Why are we still talking about candidate experience as we head into 2020? Because it’s still broken! Despite all the recruitment and media attention focused on the jobseeker these days, the state of the candidate experience in many organizations can be summed up by four letters: FCDD.
FCDD is a four-letter mnemonic created by CX and UX strategist Debbie Levitt to represent what she calls the Four Horsemen of Bad CX: frustration, confusion, disappointment and distraction. These four horsemen represent candidate exasperation: four emotions that candidates emit when they attempt to interact with your company website and application. These four horsemen almost single-handedly crush the engagement of up to 9 out of 10 candidates who want to work for you, but quit before applying.
Before offering common examples of the Four Horsemen of Bad CX™, let me define candidate experience. Too often companies believe that the candidate experience (CX) journey starts after a candidate applies for a role at your company. But it actually begins long before that and includes every interaction, passive or active, between you and the candidate.
Often ignored but critical touch points include your career site’s mobile-friendliness, page speed, responsiveness, the colors you use, your navigation, the feel and mood of your brand, your applicant workflow, buttons, menus, errors, voice commands, and even employee and customer reviews. It encompasses your job listings, your applicant tracking system and job application, your response to candidates, and the speed of that response. It also includes the interview, the preparation of your hiring managers and on-boarding. Each of these touchpoints are vulnerable to the Four Horsemen of Bad CX and therefore present an opportunity to beat your competition—or risk disengaging candidates.
Fortunately, many of the fixes for bad CX are low-hanging fruit, requiring little or no budget and minimal expertise or resources. Here are some of the most blatant examples of bad CX I’ve seen over the past year—and how to fix them.
Imagine that a candidate Googling your company is met with the following message: "Your connection to this site is not secure." What are the chances he or she would proceed to apply for a job? Likely, very small. And yet one out of five of the world’s top 100,000 websites still aren’t using secure encryption or HTTPS, which prevents that connection warning from appearing.
Another pet peeve for candidates is the failure of many sites to save the application information they provided if they are interrupted and need to finish it later.
Solution: Make sure your career pages, job listings and application meet the minimal encryption standard (SSL). Create a short and simple screening application. Then, if the applicant is qualified, invite to complete your longer application. Provide progress bars and "save for later" functions so that candidates can take breaks during the process and return right where they left off.
In a review of 100 random company websites, I discovered that only 13 had a clear pathway from the home page to their career site. Because over 61% of job seekers visit your website before applying to a job at your company, it’s critical that you make it easy and convenient to jump from the home page to the career site. On most sites a "careers" link was buried at the bottom of a long page in the footer. Others included it in a drop-down menu under "About Us" and "Resources." Finding a career shouldn’t be a game of Where’s Waldo.
In addition to having trouble finding the careers page, many applicants suffer from bad UX and technological difficulties during the application process. More than half of respondents to a recent study said they have encountered a technical issue, error or have been unable to complete the search and application process, which ultimately led them to abandon the application.
Solution: If you’re having trouble hiring qualified workers, stop playing hide-and-seek with your career site. At minimum, "careers" or "jobs" should have its own button on the navigation. Add it to your header, especially if you have a rotating carousel of images. And make sure all your career pages, links, registration forms and apps work.
One of the biggest jobseeker pet peeves is the "HR black hole." 52% of candidates were still waiting for a response three months after applying, while 63% of job seekers say they are dissatisfied with the communication from most potential employers. As a result, nearly 7 out of 10 candidates would rarely or never reapply to a company that doesn’t communicate well, and 69% of them would discuss the poor candidate experience with a friend of colleague, which may deter others from applying to roles at your company as well.
UX and web/mobile design can also impact the candidate experience. 70% of job seekers use a mobile device to search and apply for a job, but fewer than 40% of career sites and applications are mobile ready. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re missing out on promising candidates.
Solution: Responding to candidates is easy. With chatbots, text messaging and auto-responders, there is no longer an excuse for delayed responses or failure to keep candidates informed about their application or interview status. Companies need to enter the 21st century and make their career pages and applications mobile-friendly. This has become increasingly important, especially since Google instituted the mobile-first update in 2018, which now indexes mobile sites and in some cases, grants them preference in search results.
A career page is your home base for all things talent acquisition. Once a candidate lands on this page, don’t distract them with widgets and banners to sign up for sales, newsletters and non-job relevant activities. Keep the candidate focused on learning about the job opportunity.
For anyone who has followed me, they know I’m a huge proponent of using video and images to attract candidates. But these items can easily slow down your page speed, especially on mobile devices. Now that Google plans to add the "badge of shame" to pages that take too long to load, it’s more important than ever to keep your career pages, job listings and applications fast and responsive.
Solution: Engage candidates, but don’t over-entertain them. The goal is to advance him or her from visitor to applicant. Keep your job listings tight and focused on what’s relevant. Avoid long applications with non-relevant or redundant questions which can be distractions, too. Use video and images but compress them or host them on sites like Vimeo and YouTube.
Making these small changes could do wonders for your candidate experience in 2020—and they’re not hard to implement. Start with the easiest tweaks first and make it your New Year’s Resolution to resolve the bigger issues as soon as possible.
Header photo: Creative Commons
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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.
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.
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.