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Thinking Outside the Box

by Bel Garvey, Head of Solution Design, Alexander Mann Solutions

13th Mar 2017

“I’m a livin’ in a box, I’m a livin in a cardboard box” sang the eponymously named British rockers Living in a Box in 1987. Showing my age now.

Thirty years later, in 2017, 3.5 million people viewed in one month a rather lovely commercial “Alt Det Vi Deler” - All That We Share - from a television station in Denmark. Go on, take a look!

he video highlights our tendency to be assumptive and categorise people into groups, (or boxes), whereas it is sometimes just a question of applying a different perspective to identify what we share.

Being a solution architect by trade,  once I’d finished with an  ‘I’ve always liked the Danes’ my thoughts moved on to talent acquisition and whether there were considerations that we could learn from, whether we should be challenging ourselves further in how we share our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to the talent marketplace?

The “candidate experience” is every day talent acquisition parlance. There are methodologies, technologies and processes all focused upon how to design, operate and measure the optimum experience for prospective talent. Those engaging most successfully with such talent have often recognised that given the experience will be felt by an individual, so too the experience must feel personalised to that individual. So the tools, the content and the processes are evolved so  that one organisation can engage with different individuals in multiple ways.

And there is the challenge.

As we design the experiences, we should be asking ourselves how many assumptions are we making in each creative build, how much are we putting prospective talent into boxes? Such assumptions which can be detrimental to the candidate experience? Consider the apprentice market as an example. The UK government is driving towards a target of three million apprenticeships by 2020. Apprentice talent initiatives often focus on iGen, Gen Z or Centennials – educating apprenticeships as an alternative to graduate programmes.  And yet, critically, the number of apprenticeship starts by people over the age of 25 was higher than 44% last year. While it would be an assumption in itself to project that such individuals engage differently to Gen Z, there is thought to be given as to what the most inclusive approach should be.

We need to challenge ourselves as to whether we are grouping talent into categories that suit organisational processes rather than align to the individual, and move ourselves away from assumptive design. If we are truly committed to the candidate experience, we should begin with a question rather than a conclusion. When Alexander Mann Solutions designed the careers site of the future, the experience for every visitor to the site would begin with a question – what would you like to get from the site today? When Talent Collective, our consulting and innovation practice, was tasked with increasing relevant applications to a client organisation, the answer focused upon choice to the individual – from cultural fit self-selection through to the ability to create a personalised brochure.

Whether a candidate experience is online or offline, supported by technology, AI, or resource, I believe that the optimum candidate experience will balance insight with choice and flexibility. A candidate experience is a series of moments. Analytics and data, with an interpretative lens applied, produce powerful insights to educate on the content and media of these ‘moments’. The most elegant engagement approaches, however, also pose the right questions and include flexibility, so that ultimately each candidate does not need to live in a box, built from assumptions, but can experience the moments that feel most relevant to them.


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