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The JOY Podcast: Episode Five

Exceptional Experiences

HubSpot Video


Debbie Tuel, the Chief Joy Officer at Symphony Talent, welcomed panelists Madeline Laurano, Founder of Aptitude Research; Kevin Grossman, President of Talent Board; and Gina Alioto, Symphony Talent’s VP of Brand & Experience.
The topic: a brief overview of a research study recently completed by the three guest panelists that explores the challenges, the strategies and the technology enablers for creating and maintaining exceptional experiences in talent acquisition.
This is the first report of its kind that provides talent leaders and marketers, CHROs and even CEOs with foundational, rich data. Here are a few highlights covered in both the podcast episode and in the research report:
  • Customer vs. Candidate Experiences
  • The Recruiter’s Dilemma
  • Revisiting Candidate Expectations
  • A Reality Check for TA Leadership
We invite you to listen to the full podcast for more revealing insights and observations – including how lessons learned during the pandemic have greatly upped technology’s role in the candidate experience.
Copy of Copy of Debbie Tuel Chief Joy Officer (2)


Debbie [00:00:00] Hi and welcome to The JOY Podcast, Episode Five, where we shine a light on how global organizations are getting people back to work faster and with an exceptional experience. I'm Debbie Tuel, the Chief Joy Officer at Symphony Talent, a global technology company that is leading an industry wide movement in partnership with our customers and partners alike. It's a project that we're calling The Joy Pipeline, and we're glad that you're here to join us on this journey of yes. Our mission is to help recruiters bring the joy back to recruiting and empower them to create an experience for the candidate that both they and the candidate needs now. Speaking of partners. I am joined today by two of our amazing partners, Madeline Laurano of Aptitude Research. Madeline, how are you today?

Madeline [00:00:52] I'm doing well, thanks for having me on the show, Debbie.

Debbie [00:00:56] Absolutely, we are excited and I'm going to give the listeners a little bit of a back story here and a secret. Madeline, when this podcast was in its incubator stage. I really wanted you to join me as a co-host. And while that has not come to fruition yet, I am honored to have you join us today. So thank you. And joining us, we have Kevin Grossman of the Talent Board, well known for the research that they and the work that they've done around the candidate experience awards. Welcome, Kevin. How are you today?

Kevin [00:01:33] Oh, good. Hi, Debbie and Gina and Madeline, thanks for having me on today. I'm good.

Debbie [00:01:39] It is our pleasure. And for those that are listening and not watching, we do film these broadcasts. The camera is on today. Kevin had to get up early to comb his hair, to make sure that he was camera ready. And finally, we have the pleasure of having Gina join us today. She is our VP of Transformation, Brand & Experience here at something that Gina excited to have you back. For those that are listening, if you haven't tuned in to our very first kind of teaser episode, Gina and I discussed the background of The Joy Pipeline and The JOY Podcast. I highly recommend digging back into the archives and giving that a listen. Welcome. How are you today?

Gina [00:02:23] So excited to be here, surrounded by some of the industry's brightest and most knowledgeable and thrilled that this this labor of love has finally hit the market. Our part one has finally launched.

Debbie [00:02:36] Excellent. Yes. I mean, this is a four part series for those that are not familiar. And today we're really going to dive into the research study that Madeline and Kevin and Gina have been really working hard to get out to the market. And that study really explores the challenges and the strategies and the technology enablers for creating and maintaining exceptional experiences in talent acquisition. Go download it, read it. We are definitely not going to be able to cover the entire research in 20 minutes. But I wanted to chat about the insight into what went behind the research. Madeleine, Gina, I would love to hear from both of you some back story into what made you think about exceptional experiences and what makes this piece different. Gina, we'll start with you.

Gina [00:03:30] Sounds great. So, you know, I originally came from the marketing world, consumer marketing, particularly experiential marketing, and that was the regular marketing, let's call it. And coming into talent acquisition and talent marketing, I learned that there was this whole world of candidate experience and employer experience, and there seemed to be this disconnect between the two worlds. And it was just an observation. I thought maybe it was just me. And then in fact, I was speaking with Chad Sowash about this very topic, which was really the inspiration for the the basis of the report. And after learning over the years from Madeline and Kevin and the Talent Board, as well as other industry influencers, we started to bring this all together. So this is actually a combination of what we've heard from many practitioners, many industry analysts. And we thought, what a great time to just publish something where it ties it all together. I'm pretty sure this is the first report of its kind and provide both talent leaders and marketers, CMOs and even CEOs with this foundational, very rich data that they can have meaningful conversations and really a long overdue conversation. Madeline, this report, you are the author of the report. You brought in your own research from Aptitude Research Partners and built on Kevin's rich data. We'd love to hear your perspective on that.

Madeline [00:05:14] Yeah, thank you, Gina, and this was really exciting because I think to your point, there's so much that goes on with the consumer experience, the amount of money companies spend, there's dedicated roles. There's a huge there's a huge emphasis on this consumer experience. We just don't see the same thing in talent acquisition. And the impact is the same. The impact of a bad experience directly impacts business performance. It impacts the ability to hire the best people. And it also and the other piece I know, Kevin, I spent a lot of time talking about is the recruiter experience. And what we're seeing today is recruiters are overwhelmed. They are spending too much time on administrative tasks. They feel this burnout that we've been talking about in a major way. They're looking for other opportunities. And that's the first impression a candidate gets, is who they meet with that's on the recruiting team. And if they're not happy with their employer, the impact is tremendous on the organization in not a positive way. So this was really a very interesting and I know from the work that Kevin does on the candidate experience and the recruiter experience, so much has changed in the past year, but so much has stayed the same. We really haven't seen as much progress, I think, in some of these areas, like communication, that need to happen.

Debbie [00:06:39] Absolutely. And I think you hit on something really key that I took out of reading the reports, which is that recruiter experience, the recruiter burnout. You know, Nikki and I from JCPenney's touched on this in our last podcast, talking about the fact that JCPenney's recruiters are really good at selling the opportunity because they love their job. And if you don't love your job, it's really hard to sell people to come join you. And I love that we touched on that in the report and that you dove deep into it and it touched on an area that I think is oftentimes forgotten when we talk about the candidate experience, because you can't deliver a human experience if you don't have those humans that are working at the company and loving their jobs. Let's take a step back and talk about the actual research that went into this report. Kevin, I know that Talent Board for the first time kind of jumped into your own research and allowed Madeline to to use some of that data. Share with the audience, kind of where the data came from and and what they can trust in the data.

Kevin [00:07:47] Well, I've got to say, first of all, I was thrilled to bits to actually collaborate not only with Symphony Talent, but especially with Madeline, and to see how she infused the candidate experience research, which I'll explain more in just a second, with her own research and how well I think it complemented throughout this report that we put out. It really got me thinking a lot more about the future, not only collaborations, but ideas about different kinds of research that we should be doing a lot more to. So just to clear up answer your question, every year we work with hundreds of employers, big and small across industries, helping them to understand their recruiting and hiring practices as it impacts candidate experience from pre-application to onboarding. So the data, a lot of the data that we leveraged in this report was from our 2020 Benchmark Research Report, primarily North America focused, although we do research in other regions around the world. And because right now we're just in the middle of the 2021 year and just starting to capture data for this year. So that was the big focus was from that data last year. And there were some interesting, as Madeline said, big differences as well as some of those things that just unfortunately stayed the same.

Debbie [00:09:08] And Madeline, in writing this research, digging into The CandEs data, were there any surprises for you? And I know you also I should mention for the listeners, you pair this with some of your your own research. So share with us one little bit behind the methodology and to any big surprises.

Madeline [00:09:27] Yes. Thank you. So it was great to work with Kevin because the amount of data that they collect on candidate experience, nobody has that, nobody can compare to to that to that data. The research we do at Aptitude is more on the employer side. So we look at how companies are providing these experiences, what technology they're using, what strategies they're using. So to be able to combine those, I think the most interesting thing to me, and it's not a surprise to Kevin because he already does this work is the gaps, right? It's the gap between what candidates actually want and what employers are delivering. And those expectations are not aligned. And I think the intention is good. I think employers genuinely want candidates to have a better experience, but we don't understand those expectations early on. And when that happens, there are these gaps that are hard to overcome. I think the interesting thing with the technology is, and Kevin found this in the research he did, is that candidates do want technology. They want to be able to use technology because the alternative is that they're not getting any communication. So things like conversational or text or video are all very positive and they benefit both the employer and the candidate. And I think that there is this misperception with companies that candidates don't want that. So let's not bother. So that was that was very interesting from my perspective. The other thing that we went through kind of through this process of writing this report is we kind of came up with this journey mapping. And Gina and I spent a lot of time talking about this. And I know this is something she has a tremendous amount of experience doing, but I kind of put together a recruiter one, and that a candidate one. And then Kevin and I were chatting and  he had gone through this whole process. And what they put together at the Talent Board was amazing to see all of these different stages in the candidate's life cycle and then where those gaps are. And it just fit so perfectly, I have to tell you, with the report, to be able to use that model and candidate journey right in the report fits so well. So it just it was great to see kind of it all come together and to be able to see those gaps and then to see the synergies between Aptitude and the Talent Board.

Debbie [00:11:43] Absolutely. And I think the synergies you could see throughout the entire report, I want to kind of double click into one data point that just stuck out to me. Madeline, in your research, you shared that recruiters today are spending up to 16 hours a week scheduling calls and 10 hours a week searching for candidates in their ATS. To me, to see those numbers clearly called out, when we talk about the fact that the candidate is wanting and you talk about this in the report and you know, Kevin, you talk about this all the time at Talent Board. They are looking for transparency. They are looking for communication. They want a human element when it comes to feedback, but they don't need a human element to schedule a call. They don't need recruiters to be spending hours trying to find their resume. These are two areas that so clearly to me, scream "use technology." There is a ton of technology on the market to help in these two areas. No recruiter even has four hours to be spending on just looking for a resume and scheduling calls, and because they're spending that time, they have no time to actually create that human connection. That to me throughout all three of these reports, just kept coming to the top of my mind of like this is mind boggling. Madeline, as you're working with companies, is this something they're aware of before you call it out to them? And what are they doing to improve this?

Madeline [00:13:22] Yeah, it was such a shocking thing, I think, to see that in the data. And then when you talk to recruiters, you do understand that that is a huge pain point. And they've got this set of tools that oftentimes are very difficult to use and don't provide a great experience. So I think that there's a disconnect between what recruiters actually experience on a day to day and what the employer or the head of TA understands is happening for their recruiting teams. And that is I mean, if you have companies with one hundred recruiters, two hundred, three hundred recruiters, that's a huge part of your employee population that is spending their time not on something that's meaningful or strategic. And I think the impact is on the candidate. But I think if you look at what Kevin's outlined as the pillars of a positive candidate experience with inclusivity and feedback, they're not able to deliver on that if they're spending all that time on administrative work.

Debbie [00:14:23] And Kevin, employers come to you because they want to know how they're doing. They want to see how they're benchmarking against their peers. They want to do better. Do you find that you've watched companies improve year over year? What kind of value are they getting out of looking at their own process and benchmarking it across others?

Kevin [00:14:45] This is not as straightforward that I think if we were to go back in the Wayback Machine when it was first started of what we were anticipating seeing over time, one of the things that's been fascinating to us year after year is that companies that do participate are leaning in on improvement, meaning they want to understand their strengths and weaknesses. They want to benchmark their candidate experience and they want to do better. The problem is that sustaining those changes over time as they're among the most difficult things that we see organizations do, because, for example, who plans for a pandemic, right? Leadership changes, memorialization, changes on the recruiting team, merger and acquisition activity that can occur. New products and services launches one day. We're surging, hiring. The next day we're freezing. And so over time, we've worked with over a thousand employers over the past 10 years and had over a million candidate responses. And yet out of all the companies that we've worked with and those that have consistently participated year after year, it's really just a small group, a handful that have consistently sustained at significant hiring volume as well. We're talk about large organizations, who consistently sustain that positive experience over time. It is not easy to do, but I want a quick connection point to what Madeline was saying about and what we're all talking about, about the time constraints that recruiters have. The reality is that most candidates for any given job are going to research and apply, and that is the end of the road. That is their experience. They will never have much at all human interaction. That's why we have the technologies we have. That's why we have Symphony talent. That's why we have this a platform. That's why we have these things so that we can really automate and still have a positive candidate experience on the front end while we free up more time for the human interaction for that smaller tier of folks that actually get screened, assessed, interviewed and so on. I'll get off my soapbox. There you go.

Speaker1: [00:16:53] Know what? You're right, Kevin and

Speaker4: [00:16:55] Dandi, but the Candie's, you know, the Candy Awards are so well respected and every talent acquisition leader is looking at that and like you said, their peers and the benchmarks and how they're performing year over year. And it's something that they they want to do. Like Madelin said, candidate experience is on the top of talent acquisition leaders agendas. I spend a lot of time speaking with our customers and talent leaders across the board, and it's something that they're aware of that they want to improve the candidate experience. I think that there's also a disconnect between what talent acquisition leaders are trying to do and trying to achieve and trying to improve. And the business priorities, budget, resources, attention, emphasis on candidate experience, prioritizing the candidate experience, seeing the potential value potential missed opportunity, making that clear business connection. It seems to be that there's something disconnected there, which puts a lot of pressure on the CHRO and the leads of talent acquisition and then, like you're saying, obviously, that trickles down to the recruiters and not having the technology and resources that they need to create a great candidate experience. And I absolutely agree about the setting expectations, aligning expectations. First, we have to see what the expectations are before you can exceed expectations, both candidates and of the employer.

Debbie [00:18:24] Yeah, you know, it's a really good point, Gina, and we are seeing this today, but it's going to be compounded in the next six months. We are seeing not only recruiters being burnt out, but employees in general. The pandemic has taken its toll and now things are opening up and people are moving jobs. There's also an increase in hiring. So everything that we're talking about is going to be magnified over the next six months. And yet I don't think that recruiter hiring and funds for talent acquisition are going to be there to support it, at least in the short term. I'll open this up to whoever wants to comment on it. Are you guys seeing that as you talk to employers and customers today? Because it is is top of mind of most of the talent acquisition professionals that I'm talking to.

Madeline [00:19:16] Yeah, from my perspective, I see hiring picked up. I think a lot of people are saying this is going to happen in a few months. The companies I'm talking to, it's already happening and they're overwhelmed. What I'm seeing is kind of less about the budget. I think that some of them have the budget, but that they don't have the the support. They might have reduced their talent acquisition teams and they're not necessarily bringing them back, but they're looking at technology definitely in a more strategic way, I think, than in the past. And what we've seen from other times of uncertainty where we didn't know what was going to happen. I think the the technology investment will continue. I just think it's the resources and the way the teams are structured. And are they going to stop them the same way again? And that's that seems to be very uncertain and that's incredibly overwhelming when you're already doing so much. and, you know, there's all these discussions about not being able to to find talent that's just not available right now. It's overwhelming. 

Kevin [00:20:18] We just did a short one off survey of something that we did last year about the impact of COVID on recruiting and hiring. And now that we're all going back to work, I mean, I know that there's been many industries that have fared OK over the past year and that have continued to recruit and hire and have had budgets. And even to that point of the limited the constraints of the team of how we're going to apply that budget going forward. Besides technology, the thing that we're hearing now is that the companies that are struggling with what kind of a model of how they're going to go back to work. So whether that's a hybrid model of mostly remote, some on site, again, depends on the industry and the kind of business. And obviously, if you're if you have to be in the store, in the plant, in the office for whatever company and industry you're in, that's a different scenario. Right, because we talk a lot about remote and yet not everybody really can and has been able to over the past year. But how are companies going to get back to work? And then it was really kind of became more top of mind than what we even thought with companies that were that if they're actually mandating being on site at their companies going forward, like bringing everybody back in, they're losing some critical talent and which is causing another wrinkle in that struggle of how do we quickly ramp and hire with the technologies that we have, with the limited staffing that we have when people are leaving because they have remote flexibility over here. So there's a lot of more things that are happening right now that's not necessarily tied to budget, but it's tied to how are we going to go back to work. And technology will be a big player in that, because we saw that this past year, companies were leaning a lot more on their systems, looking for a new system that can better help communicate all throughout the entire pipeline with their candidates and freeing up time for their recruiters to have more human interaction. All these things are happening, but again, we continue to move and do nothing but a country we've never been in before, I would argue.

Debbie [00:22:29] I agree. Absolutely. Sorry, go ahead, Gina.

Gina [00:22:38] Kevin and Madeline and from a recruitment marketing perspective, this disconnect has always existed. Like you said, it's been accelerated and magnified, but it's also that disconnect has always been there. And Madeline, you touched on it earlier about that journey map, having that visibility into all of the touch points across the experience for a candidate from across the recruitment marketing experience. How clear is that to the business today, not only in talent acquisition? I know talent acquisition leaders have clear visibility into that, but how about marketers? Are they looking at all of those touch points that candidates are interacting with and across recruitment marketing and the impact on the candidates' experience to their perception of the overall brand and the huge opportunity and potential loss that's on the table there, if left unaddressed, and then how that is magnified by the effects of the pandemic.

Debbie [00:23:44] Absolutely, and and I think it will be really interesting to see also how some of these technologies shift long term, one that that just clearly calls out to me. You mentioned Kevin and Madeline in the research report that one of the still one of the biggest challenges that's facing talent acquisition professionals is finding and attracting talent. And remote work makes that more challenging because now you can hire from anywhere, which is great. But the job boards haven't caught up yet. They still require this idea of a city and state in your job. So those are things that in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, OK, how is the industry really going to transform itself? Who's going to be the first to do it right and who will win? And it will be really interesting to watch and see as this continues to evolve. So thank you guys so much for joining us. Before we drop off and I close this out, I want to ask each of you to share with our listeners today your biggest takeaway from doing the research, writing the report, reading through the details. What is your biggest takeaway? And also what are you most excited to see out of this research? And kind of a sneak peek into the fourth part that's going to really transform these exceptional experiences in the future. And I'm going to go ahead and start with Gina.

Gina [00:25:07] So from my perspective, and maybe I'm biased because I come from a marketing background, but each marketing and recruimtent marketing are very complex, very challenging, even pre-pandemic, they were challenging. And I think that there's many in intertwined, interdependent things that might be pulling in different directions, but the same goals for brand perception and impact to the business. And I think that the faster we can make that connection between those two groups of people across the organization, across all business lines. But really that connection between talent acquisition and marketing, I think that I'm the most excited to see that happen. And I hope that this report--I believe that this report with a strong foundation to have those meaningful data driven conversations. And of course, I'm excited for the roundtable that Madeline will be staying in July as part of our JOY Roadshow, because we will be inviting and some people have already started to sign up for this roundtable or we hope to get CEOs, CMOs, and CHROs in the room and talent acquisition leaders in the room to kind of open up the floodgates and talk about really what are the goals for business impact and brand perception and how could potentially marketing and talent acquisition kind of join forces? I think it's a conversation that everybody here has been waiting on the sidelines to see happen, and I'd be really excited to see that happen.

Debbie [00:26:49] Absolutely. Thank you so much, Gina. And Kevin, your biggest takeaway and what are you excited about coming out of this race to the future?

Kevin [00:26:58] The biggest takeaway for me is the universal of referrals. So and what I mean by that is all organizations depend on referrals at the end of the day for their hiring. Sometimes upwards of 40 percent of their hires are going to come from referrals. We know last year in our CandE research that nearly a third of the candidates said that they were extremely likely to refer others and most others did not get hired to do that math in your head. You've got a whole bunch of folks that were rejected at the end of the day, still willing to refer others at the end of the day. And that's just something to think about, because not all of you are consumer based businesses. And I think it's important that think about the referrals and the fact that you it's not just your current employees that are going to refer. Their experience will impact and inform what they do going forward with your organization and with your brand. And probably the thing I look forward to the most going forward, and I hope employers leveraging the technologies they have in place, the platforms that they have, as well as their teams to continue this empathetic communication that we saw over the past year with their candidates as well as their employees, and keep that communication flowing all the time.

Debbie [00:28:22] Very well stated. And Madeline, I'll let you kind of close this out.

Madeline [00:28:27] That's hard to follow those two. I think I'll kind of piggyback on some of that. But I think for me, the biggest takeaway is just the importance of validation. Like, I think we kind of tend to just jump to--at least I do in the research--just jump to action items to do, but to be able to push, pause and take a minute to validate these experiences for candidates and employers and to say, you know, we see what's happening, that that's the first step. And I think it's so important for anyone. I mean, we've all just had a really difficult year. I know a lot of good came out of it and there's a lot of silver linings, but it's been challenging for everyone. And I think to be able to take a minute and recognize that and validate that. And I know that's what Kevin does. So much of that goes a long way. And I think the more that we can do that, the better we're able to improve experiences. But we have to be able to recognize and acknowledge what people are going through, both on the employer and the candidate side. And then I think for me, what I'm excited about is similar to what Gina's is excited about, just the conversations, just learning more. I've learned a lot through this project and continuing to to hear from from companies and their experiences.

Debbie [00:29:41] Madeline, Kevin, Gina, it has been a joy to have you on this show today. I am super excited for the fourth part of this series to come out. So for those that are listening, hopefully you've already dug into part one, two and three. We are going to be doing a roundtable discussion as part of the roadshow that Gina just mentioned in July. So go to the joypipeline.com and register for that JOY Roadshow in Detroit. It will be a virtual experience for those that can't join us live. We'll be discussing the fourth part of this. And we hope that you are also following us on Spotify and look forward to more episodes. Thank you all for joining us.