Recruiting Focus 2023: Onboarding Is Number 1

Over 120,000 layoffs and counting this year (per, mostly technology professionals across industries. This also includes upwards of 50% of recruiters by the latest estimates.

With layoffs increasing, more candidates will be looking for work in 2023. The only thing any candidate ever wants is to get the job, and keep it, and most candidates won’t for any given job they’re interested in. For now there are still more jobs than candidates in today’s market and unemployment is currently at 3.7% (as of October), but if that changes in 2023, then it will be a tougher market, especially for those who are laid off.

According to our 2023 Recruiting Focus Survey we distributed to our CandE community, only 30% of the nearly 200 companies hiring globally (mostly hiring in North America) that responded said they’re on track to hire 1,000+ next year, which is down 25% from last year (last year it was 40%). And 52% of the companies were over 2,500 employees this year, versus 41% in 2021, 27% larger employers overall. There was a similar proportion of company sizes from 2021 and 2022 in these recruiting focus surveys (see Table 1). However, if layoffs continue, then the hiring numbers may decrease.

The Number 1 Recruiting Focus For 2023 Is Onboarding

For the past few years, candidate experience was the number 1 recruiting focus in our end-of-year surveys (it’s pervasive throughout recruiting and hiring). As it should be since it’s impacted across the recruiting and hiring journey for external and internal candidates. Onboarding has been lower on the list, last year coming in at number 5, but this year’s in the number 1 recruiting focus (see Table 2).

Why? Well, we know from the volatile and competitive candidate market we’ve been in for the past 12-18 months retention has been a struggle for employers. Many continue to lose new hires—hourly and professional hires—before they even start. Even CandE winners, those companies with above average key ratings in our benchmark research, struggling with pre-boarding to onboarding.

Only 21% of the candidates from CandE winners as well as all other participating benchmark research companies said they were provided multiple options to communicate goals, meet key team members, and get questions answered all prior to their start dates. Only 40% of the candidates said they received a call from the hiring managers prior to staring, and only 24% received texts from the hiring managers.

Engagement and communication prior to day 1 will continue to be a key differentiator during pre-boarding and onboarding. There’s a lot of room for improvement here and thankfully there are companies that have designated pre-boarding teams to engage new hires before they start. Even with the recruiter layoffs that have occurred in tech across industries, we recommend companies allocate staff to pre-boarding.

After onboarding, the remaining top three of four include the following:

  • Candidate Experience—The CandE community continues to be acutely aware of how crucial it is to deliver a positive candidate experience, particularly with the continued fierce competition for qualified talent. Deliver a subpar experience—especially for those investing more in the recruiting process post-application from screening to offer—and those candidates are gone. To maintain their superior candidate experiences, this year’s top ranked CandE Award winners continue to invest more in timely communication and candidate feedback loops. Communication and feedback aren’t just essential to a great candidate experience, they’re also key differentiators for top employment brands, something that has held true in our benchmark research year after year.
  • Diversity and Inclusion—For the second year in a row, women, people of color, and younger candidates (Gen Z and younger Millennials) all rated their candidate experiences more positive and fairer, according to our benchmark research. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) recruitment marketing initiatives continue to have a higher level of investment since 2020 and the social unrest that followed and they are impacting candidates’ perception of fairness going through the recruiting process, whether they are hired or not. These populations are all searching for employers who offer diverse and inclusive workplaces and a greater sense of belonging.
  • Employee Referrals—As our annual benchmark research has shown again and again, referrals are one of employers’ most valued and trusted sources for new talent. Those companies with the highest ratings overall in our research have nearly a 20% higher willingness refer rating from their candidates than all other companies combined. One of the main drivers of this is the fact that the highest rated companies are giving job fit and qualification feedback to finalists 50% more often. It’s important to note that most of the candidates in our research (90% in most of the regions we track) didn’t get the jobs they applied to—just like the real world.

It’s important to note that internal mobility and retention came in at number 12 and it’s an area we’re finding more TA teams partnering with HR and talent management on to improve retention. Internal candidate experience is also an area that has been woefully neglected and we’re going to look at the internal experience more in 2023.

Accomplishing The Priorities

So, how do companies in the CandE community plan to accomplish these recruiting priorities in 2023? Here are their top five responses to this question, with improved processes and efficiencies again at number 1 (see Table 3).

The top response again this year—improved processes and efficiencies—continues to be a challenge the CandE community focuses on relentlessly because it’s the foundation of a great candidate experience (and recruiter experience and hiring manager experience). A company can have an amazing TA team and a ton of powerful recruiting tech, but if their processes are disjointed and inefficient, their candidate experience will be too. Improving processes and efficiencies applies to every phase and touch point of the candidate journey, from the creation of job requisitions and ads to resume processing to interviews and assessments to candidate communications to pre-boarding and onboarding—and everything in between.

Number 2 is all about new recruiting technologies, this year and last. Technology is an important driver of efficient recruiting and hiring, especially for companies with moderate to significant hiring volume. This year, most of the highest ranked companies in our benchmark research around the world are again investing more in recruiting technologies, including AI-based tech that better empowers efficient recruiting and hiring. Sourcing, screening, interviewing, and communication are just a few of the areas that can benefit from these smart technologies. Current technologies are still on the list this year, but it came in at number 6 (last year it was number 4).

Leveraging the right recruiting technologies is also key to scaling consistently and giving recruiting teams the time to continuously improve the candidate experience. That’s critical when job requisition volume is up and/or steady. This year, 35% of the recruiting teams told us they’re now carrying 30 to 100+ requisitions per recruiter, which is down 13% from 2021—40% said they were carrying 30+ reqs in 2021 (see Table 4). Layoffs and slower hiring most certainly have contributed to a lower req ratio.

Technology is always important to driving repetitive recruiting processes and practices, and new and current technologies are vital to how global employers will activate their 2023 initiatives. Table 5 summarizes the top employer responses from our 2022 benchmark research about technologies they plan to purchase in 2023. Video job descriptions were again overwhelmingly the primary planned technology investment for 2023, and job-description optimizations were next, followed by candidate experience surveys, text-based recruiting systems, and virtual campus recruiting systems (event platforms). Onboarding is still the main priority and 89% of companies told us they already have an onboarding system. 

It’s also important to note how artificial intelligence, smart technologies and machine learning continue to help employers improve recruiting and hiring (see Table 6). We’ll continue to see increases in utilizing machine learning to remove bias, measuring job changing behavior (not surprising due to the continuing exodus of employees), job simulations, chatbots – particularly conversational AI, virtual sourcing, and more in 2023. Employers that have any hiring volume need to leverage these technologies that help them to improve quality targeting, automate personalized communications and reduce human bias in all recruiting and hiring processes.

Numbers 3 and 4 from Table 3 are both about the role staffing will play in accomplishing recruiting priorities, current staffing and the need for more staffing. Recruiting teams may have gotten leaner because of recent layoffs in tech, but there are still many industries hiring and increasing their recruiting teams. This kind of investment isn’t just about handling any number of job requisitions, it’s also an investment in the human interaction that makes the candidate experience better for all those job seekers who are qualified, screened, assessed, and interviewed.

Flexible work schedules (remote/hybrid) made it into the top 5 from number 6 last year as another way to accomplish 2023 recruiting priorities. Remote/hybrid working environments are here to stay and will continue to be a competitive differentiator for employers who can and are willing to offer it for positions that make remote sense. Many recruiting teams have always had remote recruiters, including TA leadership. 

Another differentiator that wasn’t included in our recruiting focus survey but is worth mentioning here is pay transparency. Pay transparency is coming, and when it’s offered today, it improves the job candidates’ overall perception of fairness during the interview stage. For example, the highest rated companies in our benchmark research are telling candidates the salary without candidates having to ask for it 22% more often than all other companies combined. And their interview perception of fairness was 26% higher than all other companies. 

HR and talent acquisition leaders, recruiters, hiring managers, and business leaders can make a positive difference overall by elevating and promoting a quality candidate experience—from pre-application to onboarding—every chance they get. That should always be recruiting priority #1.

Our complete 2022 research reports will be coming out end of year and early January. You can pre-register here to make sure you’re the first to get them.

Be safe and well.

Kevin W. Grossman, Talent Board President

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