What do you care about? What do you want to talk about? And why?
These three simple questions form the foundation of the approach that high-performing HR organizations use when it comes to their talent acquisition efforts. They try to see the candidate experience from the candidate's perspective, giving the talent acquisition process the feel of a boutique executive-search agency, in which sought-after professionals are treated like highly valued assets. And they should be – people are an organization's most valuable assets.
Mastering the candidate experience in talent acquisition is all about connecting, reaching out, listening, interacting and learning about the talents and skills that are out there in the world, and then applying what you've learned in your search for potential new rock stars. And this continuous information exchange with professionals (your potential candidates) is becoming mandatory in the increasingly competitive talent marketplace.
The overall practice of nurturing candidates within a pipeline to eventual hire is an approach we affectionately call candidate relationship management. This approach produces a pipeline of candidates who are highly engaged with the company's brand and culture, ready to discuss any job opening that fits their skill and experience.
Candidate Relationship Management is a People-Centric Cycle
Candidate relationship management is extremely similar to a building and executing on a sales pipeline. In order to leverage candidate relationship management effectively, recruiters need to know where to look for candidates, what to look for, how to close (or hire) them, how to keep track of their results and how to interpret those results to fine-tune the candidate experience. It's all about putting the candidate at the center of every step of the journey. Here's what you need to know.
Listen and Make Acquaintances
Where are you meeting people and learning about their skills and talents? Where does this information come from?
Is it from candidate visits to your career sites (that would be good), or is it (more realistically) from your organization's network of social and professional profiles, online job boards, external searches, or even simple word-of-mouth?
Find out where the talent most appropriate for your organization is spending time, both in the flesh and online, so you know where to keep your "ear to the ground." Set up your organization's applicant tracking system and recruiters so that they can always be listening in the places where the best talent is and can start to make acquaintances.
First impressions count for a lot, so tailor your recruiter's and your organization's introduction appropriately. This means well-crafted messaging that articulates why a candidate should be interested – make it obvious what's in it for them! But don't get too far ahead of yourself – we're strictly at an awareness stage in the candidate relationship management cycle here.
Determine Criteria, Filter, Search and Categorize
While listening in these identified locations, you obviously don't want to collect everything on every possible candidate. And, on the flip side, most candidates don't want to be recruited for unrealistic or irrelevant roles.
Remember, Big Data is very big. So that you don't have to search an ocean of results, employ intelligent filtering powered by automation and artificial intelligence, which can equip your hiring team with relevant results with which to assess skills and talent.
Leverage the intelligence out there to harness automated network discoveries and further filter those into relevance. Once you have a list of candidates that are well-qualified for the role, try and categorize them further. The more layers of detail you can segment, the closer you can hone in on what will end up being a list of candidates that are not only great fits for the role, but are potentially even more likely to say "yes."
Recruit and Hire
This is "the close" in recruiting like a marketer. You've completed an important transaction and you want to be able to overcome 11th-hour challenges, like making them wait in radio silence which can lead to feelings of being snubbed, devastating counter-offers or twists of fate.
Ongoing dialogue, reference checking, pre-employment documentation, and onboarding should be seamless and easy and efficient for the hiring team and for the candidate.
Measure Your Results
Everything's being monitored and measured these days, so you might as well have access to the metrics that guide you on how to perform a function better.
Hiring teams and CHROs will want tools to measure talent source networks, monetary and resource investment, time to hire (TTH), and other important key performance metrics, and improve on those measures without manual exhaustion.
Fine-Tune Efforts and Processes
Achieve the optimum balance of operating like a global HR organization yet delivering the optimum candidate experience at a local and personal level.
Calibrate against metrics and use automation to achieve efficiencies as your candidate relationship management begins to better inform decisions on talent and key metrics such as candidate behaviors, TTH, and right hire.
Identify and Engage Talent On-Demand
On-demand talent acquisition means being able to efficiently and effectively search and find people who potentially could be available to your organization in the future.
When a new job opening or need comes up, you know the pre-assessed individuals in your talent pool are fit for roles. You can also search your external network and your internal candidate database in a single search, collecting results from all your pools, including recommended freelance talent for a possible full-time position.
Then you want to be able to filter the data again. For example, which previous short-listed, qualified candidate is interested in relocating to a different region?
Who has expertise in an industry and speaks languages that might help business growth? Who is in the sweet spot for a position now and has the mandatory skills and can be presented as a logical candidate?
And then... repeat.
The Challenges to Effective Candidate Relationship Management are Wide
It's a cyclical process and you don't want the potential business intelligence limited to your recruiter's email folders and siloed spreadsheets.
Candidate relationship management systems empower you to manage all aspects of the candidate lifecycle while personalizing and satisfying the candidate experience.
Where will they want to engage with you, how tech-savvy are they, are they passionate about certain topics, and what can you discuss that is about them and not you? How can you invite them into your own community, whether that's a career site, a freelancer marketplace, job site, or a job distribution network?
Don't be afraid to take small steps in relationship building as you grow your talent pipeline. Spamming candidates can drive many of the best of them away, so you want to listen and learn first, before helping them to develop their career path.
An overlapping patchwork of regional privacy laws that multinational organizations must comply with further complicates candidate grouping and personalized data storage and actions. And then there are your internal requirements, the strategic classifications that you, the organization, must compile, categorize and gain business intelligence and value from.
Dispense with the spreadsheets and desktop-based approach of segmenting candidates and view your distributed candidates in a centralized multinational system built for regional and personalized requirements.
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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down
Organizations make significant investments in efforts to hire the right candidates – the people who have the right experience and cultural fit. By carefully managing the performance and potential of these people over time, the organization can grow its leadership pipeline, keep a steady inventory of needed skills and competencies and remain nimble in the face of change (which we have plenty of all around us these day) – all of which can have serious impact on the bottom line. However, much of this pie-in-the-sky stuff relies on being able to locate and cultivate high-potential and high-performing talent across the board. Without an integrated succession management solution, recognizing and developing talent can be an ever-elusive process. The questions we are seeing asked today include: does the traditional top-down approach to succession management still make enough of a difference? Does managing succession for a slim strata of senior executives take full advantage of the kinds of talent data we now have at our fingertips? It doesn’t have to be so. Succession management can be an interactive process between senior leadership, managers and employees at all levels of the organization. And, if we trust them, we can actually let employees become active participants in their own career development. (Shudder.) Career Management (Succession Planning Flipped Upside Down) This "bottom-up" approach is gaining momentum because who better to tell us about employee career path preferences than employees themselves. Organizations actually have talent management and other HR systems in place that allow for collecting and analyzing a whole slew of data around: Career history Career preferences Mobility preferences Professional and special skills Education achieved Competency ratings Performance scores Goal achievement Training and certifications Etc. In short, pretty much everything we’d want to know to make well-informed succession planning and talent pooling decisions. For some, the leap is simply putting some power into the employee’s hands. The talent management system of 2011 is capable of displaying a clear internal career path for employees and then, on the basis of all that data bulleted out above, showing a "Readiness Gap" – what do you need to do to make the step to the next level? And if your talent management environment comes armed with a real Learning Management System, you can take it to the next level with a dynamically generated development plan that gets the employee on the right path to actually closing those gaps. Faster development, faster mobility. Organizations that seriously favor internal mobility don’t just make employees stick on pre-defined career paths – they can search for ANY job in the company and check their Readiness levels. I might be in accounting today, but what I really want to do is move to marketing. Giving employees the chance to explore various career avenues within the organization helps assure that "water finds its level" – that is, that the right people with the right skills and the right levels of motivation and engagement find the right job roles internally. Employee participation is key, but make no mistake – managers play an important role in this interactive process. They must be prepared to provide career coaching, identify development opportunities and recommend employees for job openings. The candid discussions require that employees have open access to information so they can best understand the criteria necessary to move to the next level. A Two-Way Street Employee-driven career management is just one tool. The more traditional top-down approach to succession management remains indispensable. But organizations that value talent mobility and the ability to be able to shift and mobilize talent resources quickly will find that attention to career pathing can be vital. For employees, of course, the impacts are immediate and include boosted levels of engagement, higher retention, increased productivity and more.
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The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy
Building and maintaining a successful company hinges on having the right people to execute projects and drive results. People, we hear time and again, are your company's most valuable asset. But their success — and HR's ability to recruit, engage and retain them — depends on HR pros who are strategic decision-makers, armed with the proper tools to let them excel at their jobs. Modern HR professionals manage much more than payroll and benefits. But their technology tools, in many cases, haven't evolved past basic productivity software like email or Microsoft Word. HR simply can't be strategic with old-school tools that reduce people to statistics and give little insight into what the numbers mean. Emails and spreadsheets were not designed to deliver meaningful insights into people's performance, suggest when employees should be promoted or highlight skills gaps in a company. For that, HR needs a broader, more strategic set of talent management tools, which lets professionals manage every aspect of the workforce, from training and performance reviews to collaboration and succession planning. Yet, research shows that less than 25% of companies use a unified, holistic approach to their talent management. The Real Costs of "Doing Nothing" As a Talent Management Strategy The critical relationship between business strategy and HR strategy too often gets overlooked by senior leadership. While it may seem like the company is saving money by managing recruiting, training, performance and succession via manual and paper-based processes, in reality it’s costing your business more than you know. For example: Without a talent management strategy, a company with 2,000 employees is losing almost $2 million every year in preventable turnover alone. Businesses that don’t invest in learning suffer from decreased employee performance and engagement to such a degree that they can expect to realize less than half the median revenue per employee. That’s a direct impact on the business. In employee performance management, organizations without a focused strategy waste up to 34 days each year managing underperformers and realize lower net income. To learn more about the business impact of talent management and how to start building out your strategy, check out the eBook Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy is Costing You Money (And How to Fix It) and register for the March 19th webinar, Building the Business Case for Talent Management.
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The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance
With the economy now on steadier ground, most organizations have returned to administering a merit budget to the pre-recession levels of 3 to 3.5%. In the years immediately following the economic downturn, many merit budgets were eliminated entirely or were reduced significantly and reserved for a select segment of the employee population. Pay for performance has become a necessity for many organizations that are expected to accomplish more with fewer resources. I often get asked: "How can I truly award my top performers with such a limited budget? Should I do so at the expense of my ’Meets Expectations’ performers? What if I need to retain my ’Meets Expectations’ performers and giving them 0% to 2% increase puts me at great risk for turnover? But if I don’t recognize my top performers, don’t I risk losing them...?" These are difficult questions to answer, however you can determine the best solution for your organization by considering the following: Are your employees paid at market pay levels? Is your organization’s performance management process mature? Does your organization have other compensation programs in place to reward top performers (e.g. variable pay)? Market Pay If turnover is a concern, and your organization needs to maintain ’bench strength’ in order to achieve its strategic objectives, your biggest priority should be to ensure that you are paying your employees at market pay levels. Why? Historically, as the labor market strengthens, organizations become vulnerable in terms of losing people. Hiring and onboarding replacement talent is not only costly to the organization, but can also cause dissension among existing employees since new hires may be getting paid more. Be sure to stay abreast of market pay levels and trends, and use the merit budget to correct disparities. Performance Management Process Organizations vary significantly in terms of the maturity of their performance management process. Closely examine your organization’s process and look for ways to improve it. If there is a perception that one management team is an ’easier grader’ than the others, the process is inherently flawed and any pay for performance program will not be viewed as credible and fair by employees. A good place to start is to get a calibration process in place and communicate broad guidelines on expected distribution ratings. Variable Pay Programs Variable pay programs (e.g. bonuses) have become increasingly more popular across all industries and career levels. These programs provide the opportunity for employees to share in the organization’s success while not adding to fixed payroll costs. Some plans have an individual performance component which can be a very effective means to recognize top performers. However, in order for this type of program to be successful, individual goals and targets must be well documented and communicated. Again, this is largely based on the maturity of the organization’s performance management process which takes time to evolve. What are the best steps to avoid wreaking havoc on your pay for performance process? First ensure your pay levels are keeping pace with the market Continue to evolve your performance programs with calibration among managers and a rigorous goal setting process Promote variable pay plans to reward high performers without adding to fixed pay roll costs It’s not always an easy journey but, in the end, it’s best to use a measured approach that is based on business needs and a realistic assessment of your current programs and processes.