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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

In this Outsmart panel, Visier’s Chief of Staff Jayne Landry spoke with Charles Mah, Chief Evangelist at iCIMS, about current trends and concerns in the TA field, and the TA leaders’ role in helping organizations reach their goals. 

In a business world that’s more competitive than ever, the quality of an organization’s workforce can be the difference between average, good, and exceptional. That puts Talent Acquisition (TA) leaders in a powerful position, since they determine the talent that enters and remains in their company’s pipeline. 

As a discipline, the TA field has seen dramatic change over the last year — the shift towards remote and distributed work was predicted by many, but COVID-19 made it a reality nearly overnight. After an initial hiring freeze amid pandemic-induced uncertainty, hiring has rebounded as most, if not many employers, create a very competitive talent marketplace where TA teams must ensure their strategies are optimal, effective, and their outcomes carefully tracked. 

Here are a few of the biggest trends that Charles Mah, Chief Evangelist at talent cloud management system provider iCIMS, sees shaping the TA industry in the years and months ahead.

Candidate experience is everything

The application, interview, and hiring process is every candidate’s first experience with their new potential employer. As such, Charles feels it is paramount to make this experience as positive as possible. 

“Talent acquisition has been really focused on filling positions,” he shares. “Spending extra time attracting, inquiring, assessing, and drilling down. But I think there’s an opportunity to really look [more holistically] at engaging talent with incredible experiences.” 

This is what iCIMS is known for doing at scale. With 4,300 clients in over 200 countries, and their solution used by 40% of the Fortune 100, Charles and iCIMS understand that hiring is a two-way street — that delivering positive experiences benefits the employer as well as those in their pipeline

“Look at it from a different lens,” Charles continues. “Every talent could be a customer. When you do that, you have the opportunity to build powerful networks and communities, not only of skilled diverse talent, but you’re also creating a customer community, at the same time.” 

With all the careful consideration given to the customer journey, it seems highly intuitive — if not overdue — that candidate experiences should be prioritized in the same way. The goal is for candidates to become ambassadors for the brand, both as an employer, and as creator of a quality product. 

New ways of engaging 

Essential to creating that candidate journey are streamlined tools and new forms of engagement that cater to candidates’ preferences, helping employers get to know them beyond the language and qualifications on their CV. 

Charles’s terms his approach ‘Dynamic Engagement’ — a combination of activities that attract candidates, then engages much more deeply with the organization and its people than the typical interview process. 

The cycle starts with a recruiting campaign — a strategic release of educational and outreach content like blogs, newsletter, and podcast appearances, each attracting different candidates depending on their individual preferences. Then, people who responded positively to the campaign are invited to in-person or virtual events, like roundtables and hackathons, where the employer can assess their skills and capabilities. 

From there, the candidates engage in networking with the organization’s existing people, allowing them to get to know each other on a more personal level and get a sense of the candidate’s soft skills, which can be difficult to quantify from a CV or LinkedIn page. From there, TA teams can sort and manage candidates, to determine their skill level and appropriate rank within the organization. 

Throughout this cycle, forward-thinking TA leaders are communicating with candidates in more ways than ever before. The days of email and phone as the only options are long over — today, career sites, video, text messaging, collaborative tools and dynamic employee profiles are making communication more efficient, effective, and enjoyable. 

“Text engagement is going to be really important going forward,” says Charles.”Not everybody has time to pick up the phone, spend time trying to schedule an interview, or ask and answer questions. Today, in our social world, texting has become an almost primary form of communication.” 

While video interviews and conferencing are nothing new, Charles sees strategic TA leaders taking this form of communication to another level. 

“Video studio technology allows a candidate to ask questions on the career site, and having employers respond through video,” he explains. “This helps candidates understand what the employer is looking for, but gives a better view for the employer, too.” 

Dynamic employee profiles are one innovation that, for iCIMS, are truly transforming what it means to work as a TA leader. Offered by iCIMS, these profiles collect all data about the candidate together into one place, including pulling in data from third-party sources such as LinkedIn. These new, more integrated profiles play an important role in the increased prominence of data and analytics to TA.

Data and analytics for Talent Acquisition

With this increased energy and innovation being put into the candidate journey, it’s of crucial importance that business leaders understand both the current state of their talent pool, and how successful their efforts to strengthen it have been. That’s why data and analytics will be more relied-on than ever in the TA landscape of tomorrow. 

“We’ve really seen this expansion of analytics,” says Charles. “Everything I’ve described involves more tools, not less, because you have to engage people in different ways. Being able to apply analytics means you understand what, first of all, your workforce looks like today. What are the impacts if you have some roles remote versus at an office? What really motivates your talent to make a career change and come work with you?” 

The dynamic profiles mentioned above are one way for TA leaders to apply a data-driven approach to their decision-making at the level of each individual candidate. Significantly, they can also track the outcome of various engagements, how the applicant responded, and what their preferences were. 

This allows TA leaders to see which strategies had the greatest impact, and tailor future communications to those behaviours. But they can also get a sense of the candidate’s hard and soft skills, some of which may not have been explicitly stated on their CV. This is especially important in the case of internal candidates, who may have advanced significantly in skill level on the job, but not seen any of that progress formally recorded. 

Analytics are also crucial for setting and achieving goals around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Armed with data, leaders can see exactly where in their applicant funnel minority candidates are dropping out, and ensure they address those issues with action that’s targeted, measured, and effective. To expand on the above example, tracking dynamic engagement can also support companies’ DE&I goals, by giving them a chance to get to know candidates and identify potentially top performers who, on paper, may not have stood out from the crowd. 

Incredible experiences create incredible teams

Charles sees Talent Acquisition evolving to a sophisticated and personalized level — equal to the attention that most companies currently pay to their customer base.

“It’s important to think about creating this incredible journey for the candidate and applying insights to gain a better view of them,” he says,  “so that you can stay one step ahead of your competing employer to attract them —  just like you would a customer.” 

New technology and advanced analytics play a central role in this new landscape, but for Charles, they are a means to an end: 

“It’s about balancing reporting and analytics, and using the best solutions to run efficiently, but also to give a memorable experience to everyone that you engage with.”

Click here to continue learning about talent acquisition strategy.

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