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Align | Evolving Talent Attraction & Engagement

Evolving Talent Attraction & Engagement
by Sondra Dryer, Global Head of Employer Brand & Attraction

We are living through historic times. We know that business has changed forever, and will continue to change, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Add to that the recent tensions around racial equality and building a more diverse workforce, and Talent Acquisition professionals are quickly trying to adjust their strategy to succeed in a very uncertain future. From an employer brand and attraction perspective, we know too well that the actions organizations take today can have a lasting and irreversible impact. This phase we’re entering now could prove a crucial make-or-break moment for your employer brand and how current and potential employees, as well as potential clients or customers, forever perceive your business.

Lessons from History

Timeline_14July2020-whiteOne thing is certain—the relationship between a company and its employees will never be the same. Yet, while there is certainly no manual for Human Resources and Talent Acquisition leaders called, “How to Manage During a Global Pandemic,” there are lessons to be learned from history. Though this pandemic has presented us with many truly unique challenges, this is not the first time the workforce dynamic has had to change rapidly as a result of external factors (see examples on the timeline to the right).

What can TA professionals learn from these milestone moments? Like the current pandemic, each of these events was unprecedented at the time, and each required Human Resources and Talent Acquisition leaders to rethink the way they attract and engage their workforce. They also carried with them a great deal of risk—if they companies didn’t handle the new expectation well, they would not only lose potential candidates but would be judged negatively in the court of public opinion.

Imagine if we had the opportunity to ask each of the business leaders at the time of these moments in history what they may do differently in hindsight. One could surmise they would tell us to be bold. Embrace change. Don’t be afraid to adjust to this new normal—just be the first of your competitors to do so.

Navigating History in the Making

How companies adjust their engagement with talent is being watched very carefully. Since the current pace of change shows no sign of slowing quite yet, building trust and collaboration is the key.

To navigate today’s new workforce dynamics and expectations, all of our Four “A”s—Align, Adapt, Amplify, and Assure—apply. However, when it comes to employer brand and attraction, the foundation is alignment. Without proper alignment amongst internal stakeholders, as well as against your values and culture, all your best intentions can fall apart. This starts with an internal rollout of your new messaging and engagement strategies to ensure consistency as you consider the following:

  • Transparency and honesty over positivity. The biggest concern for today’s workforce is job security, particularly as the timeline for recovery is uncertain, at best. However, they are only interested in hearing the truth about the business, not just a positive picture. They want to know about the economic health of the business overall and how employees are being treated during this time. It’s critical that you balance this communication carefully—think of it as sharing realism with a tone of hopeful assurance. It’s OK to admit what you don’t know and acknowledge the uncertainty of the situation, but then share plans in place to build security for them and the business and emphasize how their engagement in this process is critical to its success. 
  • Company values are more important than ever. Between the pandemic and the heightened tensions around race and equality for all, employees and candidates want to know what you believe in—not only “want” to know, they demand to know—and they want to be assured that they work for an organization whose values align with their own. Now is the right time to revisit your corporate values and assess if they truly represent your stance as a business. Any and all internal and external communications should be aligned and reflect those values, then amplified out as an anchor for all current and future employees. 
  • Employees and candidates want a voice. It’s important to remember change and uncertainty is happening on all sides—for the business and for individuals both personally and professionally—and when people feel they can contribute to the discussion and shape the strategy, they are automatically more engaged. Ensure you have enabled feedback mechanisms internally and with your candidates and let them know their contributions have an impact on the future of the business. 
  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity improvements are expected. One of the most common requests we are getting from clients is around how to engage with diverse talent. We know there are really two sides to that request—increasing the diverse makeup of their talent pool and addressing the corporate culture to support that diversity through inclusion and equity. From a talent acquisition perspective, this starts with identifying those areas where you need to strengthen your diverse population and developing candidate personas. These personas provide greater clarity around key motivators and behaviors, allowing you to create bespoke attraction strategies to enhance your diverse talent pipeline. However, keep in mind that employees and candidates have little tolerance for what they see as “check the box” solutions to diversity and inclusion issues, so make sure your organization has a well-rounded strategy and action plan to foster a culture that authentically supports inclusion. 
  • Amplify what you’ve done well. Engaged employees want the opportunity to share their experiences externally. Leverage the investment you have made with your internal workforce to enable them to be your external brand ambassadors. Create platforms on your external careers channels for them to share their personal experiences and stories of how your organization is positively responding to the rapid changes and the needs of its people in order to strengthen your employer brand and attraction strategy for future talent. 
  • Promote emotional and physical wellbeing. This subject has been getting more attention in recent years, but in this time, it’s especially important to think about how you can support employees and candidates with this significant transition in their personal and professional lives. Many companies are sharing content on their social channels around mental health to better support and engage their stakeholders. This can be one way to strengthen your employer brand by sharing insight into your corporate culture. 

If you take away just one key point with this post, I hope it’s this—the changes we’re going through now will shape the workforce of the future for the positive. Our history has proven this time and time again. It’s always easier to look back with the benefit of hindsight then it is to recognize new opportunities while they are happening. The best we can do as we’re living through history being written is to stay adaptable and attuned to the needs of the workforce as it shifts. Employers who recognize the changing expectations and readily accept them will win the loyalty of current employees and be in the best position to attract the talent of the future.  

 

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