CandE Research Takeaway #1: Transparency and Empathetic Communication

The 2020 Global CandE Benchmark Research Top 10 Takeaways

Great news! The 2020 Global CandE Benchmark Research Reports are now available to download here.

The 2020 reports contain plenty of data, statistics, and insights to help you strengthen your recruiting, hiring and candidate experience in 2021. I’ll be highlighting the top 10 key takeaways from the reports over the next few months, along with ideas for leveraging them in your own talent acquisition strategies today.

Let’s kick things off with the #1 newsmaker of 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic, derailed recruiting and hiring worldwide. Despite the uncertainty and hardship it caused, and continues to cause, a number of employment brands responded admirably and in a way that will long outlast the current upheaval: they raised transparency and empathetic communication to a whole new level. This is the first takeaway from the 2020 Global CandE Benchmark Research top 10 takeaways.

For example, soon after the lockdowns started last year, companies quickly posted COVID-19-related statements on their main websites and Careers sites (e.g., Sprint, New York-Presbyterian, and Sharp HealthCare). Others informed internal and external candidates whether hiring was continuing (AT&T, E&J Gallo Winery, and West Virginia University) or on hold. Others communicated new sets of protocols around virtual hiring (Syneos Health). And still others began using more empathetic language than usual on their Careers sites and in candidate communications, expressing their concern for candidates’ wellbeing and their resolve to work through recruiting-related challenges as swiftly as possible.

Here’s another current example from the #1 ranked North American CandE Winner from 2020:

The Dawn of a New Standard

One big consequence of these efforts: they’ve set a new standard for what defines a great candidate experience going forward. Now that candidates have tasted this kind of heightened transparency and empathy from employers, there is no going back, folks. Or, should be no going back.

Look at how candidates responded. Going way beyond mere appreciation, since so many people had lost their jobs, they adopted a more forgiving attitude toward employers—something we can actually measure by comparing candidate journey NPS ratings over the past few years.

In 2019, for example, employers rated their candidate journeys higher than candidates did. In 2020, however, this changed dramatically. The perception gap between employers and candidates leveled out, nearly vanished, or actually flipped to the positive side at pretty much every stage of the candidate journey (except when candidates were rejected, which is typical and expected). It’s worth nothing that while specific ratings might differ from region to region, the overall pattern of perception shifts is essentially the same in all of the regions analyzed by Talent Board.

These shifts are directly attributable, at least in part, to employers’ heightened transparency and empathy, which is all the more remarkable given that they happened during a year when employers turned away record numbers of candidates (due to spiking unemployment).

Clearly, transparency and empathy have changed the game and, if you want to compete with the CandE best, you’ll need to implement both across your employment brand’s assets, channels, and strategies.

Increasing Your Transparency

When it comes to transparency, the 2020 North American Research Report shows that candidates want it in very specific areas:

  • 32% want insights into your company culture.
  • 32% want to know why people want to work for you.
  • 27% want to know why employees stay with you.
  • Nearly 25% want to read or see employee testimonials.
  • And 22% want to know your company’s values.

Although we didn’t break out these numbers specifically in other regional reports, we know from candidates’ comments that these same insights are strongly desired by people everywhere.

Transparency also means setting clear, realistic expectations and not leaving candidates hanging at any stage of their journey. Tell people specifically what’s coming next at each step of your process and when they’ll hear back from you. Then follow through! If you don’t, you’ll blow all the hard work you’ve invested to that point (which is why you set need to set realistic expectations on your end).

Notably, transparency lifts your bottom line as well as your employment brand. In North America, for instance, when candidates receive information about next steps and consistent follow up, they’re 52% more willing to increase their relationship with your brand—that includes as a customer.

Communicating Empathetically

As for empathetic communication, the 2020 Reports once again show that CandE Award winners do this in specific ways. Two of the most important are:

  1. With great consistency: This refers to the full hiring process, from pre-application to onboarding … ensuring timely responses (often best achieved through a mix of automated tools and human interaction … and always providing definitive closure when you’re no longer pursuing candidates. Communication is the primary differentiator of a good candidate experience, and communicating with empathy raises that bar even higher.
  2. By asking for and providing feedback more often: This includes giving feedback to and getting it from rejected candidates as well as new hires … incorporating more feedback opportunities into each stage of the process to make it more engaging and personal … and providing feedback to final-stage candidates (a major point of differentiation for top candidate experiences. Every one of the Top 10 CandE winners provides feedback to finalist candidates, while this is true for only, 48% of all EMEA employers, 40% of all North American employers, 38% of all APAC employers, and 33% of all Latin American employers.)

Again, I want to stress the empathy in your communication and feedback. More than merely being considerate and respectful, empathetic communication demonstrates clearly that you understand and are acting in accordance with candidates’ needs and desires as well as your own. It might mean acknowledging when and why your process seems slow … or what candidates themselves can do to improve their chances of success … or unexpected factors that have risen mid-process.

The World Economic Forum posted a compelling article not long ago about the need for employers to treat employee with greater empathy in the wake of COVID-19 if they want to minimize its damage to their businesses. The same is true for your candidates—but it’s not all about the pandemic. Communicating empathetically with candidates is a good idea at all times because, like transparency, it pays huge dividends to your employment brand and your bottom line.

In my next post I’ll dive into the challenge of sustaining a great candidate experience. And if you’re interested in getting feedback about your own candidate experience and participating in our 2021 CandE benchmark research program, you can learn more here.


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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