Creating the Workplace Experience of the Future in 2021

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David Rice
03/03/2021

candidate experience

The decade to come presents many challenges for the workforce and companies looking to create the workplace of the future. Those challenges come in all shapes and sizes, be it a human challenge, or those driven by technology and the unpredictability of the world around us.

Whether that’s a hybrid workplace, a fully remote one or a traditional in-person setting, the transition to come will require a fair amount of empathy and patience from employers as they upend the work model we’ve known for many years. While many companies have publicly expressed their preparedness to move into a hybrid work model once conditions will allow, what that actually looks like in practice will be interesting to see.

“One of the biggest challenges many businesses are having to think about from a technology and process standpoint is the cultural shift that has to occur when you have a portion of your team working in-person and another portion working remotely,” Joe Essenfeld, Vice President of Strategy at iCIMS said. “When everyone is in the same boat working remote, it’s sort of a great equalizer with everyone having to communicate via video. Employers are really investing their thoughts and R&D budgets in making video a deeper more textured experience that can provide a more personal connection so that the culture remains intact regardless of the model you choose.”

Essenfeld’s comment was in response to a question in a session titled “2021: The Year of the Applicant” at our recent HR and Future of Work online event. The conversation was focused on a variety of issues that will be important in hiring processes moving forward, but can also be extended to focus on retaining employees.

A major concern going forward is going to be centered on the vetting process for technology and considering how those technological components integrate with one another.

WEBINAR: 2021 is the Year of the Applicant 

“There’s so much in our technology stack these days, but for me it starts with our user experience whether that’s our talent acquisition teams, HR or the candidates themselves, they’re all users,” Marie Artim, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Enterprise Holdings said. “We have to then look at the impact and value to the business. How can we show that? Is it shortening the time to hire or is it through providing access to reporting and insights and then we have to articulate the difference these things make with data.”

Artim noted that from her point of view, any technology partner Enterprise works with should be viewed as just that, a partner rather than a vendor. “The relationship piece is key,” Artim added. “A partner that understands your structure and needs allows you to have collaborative and open conversations.”

With any technology in 2021, mobile functionality is a given, or what Global HR Research’s Chief Technology Officer, Eric Higginbotham, calls “table stakes.” Where it was once optional, it’s now mandatory with Higginbotham highlighting that in 2010, 10% of the U.S. population used a smartphone. In 2020, it was 70-80%. He went on to highlight the impact this has on the talent acquisition process, with 56% of candidates using mobile devices to go through the application process in January of 2021.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years is people doing even the data entry stuff on a mobile device,” Higginbotham said. “So how does that apply to different generations? Well, with Gen Z, we see 61% of applicants using them. We want to make it easy, because it’s a high friction experience getting all of this data from candidates in a compliant and secure way, so we need to optimize that.”

Staying Focused on Culture and People

The shifting work model toward hybrid workforces presents some interesting cultural challenges as previously noted. With that come a number of people focused concerns.

“I think the big thing is prepare to be flexible because every time as organizations or as society as a whole that we’ve made assumptions during this crisis, we’ve had to revise them,” Essenfeld said. “I think this more active and frequent communication with employees and more sharing of potential career paths is a good thing. One of the biggest challenges that will come out of this is turnover. As things stabilize and people start to look at other opportunities, if they don’t have a clear path forward within the organization, they’re going to be more likely to look around.”

Essenfeld also noted the increase in recruiting beyond geographic barriers, making the hiring market more competitive for employers overall. As a result, employers have to be adaptable and help their people be resilient, something that he believes technology has made a big impact in.

All this talk of technology sometimes overpowers a major focus of how businesses operate in the future; people. In reality though, technology should be used to help support people and when it comes to recruiting, create a process that is filled with respect for candidates.

“The human part of the process is key and when we think about candidate care expectations, everyone should feel respected in the process,” Artim said. “We have an expectation within our organization that if someone applies to a position, a real person will be in contact with them within five business days, whether they are qualified or not. Some people are surprised that we do that cause it seems like that would be overwhelming, but in reality we’re using technology to support that process.”

The automation of certain aspects of recruiting process is necessary to deliver an experience that meets expectations the candidate has and that the organization has set for itself around personalization and giving their people processes a genuine feel.

READ: Recruiting Automation is Evolving to Meet Talent Acquisition Needs

That means external facing processes such as recruiting and hiring, but also internal in terms of employee engagement for hiring managers and talent acquisition teams.

Technology, Higginbotham notes, can increase transparency in processes and help decrease candidate attrition by creating consistency in communication during hiring processes that take time. Additionally, it can increase efficiency for recruiting users as they can use one optimized system that integrates with partner technology to create a streamlined experience where they can access all the data and functions they need.

“A big thing for the future is making the work easier for this audience as well,” Higginbotham said. “For the last year, this audience has been working differently, so having that mobile functionality, having the ability to give them the freedom to use whatever device they have available is going to pay off in this new world we find ourselves in.”

When we look to the future, Higginbotham is more grounded than a lot of other technology futurists. While he may enjoy a conversation about things like machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the fact is the real driver of experience right now is going to be simpler than that.

“It’s more in tighter integrations,” Higginbotham said. “I’ve worked for companies that have tried to build the entire suite of functions, but we still had integrations because there were things that we simply couldn’t focus on or that other people did better. That’s still true today for any technology vendor, so the goal is just to make our tools easier to use for everyone who is using it. Clients want to build a solution that works best for them so that there people can simply do whatever it is they need to do on whatever device they have available at whatever time of day they’re available to do it.”

Talent Acquisition: HR’s Guide For Finding the Best Talent

Talent Acquisition (TA) is more than just a strategy. It’s about creating a framework that helps an organization hire smarter. In the guide below, the HR Exchange Network explores the topic of TA in more detail. It takes a look at the current state of affairs, strategies, and what talent acquisition leaders should expect in the coming years. 

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets

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