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Nov 30, 2022

With talent shortages at a 16-year high and economic uncertainty looming ahead, employers are laser-focused on retaining key talent. But companies also need to acquire the skills necessary to thrive in the future. Enter upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

Upskilling and reskilling incentivize workers to remain with their current employers while developing new competencies and taking on new roles and responsibilities. In today’s talent-starved recruiting market, such initiatives benefit retention-focused employers as well as advancement-focused workers. In fact, a January Forbes article called these initiatives keys to “future-proofing” a company.

I agree — somewhat.

As crucial as they are, upskilling and reskilling on their own aren’t enough to secure a company’s future for one simple reason: People with critical skills eventually leave their employers (or sadly are laid off). Some stay longer than others, but turnover is natural and unavoidable. In the end, all but the smallest companies need to attract and onboard new talent on a continual basis. 

In addition, as a McKinsey & Company article recently pointed out, upskilling and reskilling initiatives take time to gain traction, which is “a luxury that many companies simply don’t have.”

To really future-proof their organizations, employers need to do a better job of recruiting, hiring, and retaining the right people from the start.

The “right people” means much more than just qualified talent. It means individuals who are personally aligned with your company’s mission, or at least the spirit of the mission. It means people who will find purpose and meaning in the work, even as that work evolves. Hiring these people is the real key to future-proofing your company.

Bring the Right People to Your Door (And Keep the Ones Already Inside)

Your company’s candidate experience (particularly at the initial attraction stage) is critical to future-proofing your organization because it helps you and your candidates determine whether that previously mentioned deep connection exists. If it doesn’t, you’re only hiring people for the short term at best.

We know from a decade’s worth of Talent Board research into candidate experience that people want three things from potential employers at the attraction stage:

  1. A clear understanding of your company culture
  2. Insight into your employee experience
  3. A sense of connection with your overall brand.

Everything that touches job seekers at this stage — your job descriptions, careers sites, employer branding and marketing materials, etc. — should make it crystal clear what your company is all about and how the work it offers enriches employees’ lives. 

When asked to identify the most valuable marketing content this year, company values jumped to No. 1, with 48% of candidates citing this as most important, up an incredible 109% from 2021. 

It’s clear that many people reevaluated what they wanted to do and where they wanted to do it during the pandemic, culminating in the search for aligned values. Career sites in multiple languages and company culture rounded out the top three types of marketing content.

What’s also evident again this year is that candidates wanted a high level of transparency regarding the organizations in which they were interested — especially into how companies have treated their employees during Covid and its continued impact on recruiting, hiring, and the ability to work remotely (for those who could). This insight also helps when candidates refer others to the same organizations.

Candidates also want to understand employers’ diversity and inclusion initiatives, which has increased in importance 35% since 2018. The social unrest and ongoing inequities for marginalized groups came to the forefront in 2020, and our data has shown employers investing in more D&I programs since. Those candidates who were younger (Gen Z and Millennials), females, and people of color have all had a much higher positive and fair candidate experience during the past few years in our research.

It’s important to note here that job candidates may also have an existing relationship with the companies they’re interested in when they said they began their job search. Some of these relationships may impact their final key candidate experience ratings. It’s clear that those who were current employees of the company and those who were brand advocates have the highest key ratings overall. This is interesting because of the volatile, competitive candidate market in 2022, and the fact that workers were still leaving their jobs in larger numbers. 

What’s key is that existing relationships and brand affinity impacted candidate experience for the better in 2022. This, in turn, can impact the quality of referrals that affect all B2C and B2B companies.

Of course, the remaining stages of your candidate experience still need to seal the deal. It’s vital to keep candidates engaged during application, screening and Interviewing, and offer and onboarding stages. You don’t want to lose potentially great people because of a tortuous application process, unresponsive recruiters or hiring managers, interviews that candidates perceive as unfair, or other such glitches. A poor or disjointed candidate experience at these later stages can undo all the great work you did in the attraction stage.

The Top Qualities of an Engaging Candidate Experience

Once again, our past research, as well as our upcoming 2022 Candidate Experience Benchmark Research, into the experiences of millions of candidates around the world tells us that a handful of key qualities will keep your candidates engaged through the later stages of their experiences. These qualities also differentiate the most successful and highest-rated candidate experiences from all the rest, and they’ve done so for nearly a decade:

  1. Consistent and timely communications from pre-Application to onboarding
  2. Setting timely expectations throughout and about your recruiting process
  3. Providing timely feedback to candidates — and asking them for it in return — at each stage of the process
  4. Being transparent and accountable about every aspect of your process
  5. Ensuring a high level of perceived fairness to all candidates

Make no mistake, the rampant turnover and talent shortages we’re seeing have root causes that lie beyond the candidate experience, and they still need to be addressed (e.g., fair compensation and benefits, flexible work arrangements, better work-life balance, safer work environments, etc.). However, even if employers tackle these issues, it won’t do much good if they deliver candidate experiences that repel or discourage the right talent from signing on.

By the same token, a great candidate experience won’t solve a company’s talent deficits if it’s followed by an employee experience that fosters turnover — which brings us back around to upskilling and reskilling. These initiatives are indispensable for keeping valued talent from leaving your organization. Indeed, 63% of workers who quit a job in 2021 cited “no opportunities for advancement” as the cause.

But before you worry about developing and retaining great talent, you need to attract the right talent with an open and engaging candidate experience. In the current talent market, where people are seeking deeper connections to their employers and their work, the quality of your company’s candidate experience matters tremendously.