How HR Leaders Impact The Candidate-Employee Experience

Employee experience is a team sport. But without the right leadership, it can end up looking more like a game of hot potato. Responsibility to engage, serve and understand employees gets flipped from person-to-person, landing on whomever is closest to the matter at hand.

It’s neither strategic nor sustainable that way, and it’s nearly impossible to measure and improve.

You’ve seen it before: Recruiters qualify the people, managers hire the people. HR kicks off onboarding. IT gets equipment and access ready. Training tells them which courses to take. HR returns for a voided check and one more “sign here.” Team lead shows them how to log into Slack; other team members tell them where the bathroom is. But no one explains the coffee machine until Kelly from sales walks in and recognizes the struggle.

And this is just day one of the experience!

Hot potato employee experience isn’t so because there’s a lack of process. It happens because there’s a lack of strategy. That’s why HR leadership is so important.

But first, what’s employee experience?

Employee experience is often mistaken as something you do as an employer or HR team. But it’s not about you. Employee experience is how a person feels about the work they do, where they do it and how they’re supported, from the very first contact as a candidate until they walk out on their last day.

It’s emails, texts and interview invites, meetings, onboarding, computing power, diversity, inclusion, watercooler chats, how capable their manager is, professional development, filing complaints, safety, company announcements, benefits, quarterly reviews, surveys, awards, potlucks, exit interviews and how good the coffee is out of that coffee machine.

So, is candidate experience different than employee experience?

In name and timing only. That’s the way we see it.

Candidate experience is the collective interactions a job-seeker has with a recruiter or employer across the hiring process, from sourcing and recruiting through interviews, offer negotiation (or rejection) into onboarding. It’s how they feel about your company, the work they hope to do there and how they’re supported across the hiring process. Sound familiar?

Employee experience is the next stage of candidate experience. Thanks to employer brand, it’s a continuum. And none of it happens by accident.

Employer brand shows (it doesn’t simply tell) people what to expect from your organization as a place to work. It sets and manages expectations through consistent messaging and purposeful experiences, from the first time a candidate lays eyes on your brand. Consider employer brand the backbone of candidate/employee experience.

During the candidate experience, your employer brand makes promises about who you are as a company and what you stand for. So, it’s essential that your employer brand is an authentic expression of your organization’s culture, mission and attitude. Your new hires will expect those tenets of your employer brand to be constants when they cross from candidate status to employee.

The candidate-employee experience continuum requires strategy — and HR leadership.

Organizations with employee experience strategies realize up to 3x higher profit growth than companies just winging it.

Harvard Business Review explains that “part of this growth is due to lower operating margins stemming from employees being more innovative in how they work, but lower employee turnover also contributes measurable savings.”

Reasons to invest in experience make dollars and sense.

Three steps to let candidate and employee experience drive HR strategies

Today’s HR leadership has the opportunity obligation to build HR strategy with customer experience (CX) best practices at its heart.

HR’s customers are, of course, candidates and employees. So, new operating models need to be built around how, when -and- why these customers engage with HR to get the services they need. Not simply how services are offered to them.

We’ve outlined three steps to help HR leaders harness CX best practices and build experience-driven HR strategies for the future of work.

1. Research and feedback loops

Disruptive brands, like Apple, AirBnb and Amazon, didn’t revolutionize the way we live through magic or guessing. They asked people. They collected feedback. They tested hypotheses. And they repeat the feedback loop to continually innovate and get better.

The same can (and should) be done for your employee experience.

Even if feedback on your current employee experience is bad news, you’ll never know how to improve, how to stop the bleeding of employee churn or devastating morale if you don’t ask. Make it a habit. You can automate check-in and feedback emails as part of candidate and employee engagement workflows or even tap into conversational bots to ask opinions from your HR intranet website. Quick and regular polls can help keep a pulse on employee sentiment. Thoughtful surveys can be planned across a year and automated as part of an engagement cycle, too.

One action step to get started: Implement four surveys this year. One during candidate experience, one after new hires’ first 90 days, one following specific HR interactions, one survey 3 months before next-year planning begins.

Each of these anonymous surveys should be 1-3 brief questions (the planning survey can be five). Build these surveys to help you understand how employees feel about the experience, what went well and how it can be better. No dissertations necessary. Aim to take no more than five minutes of your HR customers’ time.

Over the course of a year, these small surveys will add up to enough experience-based data to set strong goals for the next year.

2. Set SMART goals

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive. It’s easy to say we want to “get better” at delivering a cohesive candidate and employee experience. But what does better mean? How will you know you’ve arrived?

Two places to start when setting these goals: a) business goals — what talent, operational or functional business goals will HR contribute to this year? b) that research and feedback from #1, above.

Experience-based feedback not only helps HR leaders understand employees’ needs, but can help establish metrics for success and prioritize initiatives. It can also help you discover ways to engage your workforce to achieve business goals and attract more qualified talent.

One action step to get started: Create a small group brainstorm to imagine how success can be measured when it comes to candidate and employee experience. Don’t just stick to HR and recruiters. Invite at least one candidate and 2-3 employees from different experience levels, departments and tenures with the company.

Discuss what an optimal candidate and employee experience looks and feels like to them (remind them: it’s different for everyone). Then work together to identify 3-5 metrics that can help identify where the experience stands today and how you can build toward success over 3, 6 and 12 months.

3. Design experiences and iterate

To start, you’ll need to map your current candidate and employee experiences. Keep in mind, as noted above, different people have different experiences. That’s OK. They should! You’ll want to keep in mind how HR can meet them where they are when paths diverge.

For instance: digital transformation has made paperwork easier for HR to process and faster for many people to fill out. But not everyone. Getting feedback from employees with physical or visual impairments can help you learn how to make digital processes more accessible for all of your employees.

To that end, technology itself isn’t a strategy. Efficiency isn’t inherent in going digital. HR leaders today need to look at candidate, employee -and- HR needs and then see how automation, full or self-service interfaces, chatbots, AI and other innovations can unlock value and efficacy in their processes.

Success here depends on identifying the right-sized solution that will help your HR operation grow and scale with business and workplace evolution.

One action step to get started: Map your current candidate and employee experiences. Go deeper than first-day paperwork. What does benefits education look like? How does an employee file a complaint? Whom do they ask for a raise? Where can they get training to be better at their jobs? How do I hire more people for my department? Plot the employee’s course from having the question and being satisfied with the result.

Using the SMART goals you established in step 2, review your experience maps to pinpoint how you will measure your performance. Identify who will collect the data and report on it. Get clear on when you’ll check in and put that data to work.

That’s where iterating helps. Your candidate and employee experiences probably aren’t perfect. And if they are, they won’t stay that way if you don’t continually improve and grow with the changing landscape of work, candidate and employee needs. Use regular check-ins to measure your progress and continue to tweak your formula for delivering better experiences.

Set goals, measure performance and meet expectations

Candidate experience is a powerful thing. It will make or break a person’s impression of your organization, whether they want to work there or ever refer qualified candidates for other jobs.

Above all that, candidate experience sets an expectation.

This is how this company makes me feel. This is how I’ll feel when I work there. This is how my utterly talented friends will feel if I refer them, too.

But you have to live up to that expectation. That’s the power of employee experience.

Deliver bolder experiences

Curious how your HR team can deliver bolder candidate and employee experiences while realizing unprecedented levels of efficiency?

The WorkLLama platform supports each phase of candidate and employee experience from a single platform. It brings together all of your touchpoints, contacts, workflows and data to give HR leadership and team members:

  • Visibility into performance and progress
  • Analytics on what’s working and how to optimize
  • Power to send messages, surveys, polls and alerts
  • AI-driven workflows and chatbot that get smarter with every interaction
  • Ability to deliver holistic experiences from a single platform

Schedule a demo to see how WorkLLama integrates with your HCM, automates cross-channel engagement (including conversational chatbot) and grows your talent pipeline with viral referral capabilities.

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