5 Ways Employers Can Prioritize People in 2021

Make 2021 the year to focus on people. 

Organizations that survived 2020 have likely done so because they invested in taking care of their people. Now, as vaccines are distributed across the globe, people will soon begin to feel safe to return to the workplace, stores, and even travel again. Employers are already thinking about how their employees will return to work and/or how to ramp up hiring. 

As you further develop your 2021 people strategy, here are five ways employers can prioritize people and ensure they are set-up for success:

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and candidates   

To prioritize people, you need to start with understanding their experiences. Taking the time to understand what that journey is like for candidates and employees can result in immediate business impact. This means forgetting about the processes they are put through and, instead, focusing on experiences they are having. It means replacing the idea of a hiring funnel with thinking holistically about the full employment lifecycle.

employment lifecycle model
The holistic employment lifecycle

When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are better equipped to understand what they experience and how they feel during those experiences. It shifts your mindset to better adjust challenges and frustrations. It allows you to create a more positive experience—one that elicits the emotions, like respect and feeling valued, that help a person make the decision to accept a job or stay with an organization.

Ask your candidates and employees what they want 

Here at exaqueo, we ground our work in research because we know it delivers a full picture of who candidates and employees are. We know there are stories and experiences never truly captured in an employee engagement survey or exit interview. It’s why our clients value bringing in an unbiased, third-party to conduct confidential research. But, even if your organization doesn’t have the budget to bring in outside consultants, that’s not an excuse not to listen to your people. 

Broad strokes data, trends and generalizations, and boardroom assumptions cannot get at the heart of your unique culture and your people. Investing in an approach, tool, or trend just because another talent competitor is doing it, doesn’t mean it will work inside your workplace. The fact is: organizations that listen to what’s inside the hearts and minds of their people make smarter business decisions. Conducting feedback sessions and creating safe spaces for real conversations with your people is the insightful, primary research every organization needs. Asking and listening to your people is the best way to make their priorities your priorities. 

Focus on the moments that matter in your employment experience 

The “moments that matter” concept has been around in consumer marketing for some time. Known as “moments of truth,” these are the key steps in a customer’s experience that lead them towards purchasing a product. As a firm that takes a strategic, consumer-based approach to our work, we’ve been some of the earlier pioneers of the moments that matter in the candidate experience. In HR and employer branding, the moments that matter are still catching on for some organizations. According to Gartner, only 16 percent of HR functions are experimenting with a ‘moments that matter’ approach.

Don’t feel compelled to focus on the same moments as your competitors or what you, as an HR leader, thinks matters to candidates and employees. The best way to remove assumptions is to go straight to the source and ask. Do research and identify the moments that actual matter to your people. This will enable you to take action on improving the employment experience—elevating those moments from satisfying to engaging to captivating

Communicate like a real human being

There’s no denying that technology has made the lives of HR and recruiting professionals easier. With automated systems that pre-screen candidates, deliver communications, and schedule interviews, it’s no wonder some feel their jobs could be replaced by automation.

But there’s a dark side to automation, especially when it comes to communicating with people. 

Consider how you feel when making a phone call to a customer service center and you get the automated voice asking you to tell it your problem. If you’re like many of us, you just keep pushing zero or saying ‘speak to a representative’ until you get to an actual person. That frustration is no different from what candidates feel when going through most application processes.

The automated email, thanking them for applying, drains all excitement and (sometimes) hope of getting that job. Differentiate your organization by communicating like a real human being, even if it's sent from an automated system. Personalize it with the candidate’s name or include contact information, for a real person, the candidate can reach out to—anything that helps them feel like someone is there.

Be authentic and you’ll have no competition 

At exaqueo, our mantra is: if you’re authentic, you have no competition. This couldn’t be more true than it is today. People are tired of fake news and false advertising. They want transparency, accountability, and authenticity. Whether the message is about gender equity, social justice, employee benefits, or layoffs, we’ve seen the best outcomes when organizations, in particular their leaders, are truly authentic in their message and delivery. Even when there is no update to share, it is better to communicate than remain silent. Today’s candidates and employees are smart and savvy—don’t discredit your organization by assuming people don’t want to know about the business or can’t understand it. 

We bring our Whole Self to work each day. Whether in a home office, a manufacturing plant, or a hospital, we can’t shed our personal selves when we come to work. And being your authentic self at work makes work better. Your organization is made up of processes, products, and systems, but it’s also made up of people—real people who are made of real thoughts, emotions, and actions. In 2021, prioritizing people means focusing on authenticity, communication, and moments that truly matter. Let’s make this the year to put yourself in the shoes of others, make the effort to ask your people who they are, what they value and listen—really listen—to their answers to help set organizational priorities. 

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