Anakin Skywalker’s career moves: a lesson learned for employers? As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I invite you to consider the story of young Anakin as a helpful step when building strategies for candidate experience and its carryover into employee engagement. I introduced this concept at the Leap HR Retail conference this month in Austin, TX.
Here’s the story. As a boy, Anakin is identified as someone with high potential. He is recruited for a role with an organization that enjoys a galaxy-wide reputation as icons of justice and virtue: the Jedi. Although the Jedi excel in identifying talent and leveraging their reputation to secure an initial “hire,” their troubles begin shortly thereafter.
The Jedi pair young Anakin with a manager, Obi Wan Kenobi, who himself lacks experience. They fail to convey a sense of trust in Anakin, and there is no vision provided regarding his evolution within the ranks. He therefore soon finds himself curious about opportunities elsewhere. When the Empire communicates their interest in his skills, he listens. Although the Empire lacks the commendable corporate mission of the Jedi and its sterling reputation, they gain the upper hand by offering a two-part engagement offer: a program of “Learning and Development” for the rising star, and a clear path to advancement. Anakin consequently becomes another turnover statistic, leaving the Jedi and opting to join their biggest rivals.
The moral of the story: People are priority one
Although it’s an admittedly lighthearted illustration, the story of young Skywalker is worth some thought. It underscores the ongoing reality that an organization depends on its people, and there’s really no time throughout the employment lifecycle when leaders can afford to ease up on their talent strategies. These begin long before hire and don't stop there. As we develop technology to improve hiring and retention, we need to pay close attention to how we can meet people where they are, delivering tools to fit both today’s lifestyle and modern priorities in career development. And we need to start personalizing approaches, from the candidate experience to onboarding and beyond.
Do more while the clock is ticking
You’ll hear me say this repeatedly: when it comes to hiring, employers have little time to waste. Industry analysts estimate that a typical candidate will readily devote only seven minutes to a job application. When you account for time spent gathering the necessary demographic details and work history, there might be four minutes left at most. Yet the task for those four minutes is significant: how can you tell who this candidate really is? And can they do the job? Will they do the job? The information you’ve gathered in the preceding three minutes might tell you about that individual’s past performance, but do you really know how this job seeker will fit with your role and your company?
Dan Sines speaking about Jedis and employee turnover at 2020's Leap HR Retail Conference.
Jedi Talent Acquisition: in dire need of a personality assessment
If the Jedi had not only assessed Anakin’s aptitude for embodying the Force, but had also included a quickly-obtained measure of his personality, they would’ve had an advantage. They could have anticipated his low resilience and high reactivity, for example, and his difficulty with relying upon traditional approaches and longstanding ways of thinking. They also might’ve been tuned into his combination of high ambition and need for recognition. With those insights, they could have adapted their strategies for his development. In doing so, they would take advantage of his talents while avoiding the worst of his challenges. As it was, the Jedi were the ones who invested resources in recruitment and early skills development, but then not only lost their investment, they saw it used against them. Imagine the costs of finding, recruiting, and training the next potential Jedi…
We’re in an era in which both employee satisfaction and engagement are low. The takeaway here is clear: employee engagement is more consequential than a company’s culture and its mission. Again, an organization is nothing without its people. The strategy needs to be at full speed before the hire, with tools to find the right talent and the insights to know how to get the most out of that talent. Organizations caught flat-footed here, relying on tired methods or limiting themselves to partial views of even their most promising candidates, will be the ones left behind. With the Empire always lurking, that can be a major misstep.