• March 24, 2020
  • Human Approach and talent recruitment

It’s a well-established stereotype that large-scale companies are about as approachable as a concrete wall. The clichés say it all: Those who “sell out” to work for the “man” become corporate cogs, dedicating their working lives to the daily grind.

The language we’ve assigned to corporate work brings to mind gray cubicles, professional drudgery and drab cultures. Larger enterprises have a reputation for offering excellent salaries and poor experiences -- and for some, the tradeoff might not be worth it. For all their perks and benefits, corporations’ lack of approachability may prevent company recruiters from accessing the top-tier talent that should, by all rights, be within their reach.

Companies of any size that believe salary to be their main selling point are missing the full picture. A 2016 survey conducted by HR consulting firm Korn Ferry polled more than 1,000 professionals about their job searches. It found that the top reason candidates chose one role over another was company culture. Career progression was second in importance, while salary rested firmly in third place.

So what can companies do to compete beyond dollars and cents?

It’s not all about the Benjamins

Money isn’t the be-all, end-all motivator we think it is. In fact, the 2018 Betterup Report found that candidates would take a pay cut of up to 23% -- or $21,000 a year -- if it meant they could be in a role with “meaningful work.” Researchers also noted that employees who found their work “highly meaningful” tended to take fewer days of paid leave, put in more time per week and stay at their jobs longer than those who didn’t.

In short, talented candidates might see the cold inaccessibility of corporate stereotypes and take a significant pay cut to work for a company they feel, correctly or not, has a more welcoming and rewarding environment.

Given all this, it’s clearly a company’s prerogative to break free of stereotypes and present a welcoming, warm and meaningful exterior to potential hires. Some leaders might hesitate; after all, the process could require a complete overhaul of their recruiting and onboarding processes. However, the sheer potential for productive hiring speaks for itself -- humanizing hiring protocols is a necessity, not a luxury.

1. Bring real employees into the recruitment conversation.

In the age of social media, authenticity is everything. Candidates can recognize HR reps’ canned answers and sort actors’ smooth lines from the less polished testimonials of real employees. Sleek corporate hiring videos have lost their allure for job seekers, who prefer insights that feel unedited. A study conducted by LinkedIn found that candidates tend to trust a company’s employees three times as much as they do the company itself when it comes to providing an accurate depiction of the working environment.

That said, companies might be understandably hesitant to encourage candidates to talk to employees without supervision or guidance from HR. However, companies can integrate existing frameworks to warm the early stages of the hiring process without placing an undue burden on employees or opening the company up to unnecessary risk.

One example comes from Altru Labs, a startup that aims to humanize the hiring process by helping companies highlight real staffers’ voices via employee-created and company-approved videos. The topics of the videos vary based on a given company’s needs, but they seek to answer common questions, offer personal testimonials and provide explanations of roles.

Altru Labs’ founder, Alykhan Rehmatullah, explains it’s a natural extension of what employees are already doing. “People have these selfless conversations all the time,” he says. “How often have you taken a few minutes out of your day to help a younger sibling or friend prep for an interview? This isn’t a new idea -- it’s a new way of structuring it.”

2. Create an interpersonal relationship-focused onboarding process.

But it’s not time to get comfortable yet -- the welcoming authenticity a company presents can’t disappear immediately after an interview. A sudden lack of care or attention could leave candidates and new hires feeling adrift, deceived and unable to join the culture and community that had been so effectively dangled before them during the hiring process.

Companies need to weave an interpersonal element into their hiring and training protocols -- and unfortunately, sending a cursory “Application received” email won’t cut it. Candidates have to feel important -- while you’re interviewing multiple options, so are they. Stephanie Tan, recruiter at workflow automation company Mixmax, says automation tools can keep the lines of communication open, even when your focus has turned elsewhere.

She says salespeople are constantly prospecting, and recruiters and hiring managers should view their roles the same way. “Carefully craft your outreach emails in a way that will resonate with your candidate. If they’re in IT, the content will be different in tone and delivery than if you were reaching out to a marketing candidate. Think ahead, and leverage the use of email automation and templates to speed up this process.”

3. Build a mentorship program.

To build on that positive start, business leaders should invest in creating and maintaining mentorship programs for new hires. An effectively designed mentorship program offers several benefits for new employees, mentors and companies alike. Research indicates that around 80% of learning occurs via informal channels; therefore, relationships between mentors and mentees could help new employees learn their responsibilities and begin performing at a high level sooner than they would by clicking through a presentation.

The relationship could be beneficial for the mentor and the company as well; according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, people who mentor newer colleagues tend to enjoy greater job satisfaction and commitment to their employers than those who don’t. These effects can ultimately lead to better employee engagement and, by extension, productivity.

Intel stands as a case study for how companies can successfully utilize mentorship programs. When a new employee joins the company’s ranks, HR matches her with an in-person or virtual mentor by assessing her skills and interests. The relationship typically lasts for three months and has a twofold purpose: first, to bring the employee into the company fold; and second, to provide new employees with a mentor who can teach them the skills they want to learn. The latter empowers new employees to set a firm path for professional development, a selling point for job candidates.

In today’s job market, talented employees flock to companies that offer warm cultures and interpersonal support. Companies big and small need to humanize their approach to talent acquisition and onboarding. If they don’t, they may find themselves struggling to make top-tier hires -- and wondering when, exactly, it was that they became every candidate’s last choice.