ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Courting the Candidate-Customer.
By John Henry & Peter MacLean ~ Deloitte Review
Monday, 16th September 2013
The unlikely art of attraction -

Brand-conscious companies are beginning to interact with potential employees with the same care they would give to their customers.

They are redefining the talent acquisition experience by making sure their candidate-customers gain tangible value from the interview process and have the capabilities to navigate and succeed within the organization should they be offered a position.

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Despite relatively high unemployment in the United States, millions of job vacancies are going unfilled as a result of talent shortages. The struggle to attract and retain top talent is exacerbated by many factors: demographic shifts, changing attitudes toward careers, and the globalization of business. Talent shortages often occur in critical, skilled roles that are vital to a company's success and have high barriers to entry, and traditional recruiting methods may not be the answer.

As a first step in bolstering their workforces, organizations are increasingly focusing on identifying the positions, skills, attributes, and behaviors that drive a disproportionate amount of value. These organizations are adapting talent-acquisition strategies and hiring the most promising candidates by focusing on key attributes such as a capacity for innovative thinking, an ability to effectively work with others, being highly passionate, and having strong social intelligence.

Growing a business often hinges on making appropriate investments; growing a workforce to support a business requires the same approach. For many organizations, growth is limited by shortcomings in their workforces, and a traditional linear hiring model does not allow them to hire enough skilled workers to remain competitive. Some are investing in and maintaining a strong pipeline of potential employees by preemptively recruiting candidates—even when there is no immediate need.

By continuously engaging qualified candidates through social media, alumni networks, and other methods, organizations can provide an intimate, memorable experience that could lead to job offers later on. As part of its "Silver Medalist Strategy," for example, a leading auto manufacturer engages top candidates in the market even when there aren't open roles for them. Recruiters proactively maintain ongoing conversations with potential employees and invite them to join the company's talent community as well as the company's career social spaces on LinkedIn and Facebook. Candidates also receive RSS feeds or emails when a role that matches their interests becomes available.

Beyond the need to tend the pipeline, we have also seen that impressions are increasingly important. As indicated in Deloitte's* September 2012 Talent 2020 report, potential employees are more inclined now than in the past to work for companies that have a reputation for being a good employer. Given this trend, organizations are beginning to develop talent acquisition programs that cast themselves in a positive light among potential employees. They are designing recruitment experiences that benefit candidates from start to finish—even in cases where they do not culminate in a job offer.

By developing programs from the candidate-as-customer perspective, these companies aim to strengthen their brands as employers of choice among employees as well as prospective employees. For example, a large international retailer is positioning employees as brand ambassadors by encouraging them to post key openings on their LinkedIn pages. Employees receive a monetary reward for hired candidates that they referred directly or indirectly through their social networks.3

An organization's ability to attract customers ultimately drives the need to expand its workforce. Some companies are deepening their talent pools using the tactics that lured their customers in the first place. Analytics, social media, innovative technological applications, organic growth and development, and tailored service delivery models—established methods for developing a customer base—can go a long way in helping a company cater to customer-candidates and cultivate an ample workforce.

Analytics and the power of a proactive recruiting strategy

Companies have grown accustomed to using analytics to identify potential profitable customers and drive business development, but these technologies also have the potential to become a disruptive force for talent acquisition, where the costs of getting it wrong can be large. Bad hiring decisions due to inadequate and subjective candidate screening processes cost organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. A recent CareerBuilder (CareerBuilder, 2012) study found that bad hires cost some firms as much as $50,000 per hire.4

Analytics can help an organization make better recruitment decisions by helping it identify insights and attributes associated with high-performing, high-potential employees. These insights, based on real information about their strong performers, are helping companies hire the right people for the right roles. Organizations with mature analytical capabilities are able to analyze performance, promotions, skill sets, personality characteristics, and other data of their high performing employees to create a data-derived set of attributes for success.

At the same time, these organizations conduct data analysis to parse through external data on candidates from social networks and career pages in order to understand their interests, skills sets, project experiences, personalities, and endorsements. They then deploy predictive modeling and advanced algorithmic programs to identify external data that correlate with the organization's attributes for success. By mapping the key external candidate indicators with attributes of their top internal talent, companies can pinpoint the right candidates to hire and tailor their recruiting strategies accordingly.

Despite robust hiring practices, mature as well as fast-growing organizations can find themselves reacting to spikes in hiring demand. For these companies, even with clearly identified needs, there isn't always a clear sense of where to locate candidates. Analytics can provide the foresight needed to inform strategic recruiting decisions and identify the skills and critical talent pools that will provide the next high-potential employees. Among the efforts where we have observed analytics being especially useful:

  • Gaining insight on critical talent pools within your company
  • Identifying and proactively courting passive candidates in the external marketplace with the right skills, attributes, experiences, and passions
  • Understanding your company's competition for critical talent
  • Understanding the most effective ways to source talent, given that different critical talent pools may require different sourcing strategies
A leading insurance company, for example, uses predictive analytics to identify individuals from a large general population who have the highest likelihood of becoming successful agents. The company then uses this data to create targeted branding strategies to engage and attract top prospects.

Similarly, a large global media company is using analytics to predict its future workforce needs. This company is dramatically rethinking its business model in light of shifting consumer preferences in favor of streaming content, and is leveraging its business forecast and predictive modeling capabilities to identify skills needed to meet its future strategic priorities. By building a supply-demand model of talent required over the next 18 months, the company uses business-driven workforce planning underpinned by analytics to create a proactive recruitment strategy.

Smart candidate relationships brought to you by social media

Social media is an established channel for identifying customer and market trends, but it also allows organizations to proactively access information about potential employees. Many organizations are reducing their investments in formerly cutting-edge Internet sourcing methods and focusing on social media as a core recruiting tool.

Cloud-based social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are helping companies identify and source active candidates as well as "passive" ones who are not actively seeking new jobs. These organizations are making social media the foundation of robust recruiting and targeted communication campaigns that develop lasting relationships with potential candidates.

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