Understanding our options is a big part of our challenge — but it’s only one part. We also need to make our buying decisions based on the effect they’ll have on other parts of the organization and on the business itself. We’ve spent the past decade or more transforming the HR function and our businesses. Naturally we need to empower these ongoing transformations through the technologies we buy, and that means keeping a few key concepts in mind as we sift through our options.
For instance, our candidate and employee experiences should be paramount concerns as we weigh our HR tech options.
It’s well-documented that poor customer service affects customer retention, referrals and potential new business. Social media has given consumers an open forum to share both good and bad product and service experiences to all who will listen. And now the same is true for job seekers; they have similar open forums and a parallel power to influence the world’s view of our brands and, in particular, other candidates’ view of our employment brands.
We ignore that power at our own risk.
Candidates Are Our Customers
For too long employers were resistant to treating candidates as the primary customer of recruiting. Job candidates today want a unique customer experience with employers they’re interested in — starting before they apply and running through the hiring process and beyond — from the humans and technologies they interact with at our companies.
Candidate experience is made up of every single interaction with a potential employer — from the pre-application stage through the various rounds of interviews to the offer and onboarding. All the tech tools and systems our companies leverage across these stages affect how candidates perceive their experiences (good and bad) and the likelihood that they’ll want to work for our companies. Technology is an integral part of all of these candidate interactions.
I’d argue that most candidates couldn’t care less about the technology stack and how the company uses it for recruitment — unless they’re in the HR tech business, that is. But if the technology causes disruption and angst in the overall experience, they sure as heck aren’t going to forget the bad experience. Nor will they forget an extraordinary experience, sharing both the bad and the great.
And share they do. Candidate experience benchmark research from the past eight years from Talent Board (the nonprofit research organization program I currently run) shows a clear trend, year after year: Nearly 80 percent of candidates will share their positive experiences with their inner circle (close friends, spouses, peers, etc.) and over 60 percent will share their negative experiences.
Why the Employee Experience Is So Crucial
Employee experience actually overlaps the candidate experience because employers today continually have to re-recruit employees to retain them. That means that however the experience ultimately manifests itself in the employees’ perceptions, it will affect their willingness to refer others to our organizations.
Talent Board candidate experience benchmark research indicates that internal candidates (current employees) are 40 percent more likely to refer others based on their experience compared with external non-employee candidates.
Analyst Josh Bersin is now focused on productivity as the true benefit of improving employee experiences. We all want to just get things done, and doing so leads to greater health, happiness and engagement at work. The fewer disruptions the better. However, our everyday communication technologies, employee HR systems and other tech tools are highly disruptive. In fact, according to Bersin research, the average company has seven different communication systems, and 70 percent of executives expect to buy more. Tech vendors are inventing them as fast as they can.
The truth is we all want technology to work for us, not disrupt us. We’re consumers and we want seamless experiences and solutions that save us time and energy, not add to the clutter we face. The same goes for employees who depend on the HR technologies we provide them to get their work done. Most midsize and enterprise organizations have multiple HR systems that employees access on some level, which really complicates their experience, especially if they have to have separate logins for each system or app.
One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s really the crux of all candidate and employee experiences — how all the interactions with people, processes and technology make them “feel” day in and day out, whether they’re applying for a job or just going about their work and trying to get things done.
Differentiating the Candidate and Employee Experiences
Candidate and employee experience are not one-size-fits-all, but we’ve had to create HR software and technologies to be scalable and, hopefully, profitable. Tech customization has been a cash cow for vendors for years, nickel-and-diming customers just to keep the system running (but not necessarily more up-to-date).
Today cloud-based software is giving more configurable freedom to HR buyers to address the candidate and employee experiences. According to HR technology analyst Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics at Sierra-Cedar, 50 percent of organizations have at least one major HR system in a cloud environment. Plus, as she wrote in her 2017-2018 HR Systems Survey White Paper, major HR tech transformations were down 26 percent in 2018 as organizations shifted strategies from basic HR technology functions to tools that will differentiate the experience of employees and provide greater insight to leaders.
HR technologies are complex and evolving, and their impact is felt in every facet of a business — especially since a big part of every business is the people who grow and sustain it. Our organizations count on us and our teams. This includes working closely with finance, IT and other functions to select, implement and maintain of all our HR and recruiting technologies.
Yes, we need to be knowledgeable experts when it comes to HR tech. And we need to think very strongly about the HR function’s needs and performance when we’re purchasing HR tools and technologies. But if we want to buy tech that’s actually going to benefit everyone it touches — and help fuel ongoing organizational transformation — then factoring in our candidate and employee experiences is every bit as critical to our purchasing decisions.