Digital Leader or Laggard? It Affects Your Recruiting

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Candidates want to work for digitally-advanced employers. Talent acquisition needs to take this into account—whether you’re a digital leader or not.

Man in an office looking at his mobile device.

(Credit: Benjamin Child via Unsplash)

People want to work for digital leaders. MIT Sloan Management Review’s 2015 Report on Digital Business revealed that 80 percent of employees prefer to work for a digitally-enabled company. And that preference is not, as you might expect, limited to Millennial employees – the percentage of employees who prefer working for digital leaders remains above 70 percent for all age groups.

The impact of digitization on a job candidate’s choice of employer is clearly significant. No surprise, there are big implications for talent acquisition. Whether they are a digital leader, follower or laggard, employers must adapt their recruitment strategies to people’s preferences in the type of organization they want to work for.

What does ‘digital leadership’ actually mean?

Before we can look at how to use digital leadership for talent acquisition, we need to define it. There is no one definition, and many organizations’ digital efforts stall because they’ve failed to define what ‘digital’ means for their business.

One easy, common assumption is that ‘digital’ simply means ‘technology’ and that digital leaders are ahead of the curve in adopting new technologies. While there’s truth in that assumption, it paints an incomplete picture. What traits enable a company to adopt and adapt to new technologies? How do those technologies change how they work, how they serve customers and provide for employees?

Digital leadership is, at the very least, equal parts technology, strategy, and culture. Or, as McKinsey partners Karel Dörner and David Edelman put it, “digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things.”

While technology defines digital leaders, so do collaborative cultures, agility, flexibility, and open-mindedness. Along with the willingness to take risks, try new things and learn from them. These traits could be critical to recruitment and speaking to what candidates want in an employer.

Ways to show off your digital cred when recruiting

Highlight your digital strategy. Spread the word! On your career website and company blog, in your job postings and conversations with candidates, tell them about your company’s disruptive use of technology, new or digitally-evolved business units, research and development projects, industry-changing automation and innovative uses of data.

Reveal your digital-friendly employee experience. Customer experience is often the priority for digital initiatives, but employee experience matters too. Yes, describe what that looks like in your recruitment communications. But look for creative ways to build that awareness, too. For example, you could make it publicly known that new tools are improving the way your company works by collaborating with your vendors’ to produce case studies – see Help Scout, Slack, Medallia and Asana for examples.

Get employees to make your case. Employee advocacy and referrals are valuable and an effective way to spread awareness of your digital efforts. If you want your team to spread your message, you first need to communicate the message internally. Share and repeat the broad strokes and big wins of your company’s digital strategy. Use your employee engagement survey to ask employees how they perceive your level of digital leadership. Share positive data in your recruitment marketing: “72 percent of our employees believe we are a digital leader.” You could also encourage employees from different functions to contribute stories to your company blog, detailing new initiatives or experiments and revealing what worked, what didn’t, and lessons learned.

Overcoming your company’s lagging digital efforts

Control what you can control. Improve the digital sophistication of your talent acquisition function: bone up your application process with thoughtful user experience, efficient steps, and helpful integration of web technologies. Invest in a career website redesign. Audit your applicant tracking system to make sure all performance-enhancing and task-automating features are in use. All of these efforts help improve the candidate experience.

Know what you do offer. If you can’t offer digital leadership, make sure you have a deep understanding of the reasons people should choose to work for you. Perform an employee value proposition discovery and harness your company’s strengths as an employer to recruit.

Focus on culture. If you don’t have the technology, emphasize the aspects of your culture that share common ground with digital leaders: agile, collaborative, open to risk, etc. And remember that new employees will add to and shape your culture. You might not yet possess the traits of a digital leader, but new hires can help your company gain them.

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand experience at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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