The companies who are winning today are the ones who have mastered engagement, be it for customers or for candidates.
When we feel that a company gets it exactly right because it has made an extra effort to learn who we are, our relationship with that company acquires an emotional layer. It’s not just about a product or a service anymore, it’s about all the feelings we associate with it: convenience, comfort, excitement, fun, safety, daring, indulgence, discovery…
That emotional connection with customers is what companies like AirBnB or Dollar Shave Club, for example, strive for. It means higher loyalty to the brand, more spending throughout the lifetime of the customer, and endless positive referrals. That is the power of a great experience, and it applies whether we are customers or candidates.
Great talent acquisition teams understand that. They see how the game has shifted from chasing applications to creating an engaged experience for candidates, starting before they are even thinking about looking for a job.
Talent engagement definition
Engagement is a broad, ever-moving-target in marketing. A recent survey by Marketo through the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that 63% of marketers view engagement as “customer renewals, repeat purchases, and retention”, even though those are the desired goals of engagement, and not elements of the practice itself.
Practitioners are more concerned about the impact of engagement on the bottom line than its academic definition, which is understandable, but that is not enough to build an engaged candidate journey, and map it to the recruitment marketing strategy of a company.
So what is a good talent engagement definition? one that is easy to understand, implement, and measure?
"I think of engagement as representing 2-way communication between a brand and consumers." -Jay Henderson, Director, Watson Marketing at IBM
Talent engagement is what you do
“Engaging” with candidates is what you do every time a candidate interacts with your company in its capacity of potential employer. It can be a phone call, a retweet, an upvote on Quora, or any other touchpoints where the recruiting team is trying to build a relationship with the candidate.
Engagement is a two-way interaction between the candidate and the prospective employer. What does that look like in practice? Candidates interact with companies at multiple opportunities, most of them at a time and place chosen by the candidate and not the recruiter.
The result? To create a feeling of sustained conversation across all of these touchpoints, recruiters have to make their engagement omni-channel, so that an interaction started in one place can be picked up in another.
Candidate experience is what they see
Engagement is what recruiters can control in order to try and create a great experience for candidates, from their first touch with the company to when they apply to a role, to the moment they are hired or redirected towards other opportunities.
And it is extremely important to control that experience as much as possible: 72% of candidates who have had a bad experience have shared it, and 85% of candidates say they won’t consider a company again after a bad experience. The stakes for efficient engagement are high.
What does this shift mean for recruiters?
1. Building relationships
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this one already. Successful recruiting is not about converting applicants into hires any longer. It’s about creating a full engagement experience for the candidate, a delightful, personalized journey that leaves them with a positive attitude towards the prospective employer, whether they end up being hired or not.
__2. Judging by lifetime value __
When thinking about the lifetime value of a candidate then, taking a long term view is essential. That is why you can’t restrict engagement to its immediate impact on applications: Investments made in building a more engaged experience should be measured in the long-term, for both direct and indirect impacts.
Beyond the likelihood of a candidate converting to an applicant, there's the potential for this person to add more and more value to your company: as an employee, because they are a better fit for the job and ramp up faster, but also as a referrer and advocate, every time they say something positive about your company to a friend or on social media, for example.
3. Multichannel experiences
The future of candidate engagement is a single, continuous conversation across multiple channels. Multi-channel does not simply mean having a website as well as multiple social media pages: it means, among other things, that the candidate is having a single conversation with your company, even if this conversation starts in one place and stops in another.
True omnichannel means knowing when your candidate was last in touch with the company, be it through Twitter or during a coffee chat with an employee. Being aware of who they talked to, what content they read, and what they are interested in hearing about next at any given time. That is the kind of candidate engagement experience that recruiters should be striving for.
And mastering that experience matters: Companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies. It’s not hard to see how candidate conversion could be impacted in the same way.
The simple truth of it is that we just like knowing that a company took the time to get to know us. We live in the engagement era because being engaged changes how we feel, and therefore how we act, as customers and as candidates.
I like that the barista in my building remembers how I like my coffee and asks me about that trip I mentioned last week. I also appreciate it when I don’t have to catch a recruiter up on details I’ve already shared with their colleagues, like what country I am from, or what field I graduated in. I am not really convinced a company values me as a candidate if they don’t keep such important details about me straight.
Technology makes it possible to keep track of background, conversations, preferences, likes and dislikes. It makes it ridiculously easy to start and maintain fully engaged exchanges at a large scale. There are no excuses anymore for shortcuts that make candidates feel like numbers on a spreadsheet.
Why does a Talent Organization Need a Talent Operating System?
Top candidates have more options than ever before, and in such a competitive setting, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It's on the talent operations function to design the new way of working that will bring in the best talent.