Transitioning from Reactive Recruitment to Proactive Attraction

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The world of employer branding is changing. In the past the field has more or less used a one-size-fits-all approach of selling and broadcasting, mass-market appeal, attracting applications in volume, and seeing big numbers for metrics like reach, impressions, followers and visitors.

More recently the game has changed. Employer branding experts are realising that critical talent doesn’t look for jobs. Jobs look for critical talent.

To adapt to this new reality, a strategic shift is required. As an organisation, you need to be willing to:

  • Drill down on your workforce plan and narrow in on critical talent segments.
  • Segment your audience and tailor your market approach.
  • Apply deep customisation of branding and messaging within each talent segment.
  • Gain an intimate understanding of your critical talents needs, wants and habits to build a data- and insight-led attraction strategy.
  • Build and nurture talent pools and communities well in advance of your hiring needs.
  • Speed up recruitment processes to ensure you snare best-in-market talent when available.

A long and complicated to-do list, no doubt, so let’s take a closer look at how the process of such ‘proactive attraction’ might play out.

Seeing 'proactive attraction' from the talent’s perspective

To better understand the proactive attraction, let’s first lace ourselves up in the shoes of top talent.

A highly-skilled and in-demand professional begins the year in a good place, in no way considering a career change. But by mid-year they begin to feel an itch; perhaps their role is changing in a way they hadn’t expected, or their company isn’t performing well. By the end of the year, that itch has turned into action – they’re casually browsing positions and signing up for job alerts.

In the past, EB teams may have only been interested in the December version of this professional. But proactive attraction targets the June and even the January iteration; it engages at every stage of the consideration cycle, so when December rolls around (or indeed an earlier month), you’ve positioned yourself as the preferred employer.

From a content perspective, getting a job ad in front of this person in January probably wouldn’t elicit a click. An article about ‘10 awesome things [your company] is doing in AI’ (or another relevant/trending topic) however is far more likely to sell your organisation as an attractive workplace in the process.

Proactive attraction is about getting the stars to align. You need to think about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

Building and nurturing relationships with potential talent

That right place, right time, right message trifecta is built on the concept of talent pooling.

Talent pooling isn’t new, but the importance of having a separate strategy for key talent segments is only increasing in the world of EB, particularly in the most competitive talent markets, as it helps to capture leads, nurture relationships and eventually convert into applicants when the right job opportunity opens up.

Begin by mapping all the channels and touchpoints you are using, their roles and the stage that the audience would be on their journey, then work out a way to convert these leads to the next stage of the journey.

Proactive sourcing efforts come to nothing if they aren’t paired with proactive nurturing. Great effort is required to compile a talent community through sourcing, headhunting, networking and content attraction. If a nurture strategy is not in place, these sourcing efforts may in fact negatively impact your employer brand and make it harder to fill your critical roles.

By educating and nurturing these talent pools, you ensure ongoing talent pool health, keeping members warm until the right role comes up.

In its most simplistic form, nurturing could be an automated quarterly email communicating company updates and job opportunities. Greater effort generally correlates with greater effectiveness, however, so why not host meet-ups, webinars, office tours and coffee catch-ups with leaders too?

Organisations need the right technology to support this effort and enable the shift from reactive recruiting to proactive attraction. Nurturing such relationships has historically demanded huge manual effort, but smart CRM systems and automated marketing tools now make it both easier and more effective.

Measuring success and maximising ROI

In the age of data it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but identifying the meaningful proactive attraction metrics is a simple matter of applying context. I like to break these metrics into two categories:

1. Operational effectiveness measures

This information helps us to ensure that we are monitoring our marketing and nurturing efforts and feeding these learnings back into the development pipeline. (Note that these metrics aren’t designed to prove ROI):

  • Reach: Focus less on quantity, more on quality.
  • Engagement: As above.
  • Content quality: Average time on page/site, bounce rate, etc. 

2. Success measures

How well have your proactive attraction efforts translated into success? ROI is notoriously difficult to prove in employer branding, but the following metrics can paint a picture:

  • Traffic: How many eyeballs did shared content drive to your website?
  • Conversions: Registration into talent community, job applications.
  • Audience Growth: Growth in fans/followers since implementation, keeping target audiences in mind.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to track the entire candidate journey. Beginning at the initial touchpoint, through reach and engagement via social channels, the CTR to your website, and how talent subsequently searches for job vacancies. We’d track the conversion of that lead into either a talent pool registration or a job applicant, then measure quality by whether they got an interview or were eventually hired.

Such a holistic view is all but impossible right now, but it should be the long-term goal. It would be an incredibly powerful story to tell if we can start to populate just small portions of this journey.

Proactive attraction: not an option, the option

The world of employer branding is changing, and innovative organisations aren’t just changing with it, they’re leading the charge.

Reactive recruiting has never been anything more than a band-aid fix. Proactive attraction can ensure that you never have the injury in the first place.

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