Buck Bond Group

Technology helps win the talent war—by strengthening workplace culture.

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I live in a rural area where billboards are rare, but the ones we have are highly leveraged by advertisers and read by much of the local community. In Fall 2021, I noticed that one of our more prominent billboards was advertising for entry-level clerks for a retail chain. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most prominent font was dedicated to a $15/hour starting salary. What was more interesting was that the billboard was updated weekly by the same advertiser. The only change they made was in the starting salary. For little more than a month, that billboard reflected the impact of the “war for talent” when it went from $15/hour to $20+/hour. A 33% increase in starting salary in such a short period is outstanding, but unfortunately a sign of our times – pun intended.

I’m sure most of us in the HR/benefits field can share examples of how the current struggle to find and keep talent is playing out in organizations. The Society of HR Management’s (SHRM) latest HR Magazine devotes many pages to describing organizations increasing wages, providing signing bonuses, offering differentiating perks and benefits, and providing greater job flexibility (which SHRM describes as “the most desired benefit.”).

Employees are continually re-evaluating their careers and leaving their jobs in record numbers. Last September’s numbers show a 3% rate   in resignations primarily among mid-career employees and those in the healthcare and technology fields. Looking ahead to a post-pandemic period, many companies have announced that employees may never need to return to full-time on-site work.

There must be more to engaging talent than higher pay and richer benefits.

While crucial in the short term to meet greater demand for talent amongst a smaller talent supply, employers must find and commit to long-term solutions. One of the most effective is building a strong workplace culture. But that’s going to be difficult when people don’t work together in office-based groups, don’t see their leaders face-to-face, and don’t keep regular hours.

Solutions must address the softer side of the employment relationship and include the company culture and Employee Value Proposition (EVP.) While re-evaluating compensation and benefits for long term impact will help counter the “great resignation,” absolute value is derived from engaged, committed, productive employees who feel like partners in the success of their employer’s mission. Every employer should strive to be an “employer of choice.”

One area that can help is HR technology.

There is an abundance of new and exciting HR/benefits technology available to all employers. We continue to see innovation being embraced as organizations invest in superior User Experiences (UX) and advanced self-service.

In a tight labor market, organizations must put their best (online) foot forward and improve efficiencies. Employee portals, enrollment systems, and other human capital management solutions must reflect the values and culture of the employer to highlight its distinct value proposition – its employee brand. The online experience (both positive and negative) shows recruits, employees, and their families a lot about the organization. Employees expect consumer-grade UX, and many organizations are moving to provide them. Every online touch reveals something about the employer. Whether a candidate’s first look at the organization’s website to the tenured employee making annual benefit elections, the employee value proposition is on display with every page view.

Further, the investments to create and maintain stellar employee online experiences can create lasting value as opposed to a short term fix like sign-on bonuses. Creating online experiences that reflect an organization’s culture is a long-term investment that will pay dividends across the employee population, their families, retirees, and managers. An organization’s HR/benefits stakeholders will appreciate and utilize online tools that connect, engage, and support them as valuable stakeholders.

Let’s look at an example.

One organization redesigned their online benefits experience to reflect better their desire to be perceived as “simple and easy,” to provide a single “version of the truth” for all benefits, and to “personalize the experience to engage users actively and drive desired behaviors.” The online experience was designed from the ground up to be a superior UX and to “nudge” into positive decision making. And rest assured, in this era of struggle to find and retain talent, the initiative included views for recruits, active employees, family members, and retirees. This initiative was no “band-aid” approach.

This new online experience has been utilized for about a year now. The results are highly encouraging. Employees visit the site an average of once per month. (Most organizations struggle to get users to a benefits site once a year for an enrollment event.) The candidate view has become so popular for recruits and recruiters that expansion and enhancement efforts are already underway. The site averages a bounce rate of about 32%, showing that nearly a third of all visits can accomplish their goal from the home page. That is a solid UX!

Shine a light on the organization’s culture.

A more straightforward way to think about this is how technology can help to shine a spotlight on an organization’s culture and EVP. While they are in the heat of battling for talent, they also have this new engagement and self-service tool that exemplifies who they are as a company. Recruiters can point to candidates to it to demonstrate see organizational uniqueness. HR and benefits teams have a new tool in their arsenal to promote and engage less frequently used benefit programs. Managers have a natural bulwark to help demonstrate organization culture.

The war for talent is here. But don’t let increases in pay and benefits be the only strategy. Promote and exhibit a unique organizational culture that shifts the dialog beyond a paycheck. Let your online HR systems portray your culture and EVP in a personal and tangible way.

Don’t let the weekly billboard change be your talent differentiator.