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Dynamic Careers Versus Jobs

By Elaine Orler

A year ago, we had no concept of what would be happening in our world today. The impacts of COVID and social injustices have put our entire world on hold and onto a completely different trajectory than any of us could have predicted. Most companies have moved or shifted the way in which they are delivering business today. This has meant huge impacts on how we deliver in talent acquisition and what we’re doing to support our business organizations and redefine and improve the candidate experience. 

We started the year with a mindset of running-to, where our hiring and recruiting efforts were much more specific. We were desperately sourcing for great candidates that we could leverage to push us ahead of the competition, deliver maximum results, and make our workplace hum with productivity and successes. Some organizations are still in a running-to state. This includes those organizations that became essential providers and needed to ramp up teams in a very unsafe and insecure environment, unsure of whether they were going to be successful or not. 

But we’ve also seen many organizations moving toward a cost-containment strategy – how do we salvage, bridge, hold onto what we have? In other words, a running-from mentality. More and more companies have had to carry out mass layoffs or furloughs – perhaps you have been impacted by one of those or had to help others in the organization go through that impact? 

Shifting the Conversation

Our candidates, too, are facing these same impacts. The impact they have been addressing is one that directly relates to their personal, physical, and lifestyle needs. We are no longer thinking about esteem or belonging when we talk about a career, but things like safety and physiological needs, the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This challenges us to think about how we can create a positive experience for candidates even in the midst of the chaos around us. How can we better address the challenges they are facing in the way we’re recruiting them for opportunities within our business? Are we changing our dialogue to talk more about the financial stability of our organization? Are we changing our dialogue to be celebratory about a new opportunity rather than the risks associated with it? Are we talking about the safety and the protocols that our companies and organizations have put into place to ensure their work environment will protect them from any other kinds of impacts? 

We must shift the conversation and the language that we use in TA to focus on how best to address candidates’ needs. Despite our current economy, we need to hold the same level of excitement and intensity that we had when we were in a growth economy. We need to celebrate those that we are hiring, the opportunity for them within the organization, and their ability to change the world. 

Three Areas for Impact 

What candidate experience do you pose to your candidates today? A statistic from the end of April and early May, though taken early at the onset of COVID, showed 77% of candidates were very/somewhat likely to believe that they were going to get their job or be rehired by their employers. The first great opportunity as talent acquisition professionals to impact this audience in a direct way is being an advocate for these candidates. Do you have access to know who was laid off, what their skills and their values and their attributes were, and how best to reapply them to new opportunities? Are you tied into what was happening with the furloughs of your candidates in order to make sure that you could be part of building the bridge to bring those people back to your organization? 

A second area of impact we can have is with the pay gap between women and men, which has a more significant impact on women of color. As talent acquisition professionals, we know what the salaries are when positioning for offer letters as well as how to raise the flag when things are not fair and equitable. As companies begin to hire again, we have a great opportunity to make sure that we’re compensating fairly across the board, even in a tight economy.

A third area of impact we can have is with the gig worker. Those working variable types of jobs, or the 1099 worker. With one-third of gig workers being over the age of 55, that is a career direction. Are we institutionalizing these resources into our organization so that we’re gaining the knowledge and expertise that they’ve acquired over their career? Do we know how to recruit these kinds of workers into our organization in the status that they would prefer in order to bring about that kind of career growth and projection? 

Careers, Not Jobs 

It’s time to focus on recruiting for a candidate’s career within our organization rather than for a job. Do we expect candidates to stay in that single position we’ve hired them to forever? Do we foresee that they’re going to want a promotion, lateral, or change? As we hire, are we considering how the candidate’s experience, interests, and abilities support future mobility or succession planning? Take a step back from the requisition and think more broadly about how it connects and integrates with what’s happening in the organization. Do we understand how the requisitions being opened and the work being delivered ties into specific workforce or talent plans? We now have the time to get involved in those areas within the organization to better recruit the right types of talent and to re-recruit those who may have been furloughed or laid off, bringing them back to the organization as quickly as possible.

Similarly, why is it that more often than not internal employees have to self nominate or express interest when we have such a huge sourcing pool and a talent community within our employees? The norm is to hinder employees from looking at how their careers can progress outside of the direct promotion or direct ladder hierarchy. Proactively sourcing internal candidates for opportunities is better for the business overall, and it’s part of the career journey and the career path. How do we re-assign employees to the work that needs to be done within the organization to create that career path and journey? Further, while we seem to focus on the employee hire, there are so many other badge types that operate within our organization – consultants, temporary, contractors, and contingent workers. How often do we source these talent types, and understand what skills and values they bring to our organization? 

Shaping the Candidate Journey

We have the opportunity to partner with candidates to help shape and redirect their career trajectory. Will you take on the total talent assignment model and look at what it means to be recruited regardless of badge type? What might it take to bring in contingent and gig workers and to manage those types of talent through your organization? Will you make internal mobility more successful by taking internal candidates, including those that might be furloughed, and finding ways in which they might expand within the company? At a minimum, we have the responsibility to improve the candidate experience and ensure that we’re celebrating candidates and their journeys while treating each and every one of them with respect.