If you’ve been trying to hire over the past six months, you likely know how fierce the battle for talent is. Experienced insurance professionals are aging or opting out of their jobs in record numbers. According to the Jacobson Group, specialists in insurance recruiting and executive search, the industry will need to fill nearly 400,000 jobs over the next couple of years, and there aren't enough candidates to assume these positions. To compound the problem, the US is currently enjoying the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years.
In the war for talent, employees increasingly have the upper hand
With more opportunities to choose from and high expectations about work, employees with solid, marketable skills are scrutinizing potential employers more carefully than ever. What drives employees’ decisions about the right employer may surprise you. A recent Korn Ferry study of 1,100 talent acquisition professionals indicated that unlike five years ago, compensation (i.e., salary and benefits) is no longer the top reason why candidates choose one employer over another. Today, a company’s culture is the number one factor. Job flexibility is expected to rival that in the next five years.
No one is saying that pay isn’t important. It may help get new talent but research shows the overall impact is small, and that it’s not likely to keep good people there without making a commitment to positive culture and values and investing in improving the quality of senior management, and creating career pathways within the organization.
More than ever, employers need to know and act on the factors that make their company appealing to candidates. They have to make it easy for prospects to choose them over their competition.
In Part 1 of this column, we’ll focus on attracting candidates. In Part 2, we’ll focus on factors that positively impact employee satisfaction, commitment, and retention.
Know and show what you stand for
Culture and values matter. Much of the current research points to culture and values as the number one factor in choosing a place to work and also the most significant predictor of employee satisfaction. Whether by default or choice, every business has a culture. It is the collective beliefs, values and attitudes, and implicit rules within an organization that shape actions minute by minute, day by day. Put simply it’s “the way we do things around here.” Culture is the glue that binds an organization together.
Potential hires, whether consciously or unconsciously, are looking for every clue they can find to understand your culture. They want to know how it works in the real world, not what it might say on a wall poster or your website. When entire organizations – not just leaders but all employees – are clear about the culture and values and share compelling stories about what they look like in practice, it’s easy for employers and potential employees to see if the fit is right. If you haven't spent time articulating the core elements of your culture and your core values, it is an exercise worth doing. Netflix: Culture, Freedom & Responsibility provides an inspiring example of messaging around culture and values. If you’d like a copy of the document, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Define your Ideal Candidate Persona
Personas have their roots in marketing. If you’ve never used them before, personas clearly define your target customers, and how they think and make buying decisions. We’re adapting this proven customer acquisition tool to talent acquisition.
An Ideal Candidate Persona is the representation of your perfect hire. It describes in detail the skills and traits required for the job, an understanding of what’s typically important to these candidates, and most important, the mindset and values needed to fit within your culture. Crafting candidate personas takes energy but when used to develop hiring criteria, screen and interview prospective employees, and as data points in the final selection process, you significantly improve your results.
See your organization through the eyes of your potential employee
Quality job candidates form an impression of your organization long before they walk through your front door. They want a perspective on what it's like to work for you before subjecting themselves to the application and interview process. They use whatever means they can to determine if your company is a good potential fit for their needs. If they’ve never done business with you or don't know someone who’s worked for your organization, your website and social media will be primary sources of information. Do your pages/sites position you as a vital forward-thinking business or a company caught in a time warp? Does your website feature a career section that communicates what it’s like to work at your company, the types of positions available and how to apply?
The best talent applies when they like what they see. In a good job market, candidates don't waste their time applying to companies that aren't transparent and don't make an effort to share information with them. The more relevant content you provide online, the easier it is for them to get excited about the idea of working for you.
Have an Employer Value Proposition
Think of your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) as the answer to the question, “Why should I work for your company instead of somewhere else.” Your EVP encompasses everything that employees receive in return for their time and effort invested in their performance in the workplace. An effective EVP strikes a delicate balance between tangible rewards and intangible rewards and addresses these five areas:
1. Compensation – Salary and additional rewards such as bonuses and promotions.
2. Benefits – Paid time off (holidays, vacation and sick days), insurance, 401K, profit sharing and tuition reimbursement.
3. Career – Elements that affect employee’s career stability and a chance for its development and progress, such as opportunities for training and education, professional consultations, evaluation and feedback, etc.
4. Work environment – Factors that constitute a positive work environment such as a clear understanding of roles & responsibilities, a sense of autonomy, recognition for performance, a comfortable well-designed workspace, flexible work hours, work from home opportunities, and respect for work-life balance.
5. Company culture – A summary of the culture and values.
It helps to do a little research before finalizing your EVP. An excellent place to start is with your current employees. Concentrate on feedback from employees who are successful in your organization. Review what you’re offering now. What do your employees appreciate most, why did they choose the company, and what else could you be doing to motivate them to do their best work every day. Also go back and review your Ideal Candidate Persona. What is the salary range and type of benefits that would attract this candidate persona? What kind of career development opportunities would this candidate persona value? What is a great company culture for this candidate persona? What type of work environment would challenge and appeal to them?
Create a compelling candidate experience
Talent chooses you. One way you can positively differentiate your company is through the application process. Test how friction-free your procedure is by having someone go through it as if they are a candidate and then give you detailed feedback on the experience. You may want to have them do the same thing with several of your competitors. Here are some questions to consider in your audit:
Pay close attention to your Employer Brand
Your Employer Brand is the perception that current and prospective employees have of your business as a place to work. Every company has one whether they choose to or not.
Businesses that aren't proactive about shaping their employer brands may be losing out.
Employer branding can provide advantages. Companies with positive brands get twice as many applications as companies with negative brands. Those with poor reputations as employers pay an average of 10% more per hire.
Everything you do from the career page on your website, social media sites, listings on job search platforms, application process, and Employer Value Proposition all work to build your Employer Brand. But nothing plays a more critical role than your employees. People are far more likely to trust a company based on what its employees have to say than on what its recruitment advertising. That means that talent attraction relies far more heavily on employee engagement and advocacy. Give your employees guidance and resources on how to share what it’s like to work for you on social media and within their networks. Encourage them to tell their stories.
To get the best and brightest, companies need to up their game
If your business is going to continue to thrive, attracting quality employees needs to be as high a priority as attracting clients – especially for organizations with hard-to-hire roles like sales and in talent-tapped geographic locations. It’s essential to know what employees want from work and to create and promote a compelling Employer Value Proposition. If you’re looking to recruit recent college graduates, an engaging culture is critical. Insurance lacks the appeal of more glamorous, prestigious or public service-oriented professions. To people who have yet to experience the challenges and career opportunities the industry can offer, a winning culture can be a powerful persuader in recruiting.