higher than job fit (23 percent) and compensation (18 percent). It’s also the top reason that employees leave jobs (24 percent). Furthermore, it’s more important than compensation (18 percent) or job fit (16 percent).
More compelling evidence is the fact that 70 percent of all respondents want to understand a company’s recognition program before applying and will look to the company’s career website to get information. Among active candidates, it’s even higher at 81 percent.
This suggests that it’s no longer enough to just include “people are our most important asset” in an employment brand. Most candidates are searching for insights into a company’s real culture, and employee testimonials around recognition can also have a big impact. Career pages should include pictures and videos of employees receiving recognition and rewards at a meeting or ceremony. A picture accompanying a testimonial will also help foster a more personal connection.
Onboarding Does Not Equal Paperwork
According to the report, the onboarding process has a strong influence on candidate retention. Almost 60 percent of respondents report that if the onboarding experience is poor, they will start a new job search almost immediately. If the first day doesn’t go smoothly, 69 percent will consider leaving during the first month, and 72 percent indicate that the total onboarding experience will affect their decision to stay with the organization more than a year.
A positive, well-planned onboarding program sets the stage for long-term employee engagement and helps set the candidate up for early successes. This process might include hosting a gathering in the break room to welcome the new hire or scheduling the new hire to have lunch with a buddy, mentor, manager, or team member. During the first week, the new hire might spend a couple of hours each with people from different departments to help build an internal network.
Many companies are implementing technology platforms to facilitate engagement, socialization, and peer-to-peer recognition. On a candidate’s first day, an engagement platform might present welcome messages from the CEO, direct supervisor, and coworkers. It can also provide links to important resources, describe local amenities (lunch spots, cafés, etc.), and reaffirm the company’s mission and culture.
The power of these approaches lies in consistent execution. .A diligent approach will deliver the strategic intent of best-in-class recruiting, onboarding, and retention programs. By extension, it can also make a significant impact on a company’s overall objectives.
Darren Findley is president of recruitment solutions of Engage2Excel and Tom Brennan is master writer for Decision Toolbox. The 2017 Trendicators report was based on a survey of 1,500 job seekers. Its author is Dr. Jack Wiley, chief scientific officer of Engage2Excel.