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Gardening Season: Nurture a “Blooming” Talent Pool

Spring is the kind of season that floods the senses – in a good way. After a long, wet and cold winter, many of us look forward to getting outside in our communities and breathing in the scent of freshly spread mulch. Neighbors tend to their beds, with attentive watering and weeding. Soon, they reap the rewards of their efforts, with the colorful and fragrant blooming of azaleas, forsythias, herbs and assorted veggies.

I believe one of the main reasons many people enjoy gardening is because it requires constant care. You can’t simply stick some seeds in the dirt and walk away. You must nurture your plants, every day. And when they start sprouting, you feel a sense of achievement and pride.

Developing an enriched talent pool is much like this. You can’t apply a “set it and forget it” mindset to your recruiting, onboarding and training programs. As with gardening, you need to “get your hands dirty” (again, in a good way!). You must proactively seek out internal and external position candidates with the most in-demand skills and match them to anticipated openings. These openings may surface immediately, or weeks or even months down the road. So you have to engage candidates for extended time periods. In succession planning, for example, a Baby Boomer who hints at retiring soon might change her mind after realizing she’s not ready for the transition. Thus, her position stays filled for a year or even longer. Until she leaves, you should provide routine status updates to her possible successors, so they don’t get discouraged about being kept “in limbo” indefinitely.

This level of high engagement can drain time and resources. But it doesn’t have to be that way, not when people analytics can capture and maximize the value of your HR data, in a consolidated, streamlined manner. Through analytics, you improve the visibility of all of the key information related to your pool, such as names, personal interests, employment history, professional contributions/goals, contact preferences, educational background, etc. Your subsequent command of this intelligence will lead to an excellent “harvest,” especially when you incorporate analytics into the following best practices:

Conduct a continuing conversation. Talking to your plants on an ongoing basis can result in healthier growth, some experts say. Similarly, a continuing conversation with candidates will build a vibrant talent pool. Take advantage of newsletters, social media and even old-fashioned emails to keep in touch with internal and external candidates. Highlight recent milestones, as well as accomplishments of your staffers, to convey the message that your organization recognizes individual achievements. For more personalized engagement with outside prospects, send occasional emails to say, for instance, “We’re still very interested in your availability for a future opening … Is there anything you’d like to know about our organization or the potential position? Please feel free to update us about any new professional experiences/milestones you’d like to share.”

The continuing conversation can involve plenty of legwork if you rely solely upon manual processes to conduct it. That’s why people analytics proves essential. You can customize these solutions for proactive alerts, for example, to remind you to send personalized emails on a regular basis.

Update webpages. First impressions matter, of course, which is where your organization’s website home pages and employment pages enter the picture. In-demand millennials get turned off quickly when they click on a site that looks like something out of the last century, with static pages and an over-reliance on text. These Millennials are drawn to interactive, multi-media experiences. According to research from the Talent Board, 44 percent of job seekers say that they need time to evaluate an employer before applying for a position. By investing into the design and engineering of a modern, dynamic site, you ensure an immediate, appealing impression of your organization’s culture. Analytics will assess quantitatively whether you’re enhancing the user experience through your efforts (by providing traffic, “share” and other user activity data).

Commit to training. Clearly, this refers to your internal pool. Deploy analytics to find out which promising, current staffers are requesting training/professional development. Then use analytics to dig deeper, to explore whether these employees are looking to hone specific, vocationally focused “hard” skills, or “softer” skills related to communications and leadership. In addition, analytics can identify which training formats (in-person or online) work best, not to mention “out-of-the-box” opportunities such as the cross-training of targeted talent pool members on department-wide capabilities/needs and/or offering them temporary assignments that expose them to a new area of your organization.

Unlike gardening, it’s always “in season” to tend to your talent pool. Year-round, you should come up with well-researched and thoughtful strategies, and then pursue them with effective, proactive execution. Fortunately, you don’t have to devote an abundance of time and resources in “nurturing the plants” here. Analytics solutions will eliminate steps while strengthening your connections to internal and external candidates, extending your capacity to engage. That’s when your talent pool “bed” grows into a constant source of value, transforming job contenders into critical contributors to your organization’s strategic goals.

 

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How to Build a Competitive Talent Advantage

How can your company attract and retain the best talent? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation, says it’s crucial to recognize upfront that “our career model is hopelessly dated.” In many ways, the corporate world is still stuck in the 1960s and 1970s, she says, but both the demographics and the needs of the workforce have changed dramatically. So what are the most successful companies doing?

First, they’re re-evaluating the trend toward “extreme jobs” that require punishing hours and 24/7 availability. “What we’re finding is that many cohorts of people would really like to take some kind of a break,” says Hewlett. “It’s nothing to do with childcare anymore; it’s because of the extraordinary weight and scope of a job these days. In our research on the extreme workplace, we identified a trend toward ‘brownout.’ It’s not burnout; people aren’t literally collapsing in front of you. But there’s significant physical distress and a sense of being below par in what you can deliver, because you’re depleted.”

In addition to greater workplace flexibility – from flextime to job-sharing to telecommuting – Hewlett suggests another possible solution: offering unpaid sabbaticals, which she calls “odysseys.” Increasingly, she says, people “need a break of three months, or six months, to refresh your soul. It’s not just not having conference calls at 11 o’clock at night, but a refreshing of the spirit that’s needed. It’s a massive opportunity for people to invest in themselves again.”

Second, Hewlett notes that the best companies are increasingly understanding and embracing demographic change. “If you take the global talent pipeline – that’s everyone in the world with a BA degree – only 17% of the pool is Caucasian males,” she says, while 83% are women or people of color. “We have a whole different set of opportunities in front of us, and we’ve got to figure out how to leverage our talent pool much better.”

As Hewlett discussed in her recent book Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women Are the Solution, despite the West’s penchant for “equal opportunity” rhetoric, some of the greatest strides for female executives have come in the developing world. “There are winners and losers in this game,” says Hewlett, “and one reason [the talent pool] doesn’t shift very quickly is, if you take seriously the mandate that you have to get this rich diversity into your leadership groups, it means your best friends, your sons, your neighbors, and maybe you will lose out, because in the mature world, it’s a flat-lined economy. It’s very difficult to shift power when it’s a static universe – a zero-sum game.” Meanwhile, the growth in emerging markets is, at least for now, lifting all boats: “One reason why 15% of CEOs in India are now female is because there are so many opportunities, you can be generous. You can give all kinds of opportunities to highly able women because it’s not encroaching on your stuff; it’s new stuff. Power is never given up easily.”

Indeed, says Hewlett, “the default thing to do, unless there are tremendous forces that encourage you to do something else, is to tap on the shoulder someone whom you’re the most comfortable with. So if you grew up in Greenwich, it’ll be someone who belongs to the same club, someone who’s also white and male – that’s the person you’ll trust most readily, and the person you’ll imagine will have your back. But if you had an Asian woman in charge, she’ll do the same thing; it’s the human instinct, not a problem just white guys have.”

Unfortunately, however, that human instinct may be preventing us from tapping the best talent and leveraging real business opportunities. “Our business case rests on innovation,” says Hewlett. “The power of diversity on teams unlocks innovation and drives growth, and that’s why a leader might find the courage and the clarity to shift what power looks like at his or her company.”

What is your company doing to attract and retain talent? Are you embracing flextime, sabbaticals, or other “work-life balance” strategies? How are you harnessing the power of diversity?

A version of this article was first published on Forbes on 8/20/12

photo credit: 20160120_104606 via photopin (license)

Candidate Experience: Getting It Right #TChat Recap

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not strategies.”
Lawrence Bossidy, Author & Former CEO, Honeywell

If talent is what matters most at the end of the day, why do so many companies struggle to provide a stellar experience for job candidates? And how can we finally fix that?

This is the hot topic the TalentCulture community tackled this week at #TChat events — with guidance from two of the HR community’s most knowledgeable candidate experience experts:

Elaine Orler, President of Talent Function Group and chairman of The Talent Board;
Gerry Crispin, Staffing Strategist and Co-Founder of CareerXroads Colloquium.

(Editor’s Note: See #TChat highlights and resource links at the end of this post.)

Building Brand Advocates One Job Opening At A Time

What is candidate experience, anyway? Of course, it starts long before a potential employee ever arrives for an interview. In fact, some #TChat-ters say it’s smart to think of it as an ongoing brand experience that begins the moment an individual envisions a future with your organization, and continues throughout the recruitment process, and beyond.

Smart employers consider all the touch points in that process, not just the tone and content of a job description. Every interaction helps shape a candidate’s impression — from the way a company website portrays its workforce, and the way it engages with employees on social media, to the pace and flow of ongoing communication with applicants. No detail should be overlooked.

Why do details count? Because, according to our guests (and the 2013 Candidate Experience Survey Results), these factors make a lasting impression on job seekers. And cumulative impressions can determine a brand’s destiny.

Early results from nearly 50,000 former job candidates confirms what common sense tells us. Once candidates develop a perception of an organization, they’ll share their thoughts with others. And that word-of-mouth behavior can have a measurable impact on your business — for better or worse.

Roadmap For Improvement

Early next year, The Talent Board will publish a detailed survey report to help employers make meaningful changes to their candidate experience. But in the meantime, here are some self assessment questions:

• Have you walked a mile in your candidate’s shoes? (And documented that walk?)
• What kind of first impression does your company project?
• Do you acknowledge job seekers when they apply or submit a resume?
• What proportion of inquiries are completely ignored?
• Is information about your company culture available, accurate and complete?
• Are your employees empowered as brand ambassadors?

Inspiration From Candidate-Friendly Companies

How do great employers like Zappos and Microsoft make their candidate experience stand out? They treat everyone with respect and common sense. They also display other “best practice” behaviors.

These actions leave a lasting positive impression – even when candidates aren’t hired. Even when they’ve invested significant time and energy to conduct company research, customize a resume, apply for the position, prepare for and participate in interviews, and follow-up with hiring managers.

Of course, word now travels incredibly fast on social channels. And with organizations like The Talent Board paying close attention, the voice of the candidate is getting louder all the time.

So, if you care about influencing the way your organization is perceived by candidates, consider the resources and highlights from this week’s #TChat conversation, below. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas. This is how we can move the meter in a positive direction!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Candidate Experience Survey Insights

Gerry Crispin (2)

Watch the #TChat “sneak peek” video now

SAT 12/7:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post and “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Gerry Crispin. Read the Preview: “Candidate Experience: Survey Insights.”

SUN 12/8:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro looked at how employers can improve their hiring process to achieve better business results. Read: “5 Tips For A Winning Candidate Experience.”

MON 12/9:

Related Post: Guest blogger, Matt Charney, recommended a provocative approach to improving the status quo. Read “Compliance: Why It’s The Only Fix For Candidate Experience.

WED 12/4:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with guests Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin about the early findings from the candidate experience survey. Fascinating stuff. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Elaine and Gerry joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, for an open crowdsourcing conversation centered on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Candidate Experience Survey Insights

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/2013-candidate-experience-award-insights.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin for sharing your perspectives on candidate experience trends and implications. We value your time and expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how companies can offer a more effective job candidate experience? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, #TChat welcomes leadership development expert, Steve Gutzler, to discuss the role that emotional intelligence plays in our job performance and our effectiveness in leading others. Look for more details this weekend.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and we look forward to hearing from you.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Pixabay