For Chris Hayes, leaving nursing wasn't a tough decision. He was burnt out from COVID and seeing too many people die. Like many travel nurses, Chris was making great money. But it wasn't the employment relationship he was looking for:
"When times are tough and things are getting rough they'll have a pizza party," he says of his former hospital employer. [They say things like] 'You guys are spread really thin and we can't get new nurses but here's pizza'."
In times like this, every little thing helps. Medical practitioners are grateful for the support, and the pizza, but it doesn't change the fact: employment is a relationship. And unless the relationship is based on a foundation of commitment, it's over.
In the first part of our series, Beyond EVP, we introduced the important shift in the employment relationship. Successful employment relationships are not about fit, or give and take of benefits and compensation. Those are transactions and exchanges. They're based on a communal foundation--where you do your job because you are needed and valued no matter the role. In other words, trading benefit for benefit (the exchange) versus benefit for need (communal).
Yet we're drowning in transactional recruiting. Sure, our industry is seeing a struggle unlike any other in recent memory. It's not a war for talent, it's a war for jobs. But we've gotten desperate and there's no surprise as to why.
There are 10 million jobs open in the United States right now. That's almost double the number of open jobs at the end of 2014 when there were just over 5 million job openings in the US (the highest number since December 2001 according to FRED (the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis).
No wonder we have resorted to throwing every benefit, perk, and compensation tool we can at candidates. We're desperate. And desperation is never the foundation of a solid, long-lasting relationship.
It's time to stop reacting, and pretending recruiters are salespeople. You don't buy a job. Imagine if you treated your personal relationships that way. Rethinking our approach to employer brand--the way we brand and market the entirety of the employment experience is a great way to start. If we want to rethink the employment relationship, we have to rethink how we brand and market to attract and retain talent:
1) Employer Brand belongs in human resources, not marketing.
There is much we can learn from our colleagues in marketing, but their job is to sell a product or service, and build, strengthen, and maintain customer relationships. It's a different exercise to do this for an employment relationships--the very thing that puts food on your table, a roof over your head, and purpose to your soul. Marketers are focused on volume--they're increasing the audience, while we need to narrow down to the one person who will thrive in the employment relationship. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be involved. The employer brand has to align with the master brand. But the simple act of putting employer brand in marketing means we're devaluiing the role of human resources.
2) The term EVP needs to go.
"How do I get you in this used car today?" Value proposition has forced us to focus only on what's great, the positive attributes of a job or a company. It doesn't open the door or the hood to show the engine and rust. It also doesn't allow for the building of a relationship based on need or impact. When we offer a proposition, it becomes a transaction: 'I'll give you this epic signing bonus for joining my company now!' And we wonder why people treat jobs so fleetingly? We have trained them to do just that.
3) We must brand and market the whole of the employment relationship.
When you take a job, you're not just joining a company. It's a relationship between the employee and their work, their manager, their co-workers, and the organization. When we lean on EVP, we end up watering down employment to characteristics that become so hard to define. We can't just market growth and opportunity. We have to be clear what that does and doesn't mean for each of the relationship dimensions*. Instead of just breathlessly talking about all of the opportunity in an organization, it's better to talk about what that looks that for each dimension. Where will I find opportunity in my work day today? What are the limitations and realities to the opportunity so I can understand if this relationship is worth my time?
Worth my time--that's the sentiment we have with every relationship in our lives: our friends, our spouses and partners, and our jobs. As recruiters and hiring managers we're deciding every minute if a candidates is worth our time. And candidates are doing the same.
Let's be open and honest and create relationships and not transactions. Your jobs aren't products to sell. You're introducing someone to a relationship that may end up being a core part of their lives. That deserves to be treated with respect, honesty, and depth. Not a last ditch signing bonus.