Jason Averbook: Employee experience as a talent strategy

By: | March 6, 2020 • 6 min read
Jason Averbook is HRE’s People Side of Digital columnist. Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology have on that future. He is the co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a global consultancy helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. Averbook recently spoke at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. He can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.

Companies need talent—the right talent—in order to grow. It’s a buyer’s market. Talent is not only scarce, but candidates can afford to be picky, and they expect more than ever before. Before you consider the right talent strategy to help your business thrive in an era of disruption, consider what you bring to the table.

The Situation: Help Wanted

We’re fully employed, or nearly. Manpower’s latest study shows 69% of employers are now “struggling” to fill positions.

A recent iCIMS study confirms near-universal agreement among organizations (96%) that being on target with their hiring goals is critical to their organization’s success.

Flexible work arrangements are more norm than ever. Finding talent isn’t the only problem; offering the ability to work in the manner in which people want to work needs to be considered, too.

Artificial intelligence, robotic-process automation and all forms of intelligent automation are making human talent more available, but we’re not prepared to reskill our own people, and they don’t trust us to.

And that’s if we had a good handle on the power skills of the workforce, but we don’t. IBM’s latest study of 4,500 business leaders revealed three top skills areas CEOs now want: innovation and creativity, time management and resilience, and communication and teamwork. These fundamental business skills are the human gold left over once we’ve found operational efficiencies through intelligent automation of process-heavy jobs. Do you keep accurate inventory of those skills in your workforce? Including the extended workforce?

So, with blind spots to total talent availability and the most valuable skills they possess, we embark on the most expensive of all options when we need to buy, build or borrow people to grow the business: We set out to buy talent in a fully employed and highly competitive talent market.

We’re in a talent-shortage crisis, it’s true. Even if talent were knocking down our doors, we haven’t done the work to put them to work in the best way possible. Whether we buy, build or borrow talent, part of that investment goes to waste when we do another thing, and we’re almost all guilty of it: We bleed talent.

The Reality: Help Can Afford to Be Picky

Gig, freelance and contract work is more available than ever. In fact, the alternative workforce is becoming mainstream. The alternative workforce drives significant value for your business—or, it could, but most HR systems fail to measure it (availability, performance and skills, engagement, strategic value), like we do employees.

We live one way; we want to work that way, too. Yet the ease of doing work lags far behind the ease of everyday life when it comes to accessing information, processing tasks, communicating and collaborating, and learning and creating. Employee productivity is fueled by a frictionless workforce experience, which requires digital transformation and business adaptation when it comes to how work gets done.

Millennials don’t want to job hop—they want to care. Yet, we often stop short of ongoing relationship building, communicating an employee-value proposition beyond candidate courtship or extending our employer brand internally. Why don’t we approach talent marketing with the same level of innovation, focus and investment we do consumer marketing? “If it’s not lip service and we really believe our employees are our No. 1 customer, all facets of customer marketing apply, including building a craveable brand,” Leapgen’s own Jess Von Bank tells us. Tell your people—tell them every day—how their why connects to your organizational why. Or you’re training your competition’s next great hire.

See more from Jason Averbook HERE.

As global consumers, we’re becoming wiser, more efficient and international while demanding immediacy, impact and authenticity. Just as we’ve evolved to responsible consumerism and social causes, we want socially responsible employers and meaningful work. Unilever is seeing this in their consumer brand: Customers want locally and responsibly sourced product, ethical work practices and corporate social responsibility. More and more, our employee-customers want the same. Are these leadership principles and corporate values you stand behind, or will you send talent packing to find that elsewhere?

The Bottom Line: Help Wants More

Organizations trying to grow and thrive desperately need people, and those people are in the driver’s seat when it comes to when, how and where they want to work, what inspires them to do their best work and how they want work to feel.

Employers struggle to keep up, believing their ability to attract and retain talent relies on guerilla recruitment techniques to stand out in a sea of options. But here’s the deal: Retention is recruiting, too, and experience drives retention. We can do a better job attracting, retaining and building the talent we so desperately need to grow our business by focusing on the experience we deliver—better engaging and empowering them. Maybe we can solve the war for talent by waging it for our own.

Whether we build, buy or borrow that talent, employee experience matters. This is true at every stage of the employee journey. When it comes to attracting candidates, improving your hiring process and keeping employees satisfied, the keys to keeping employees happy and working for you are culture, leadership and opportunity. When it comes to retaining employees for the long run, the same holds true: Instill culture and values to avoid greener-grass syndrome, and keep employees from stagnating in a role too long by reskilling them. Career path them in a brave new world of smarter job profiles post-automation and AI. And include them in improving and designing their own workforce experience.

The Good News: More Pays Dividends

The experience economy demands we pay attention. Paying attention (through personalized, relevant experiences that meet employees where they are) requires data; data require technology adoption; technology adoption requires organizations adapt. It’s time to adapt toward human experience. We’ve recognized employee experience is the way to deliver customer experience. So, if we focus on making work better for people by making work about people, we’ll not only improve their experience, but we’ll make it easier for them to delight and retain our customers.

Focus on delivering a workforce experience that is as good as your candidate experience, which is supposed to emulate the customer experience. This will help you meet the expectations of an increasingly mobile, social, multi-generational and multicultural workforce who wants to care, who has options when it comes to how and where to work, and who will show their appreciation by serving your customers like only they can. In a talent-shortage crisis, double down on your own talent by doubling down on their experience.

The worst thing you can do is invest precious resources attracting new talent to an experience that won’t deliver. Get the experience right first. Let it pay dividends with your current talent and customers. And trust me—if you build it, the rest will come.

Expect employee experience and all it entails—data-driven insights and analytics, skills assessment and inventory, technology fueled by digital HR strategy and not the other way around, internal mobility and total talent marketplace—to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues at this year’s HR Technology Conference & Exposition®, Oct. 13-16, at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Follow Leapgen to join the conversation, and let us know if it’s time to get started.