Transforming Talent Acquisition: One Employer’s Story
If your organization is like most, you’re constantly looking for ways to strengthen your workforce through smarter talent acquisition tactics. Although recruiting has shifted dramatically during the past few years, some innovative practices from the pre-pandemic era are worth another look.
A Pre-Covid Lesson in Recruiting Innovation
One example is the talent acquisition process at financial services provider, TIAA. Several years ago when the company completed a full-scale recruiting revamp, we spoke with Angie Wesley, then SVP and Head of Talent Acquisition.
TIAA has since promoted Wesley to Head of Workforce Strategies and People Operations. She has also been named one of the top 100 Women in Business by the National Women’s Conference. And looking back now at how she advanced talent acquisition at TIAA, we can see why she is recognized as a visionary. She clearly is ahead of the curve.
Because TIAA is a well-established organization, Wesley knew she needed to initiate change in ways that would inspire buy-in, particularly from the recruiting team. Her approach is a powerful lesson in how to beef up business processes with technology and avoid friction while getting everyone onboard.
Rethinking Recruiting for Modern Business Needs
There’s no question that next-level recruiting depends on modern technology. But business aspirations are extraordinarily high. And modern recruiting tools, alone, are not enough to drive a cultural sea-change. For example, many employers want to:
- Hire for growth as well as skills
- Offer development opportunities that align with expectations
- Commit to DEI and undo bias
- Radically improve communication methods
- Provide the kind of hardware and software employees need to work in more flexible ways and excel at their jobs
- Streamline old processes not only for efficiency, but also to give job candidates more autonomy, access, and choice
All of these depend on a strong tech stack. But as we’ve seen time and again, simply acquiring new tools and bolting them onto existing processes and ecosystems is not sufficient. Integration and adoption are key — and that takes serious organizational insight, training, and adjustment.
Building a Better Tech Stack For Everyone
That’s where Wesley’s role came in. She led the transformation of TIAA’s recruiting functions so team members could better navigate the modern candidate marketplace.
(Brief reminder: Before the pandemic struck, recruitment was already facing serious pressure. From a very tight talent market to shifting candidate expectations about the hiring experience, employers were fielding plenty of recruiting challenges. But none of us could imagine the Covid curve ball coming our way.)
As Wesley told TalentCulture at the time, next-level recruitment was “either going to come to us, or we were going to have to join it.”
The tools she selected and implemented helped TIAA’s recruiting team in numerous ways. In particular, they significantly improved the candidate experience and paved the way for a more streamlined, compliant hiring process.
What’s more, Wesley’s advancements didn’t get mired in resistance. All too often, organizations meet change with pushback at numerous levels, from employees who don’t want to adjust their workflows to senior leaders who aren’t sold on the ROI of a new recruiting tech rollout.
In TIAA’s case, what made the difference? Two clear objectives…
Keys to Recruiting Transformation Success
1. Provide Training to Build Familiarity and Confidence
Wesley noted that recruiters voiced more concerns than anyone else. “A lot of these recruiters are seasoned, so they have their own way of moving candidates through the process,” she explained. “We had to show them how technology actually helps them, instead of inhibiting them.”
To encourage adoption, TIAA instituted both in-person and remote (web-based) training. The content included plenty of context and real-world examples from other organizations. This approach helped staff members agree that the new tools could help improve their productivity and performance.
In addition, TIAA started tracking who uses the tools, so they can find and fix individual issues. “If we have folks that aren’t using a certain technology or tool in our recruiting process, we’re able to identify them and work with them to understand and resolve the difficulty,” Wesley explained.
2. Focus on Candidate Experience
Many recruiting technology upgrades are intended to improve the candidate experience, but sometimes they miss the mark. Wesley made sure candidates remained a top priority throughout the planning and implementation process.
These days, some of TIAA’s changes may seem like table stakes. But several years ago, these recruitment essentials weren’t a given. (Technology evolves fast!) For example:
- Online Applications
TIAA made sure its employment website and career pages were mobile-friendly and candidates could complete the application process on any device.
- Digital Assessments
The company began offering assessments that candidates could complete online at their convenience — another forward-thinking capability that is now considered a best practice.
- Text-Based Communication
Recruiters began relying more heavily on text messaging to conduct conversations in real-time. This led to more frequent candidate communication that helped the recruitment process feel more immediate, personalized, and meaningful. Ultimately, this kind of responsiveness made a big difference that translated into better hiring outcomes.
- Video Interviewing
The hiring team also instituted video interviews. Again, this was once a leading-edge strategy that positioned the TIAA employer brand ahead of others. But the organization needed a better way to reach the passive talent market. At that time, the most attractive potential candidates were employed elsewhere. Video interviews offered more convenience and less disruption. Of course, during Covid, video interviewing became the new norm. Now, many organizations still rely on video tools to extend recruiting reach and streamline the hiring process.
Reinforcing the Human Side of Recruiting
Does TIAA’s recruiting game plan suggest that technology should replace human interactions? Not at all. Actually, this is another lesson to remember for the future of talent acquisition. The human element counts, always.
According to Wesley, “What we are finding is candidates still want that human touch in the process somewhere. They don’t want technology to take care of everything.”
Employers must strike a balance in the recruiting journey. Candidates want to experience the human side of your organization, especially when it comes to your company’s history, culture and values. Potential employees appreciate personal conversations with people who can speak on behalf of your brand.
On the other hand, candidates also value employers who quickly process their applications and provide a hiring process that is reasonably simple and painless.
So by all means, deploy the best and most innovative recruiting technology to make the whole journey easier and improve the overall candidate experience. But don’t forget the human touch. After all, those personal moments along the way may just give you an advantage in hiring the best talent.