In my last post, I mentioned Improved Experience, a company offering a service that I think is invaluable to employers. It supports employer branding, which is incredibly important. It recognizes that the ultimate measure of your employer brand is no more and no less than what candidates think it is. (A point lost on many companies, even those who recognize the importance of employer branding and spend a lot of money on it.) Finally, their service helps make your employer branding efforts measurable.
I figured the best way to further explore Improved Experience's unique services was to talk to them. Following is a recent interview with Alise Cortez, PhD, and Claudia Faust, two of the founding partners.
Tell me a little about your background, how and why it led to starting up ImprovedExperience.com?
Alise:The business concept was born of Claudia's brain. When she shared the idea with me about a year ago and asked if I had any interest in toying with it, I couldn't resist. I have been in recruiting since 1998 and with an earlier background in consultative sales have always understood the importance of the candidate perception in the recruiting process. After all, not only are candidates potential employees of a company, they are also potential customers who consume the company's products. Whether or not they are hired by the business, they still wield an incredible amount of influence over that company's success because they tell other people about their all of their experiences. It's critical to know how they feel about your company and what they're saying.
Claudia:I've been recruiting since 1995, and feel fortunate to have participated in a variety of recruiting environments - from executive search, to contract placement, to corporate. My last role in a corporate setting was as a recruiting manager for T-Mobile USA in Seattle; the company was in wild, rapid growth while I was there, and there were no safety belts for the ride. It was during this time that I really began paying attention to two primary drivers for Improved Experience: how to understand job seeker perception as an employer, and how to better articulate recruiting results back to the business. Improved Experience is more than just a tool I wish I'd had as a manager; it's an expression of my belief that perception is reality for the individual, and that understanding the perception of others is the foundation of all great relationships.
Give us a little bit of perspective here. In the grand scope of employer branding, where does your product/service fit?
Claudia: Funny thing about employer branding; it's a bit like a handshake where the employer says, "Hi, I'm fabulous," and the job seeker says "wow - I want a fabulous job!" The problem is that there is a disconnect between candidates and employers when it comes to feedback. So employers interact with job seekers with the best of intentions but no real understanding of how their message is being received. Candidates and employees, on the other hand, have lots to say about painful job searches - but rarely get heard by the people who could generate positive change in the companies they try to connect with. Improved Experience simply closes that loop, and in the process we give companies a fundamental understanding of how they are perceived as employers. This means that they can strategically plan, execute and measure the brand that they want representing the business on the street.
Alise: Further, in a tangential way, Improved Experience contributes to positive employer brand by virtue of a company simply employing our services. By giving candidates an opportunity to participate in a survey from Improved Experience - a company they've retained for that one purpose only - our clients are telling candidates about their priorities. They are saying "your interaction with us and your perceptions of us as a result are important." And this subtle message positively enhances employment brand.
What's the payoff - succinctly, what do you offer employers?
Claudia: Improved Experience captures perceptions of people at all stages of the employment life cycle, and helps companies to understand the link between those perceptions and better business performance. Our flagship product is called Get Better Hires (GBH), which focuses on candidate experience. GBH is a patent pending, online "feedback portal" with two distinct components: an automated survey tool for job seekers, and a business intelligence tool for the company. We balance the job seeker's need for anonymity with the company's need for actionable information in some very unique ways. For the employer, this means a comprehensive view of company culture, pay and benefits, job opportunities and other relevant topics -plus a chance to slice and dice the feedback, and consistently benchmark performance against other companies competing for the same talent.
Alise: Improved Experience is the mouth piece for candidates, whose microphone is aimed back at the very companies who have requested the feedback and desperately need to know its content.
Let me play devil's advocate here. With the exception of the small percentage of job seekers who they would want to hire, why should an employer care what job seekers think as a whole?
Claudia: Well this is a brilliant argument for the omniscient - those who know long in advance the precise identity of each person who will be hired to a business. For the rest of us, the process of attracting, selecting and retaining talent is a bit more complex; we don't really know who we want to hire until we get to know them. So making the case that experience only matters for some is more than a little short-sighted: you don't know who you're disengaging until it's too late - and in this day and age of viral networking, you don't know who that person knows, either. It is a dangerous game to play. This reality is merely compounded when supply and demand for talent shifts toward the candidate side; suddenly a company finds itself in the position of working harder to bring the same talent onboard. The ramifications of this go straight to the bottom line; efficiency saves resources, which impacts profitability. The most compelling argument for caring about the perceptions of the entire talent pool is summed up in these four words: right of first refusal. This means that regardless of the candidate's relevance for hire in a specific position, you have provided an experience that gives your company the right to say "no thanks" before the candidate does. In fact, the candidate's experience is so good that you've turned them into a friend - and friends become good referral sources in the recruiting realm. It is a circular argument.
Alise: I couldn't agree more.
The "war for talent," we've been told, is coming - and businesses need to make significant changes to effectively compete for talent. Where does your product/service fit into that?
Alise: Some companies are already doing so many things right when it comes to competing in the "war for talent," and it's interesting that those companies have been some of the first to show an interest in our products and services as a way to make themselves even stronger competitors. At the same time, we've had occasion to speak with other companies who are only just beginning to take notice of their recruiting strategies but know they need to start somewhere.
Claudia: Whether or not you choose to call it a war, the laws of supply and demand for talent are being enforced on a global playing field today. We compete for talent, of course - but why? So that our products and services generate revenue, market share, return to the investors. Technology has made it possible for business to compete without borders for customers; that competition shapes strategy, which drives growth, and ultimately propels hiring - hence we need the very best talent available to feed the curve. The old model of hiring isn't quite fitting the new environment. So is change necessary to keep up? If you want to stay in business it is. If perception is reality for job seekers, then it follows that they will make choices about working somewhere based on what they believe is true about that employer. By helping companies to explore how they are seen by the talent they attract and hire, we help them use their resources most efficiently when fixing broken processes, creating or improving outreach programs, and articulating employer brand. It is again a circular argument.
Clearly the point of your product/service is that each employer has its own unique issues to address. But if I asked you for one universal piece of advice, based on what you've learned in working with a variety of employers what do you have for us?
Claudia: Simply this: If you break the hiring equation into its most basic elements, both parties are just trying to make a good decision - to answer, in effect, "How does this relationship meet my needs?" Transparency with job seekers is the next great competitive differentiator for talent, because it sends the message that you think about what's in it for your talent, too. This builds trust with those you want working for your business, and trust impacts retention. There is no perfect place to work - just places to work that are perfect for the talent they keep.