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Creating Exceptional Digital Talent Experiences

Multiple floors in a white building with people scattered throughout

2022 is shaping up to be a challenging year for the HR and Business community. The Great Resignation has turned the spotlight on the way we attract and retain the digital talent our businesses need. Whilst organizations may each have different problems, one clear message from several research studies is that many of the employees who are resigning are looking for a better working experience. This includes more support for their development and wellbeing and a better balance between their working and personal lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also shone a light on the way many businesses treat their people. Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trends Index found 61% of business leaders describing themselves as thriving over the last two years, whilst over 60% of workers from Gen Z (including front line, recently hired, and two-thirds of single workers) all described themselves as either struggling or just about surviving.

Many organizations have identified the need to offer their people more opportunities to work remotely and flexibly. Whilst this will go some way to addressing employee preferences, it may not suit everyone. In 2021, research from UK organizational consultancy Leesman found that only 41% of homeworkers had a dedicated room or office to work from at home, with 72% of under-25s having no dedicated space to work from and struggling to connect with colleagues. Employees who work from home may therefore need more flexibility in hours, creating the need for us to be able to support asynchronous working.

The way we treat our people counts too. Brian Kropp, Chief of Research at Gartner, once famously said that people want their 9-to-5 to look like their 5-to-9. Our employees’ personal lives are full of seamless, effortless experiences that are largely enabled by digital technologies. They expect the same when they are at work, whether they are employees or job candidates. Bad experiences will get shared online: Glassdoor data shows that over 70%  of applicants leave reviews, whilst my own research amongst 14,000 jobseekers found as many as 87% saying that the way they are treated during application and interview determines whether they join a business, regardless of what the business may say about itself.

Digital Hiring

Hiring processes are now predominantly online, supported by conversational AI and asynchronous video interviewing. Candidates expect to know where they stand, how their applications are progressing, and what the next stage is, in real time. Most organizations’ distinctly analogue mindset will need to change when embracing digital hiring. So, how can we start creating the type of exceptional experiences that will make us an employer of choice, and enable us to attract and then retain the talent we need?

Firstly, by recognizing that a great experience can encourage a prospective employee to join us even if they weren’t sure, whereas a poor experience can lead to someone rejecting us, even if they were keen to join. Candidates need feedback and consistent communication to always be aware of where they stand in the application process. Think of some of the market-leading digital businesses, such as Amazon or Netflix, and try to replicate their customer experience. Give candidates some agency in the hiring process by enabling the self-scheduling of interviews and offering realistic job previews so they can understand exactly what your company, and the role, will be like.

Should job candidates be unsuccessful then let them know straight away - and let them know why. Give some real feedback on why they may not have been right for the role, and where they can improve their experience and knowledge. Every rejected candidate will recommend or refer other people to apply if they have had a good experience and may well also apply again when a more suitable role is available. Every business needs advocates, not detractors

Once an offer is accepted then we need to make sure the onboarding process has started. Newly hired employees want to know as much as possible about their role and the people they will be working with. Digital talent isn’t going to wait around for a first day induction! Give them access to as much of the content as they need as soon as you can. Most new hires feel frustrated if there is a lack of information after they have accepted an offer. Also, let them begin to connect with their new colleagues - it can make their first few days and weeks much more seamless. Onboarding is probably the key phase that sets new hires up for success so should be as informative and welcoming as possible.

Recognize that the ‘employee experience’ isn’t really something that an organization creates, but is the outcome of the multitude of personal, career-defining micro-experiences, and interactions that each employee has with the technology, systems, colleagues, and work environment. This experience is therefore more about what each employee perceives, understands, and remembers. The key for business leaders is to try and maximize the positive experiences, so they can outweigh any negative ones.

Probably the most important element that underpins great talent experiences is having a genuine culture of recognition. Employees like to know when they have done well and be helped and supported at the times they may be struggling. Leaders and managers with a genuine interest in creating a culture and environment in which talent can thrive and feel valued know that recognition isn’t a stand-alone initiative aimed at engaging and retaining their people but is an integral part of the flow of work itself, being an ongoing driver of organizational culture.

Understanding how to create genuine and meaningful talent experiences is crucial to every business that needs to attract, develop, and retain its people.