(reposted from Make HR Happen 5/21/2012)
No, you didn’t miss the two preceding parts of this series. They will come later. It appears that most of the discussion whirling around us is about improving the candidate experience during the recruiting and interviewing phase. I contend that Part 2 is important, but there is also a before and after picture that needs to be considered as well. The experience is not over after someone commits to accepting an offer of employment. In fact this final phase probably has more impact on the bottom line of a company than any of the earlier activities. Success or failure at this level contributes immeasurable visibility into the culture of the company and has a definite impact on the recruiting brand.
Prologue - Before delving into the guts of the issue, why is the candidate experience important in the first place? The answer: Because it is failing! I would like to quote statistical evidence to support this statement, but you only have to listen to the outcry from job seekers to know anecdotally that something is wrong. It is not surprising that the numbers are hard to pin down. In a CareerXroads survey presented by Gerry Crispin in 2010 only 5% of those surveyed had looked at a sampling of all candidates and only a little more than half, 59.3%, conducted focus groups of new hires. Various other resources estimate that up to 75% or more of candidates never get any confirmation that their resume is in the system and they don’t know how to get feedback. Roughly 25% of all candidates interviewed relate that the time for receiving feedback is too lengthy. The report on the 2011 Candidate Experience Award (Everyone should download a copy of this report!) confirms that even companies submitting their processes for review admitted that they were not collecting data from rejected candidates. Not surprisingly, the perception of over 40% of rejected candidates was that they did not even receive as much as an automated email reply. How does this happen when so many HR professionals claim to be candidate advocates? The cynical side of me suggests that it is the same superficial do-gooder feel-good bandwagon syndrome that dooms so many other programs. Unfortunately, sitting around the HR campfire singing Kumbaya rarely works, but we are supposed to believe in a cause simply because it is “the right thing to do” without any supporting logic or data to fuel improvement.
Traditionally the term “candidate” morphs into something else after an offer of employment, but the black hole of data darkness doesn’t stop there. Examining this part of the process from the perspective of various stakeholders in the situation gives plausibility rather than emotion to form a conclusion. Each stakeholder in the process needs to be analyzed relative to their degree of interest and influence as it relates to a new hire in the company.
Community – The economic and environmental impact of the company on the surrounding community goes without saying, but it may seem at first to be a stretch when talking about the candidate experience. Actually it goes far beyond the local area. Employees live in the community and talk about their work experiences with their neighbors, family and friends. The culture of a company determines how seriously each employee takes their role as company ambassador at home or in their travels. Communication of company values and responsibilities is not just a training exercise. It gives an employee a cloak of influence that they wear home with them every night. Community interest and influence may be only at “moderate” level unless the experience of the employee causes an attitude shift that affects company and product perceptions and sales. This stakeholder may amplify positive or negative feelings of the employee based on past history. They wield significant influence over the company's brand image and revenue.
Company – Obviously, the former candidate/now employee was hired to make a meaningful contribution to the business effort. The cost analysis to determine the need for this position is in the budget not only for salary but for fringe benefits which could be an additional 50% of base salary or more. The ROI on this investment is not a guess. Including cost of hire data figures into the expense of running a business, but the cost of a bad hire is not. When things go wrong they can go wrong catastrophically with not just a duplication of the hiring cost but also the unanticipated loss of productivity. Proper onboarding and orientation (two different and distinct activities) can be an insurance policy against loss of a valuable employee. While more difficult to measure, there is also an undeniable cost to the business when the reputation of products and services is tarnished by disgruntled employees or former employees. At this time in the evolution from job seeker to job holder the script for the stakeholder message is clear: “Welcome to the team and our team is best because [insert reasons here].”
Management – The hiring manager or new supervisor of an employee has a greater stake in the success of the integration of new talent than most other stakeholders. As a direct player in the selection, interviewing and hiring process, certain expectations were communicated to and by the candidate. This dialog is now part of the script for success and hopefully was not glossed over by either party. In any case, it is never too soon to rekindle the pre-hire discussion to make crystal-clear the objectives and deliverables of the job. When an employee fails, in the eyes of many it is a signal that the manager has failed. The relationship between the output of this department and parallel boxes on the organization chart needs to converge into each other or it could be a domino effect bringing all of them down. Conversely, when the star player is in the game it raises the performance of all players. It is important to find strengths in new hires and understand how to employ them for mutual benefit.
Co-workers – These stakeholders are all around the new hire. It is in the nature of most people to be cautiously optimistic about a new person entering the team’s inner circle, but if left up to individual preferences the results can be unpredictable. Immediate integration requires immediate introduction, interaction and immersion. Since food seems to be the universal catalyst for conversation, an informal breakfast on a new hire's first day is a low stress ice breaker. Orchestrating periodic semi-social interaction between the new hire and co-workers, such as working lunches, gives a boost to the usual natural selection process by focusing on common goals and objectives without the appearance of seeming contrived. The fact that most fellow employees were not involved in the selection of their new teammate is often overlooked. A hasty walk-around introduction that interrupts the busy workflow can be an irritant rather than helping the new employee to adapt. Meetings which involve sharing mutual ideas and interests on a project basis can break the ice and foster a spirit of innovation and cooperation.
Former Candidate/Now Employee – The new hire experience can be daunting even for the most outgoing personality. Day 1 should not be a totally blind experience but one that takes knowledge provided since the offer acceptance and takes it to the next level. A well organized and fully integrated onboarding program goes a long way to dispel any feelings of “buyer’s remorse” after hire. Immediate, continuous and ongoing reinforcement of the employment brand is critical since each person brings a piece of their former life into the new one. The employee’s circle of influence includes former co-workers, family, friends and potential employee referrals to join the team. Employment decisions are not made in a vacuum so involving family members in the new experience works wonders to head off any bad feelings when long hours or travel may be involved. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child and in all likelihood you just hired the mayor of that village.
Recruiter– Both in-house and third party recruiters may be stakeholders in a successful onboarding experience. Communication is the key to success. There will be a myriad of other people involved in a new hire’s work life, but somehow the relationship built with the recruiter is the tool that brought them to this point. A phone call, follow-up email, coffee or lunch will show that they were not just another item crossed off the to-do list but a genuine personal relationship. Continuing beyond Day 1 does not replace the significance of other stakeholders, but a new internal resource having external connections widens the sphere of influence of the recruiting brand. Future successes in hiring will be influenced by the message that each new hire broadcasts through their network.
Stakeholders will have varying degrees of influence over the culture, but immediately reinforcing a positive environment to a new hire is statistically significant to employee retention. In an article on Organizational Culture and Employee Retention researcher John Sheridan reports that new employees stayed voluntarily for 45 months in the culture emphasizing interpersonal relationship values and 31 months in the culture emphasizing work task values. It is logical to extrapolate that the interpersonal relationship begins with the earliest contact with a candidate. Building the foundation for employee retention begins with that first phone call or networking contact and continues throughout an employee's career with the company.
Next: The Candidate Experience – Part 1: Sourcing and the Thrill of the Chase
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