Companies Who Don’t Treat Employees Like Customers Will Eventually Fail

Jason Finkelstein

SVP Marketing @ AdRoll | Advisor @ Traitify | Obsessed with Work Tech and the Future of Work in Work

For marketers, it’s widely accepted that “Customers have different behaviors and preferences [and companies must] move past a ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing approach.” (thanks, Custora for this concise description of Customer-Centric Marketing.) There are now many strategies and tools to help marketing teams manage customer journeys end to end. Everything from CRM to analytics to content to SEO to A/B testing to social media management to drip campaigns to ad re-targeting. There’s an interesting parallel to draw here between the customer-to-Marketer relationship and the employee-to-People Ops relationship (HR, Talent Acquisition, Recruiting).

Marketers think about the customer journey: how to trigger awareness, how to engage customers before they’re ready to become customers, how to nurture them over time so your brand is top of mind when they start to consider buying, and how to keep them as happy customers… ultimately how to convert them from lurkers to likers to lovers. The end goal, of course, is to build a large and recurring source of low acquisition cost customers who keep coming back and ultimately become advocates.


Time for People Ops to Behave Like Marketing

People Ops teams must start thinking about the employee journey in the same way—create employment brand awareness, engage active and passive job seekers early, nurture them to apply, make their experience with applying, interviewing and onboarding memorable, keep them happy and retain them, etc. Looking at employees with the “lifecycle” framework can inform decisions about how to optimize the journey. It’s time for People Ops teams to think like marketers.

Employment Marketplace Power Shift

But why now? We’re living in a new era. Power in the employment marketplace is shifting radically from employers to workers. The shift is being driven by three main factors:

  1. Unemployment is at all-time lows. In fact, it’s at the second lowest point in the last 40 years, since Gen X began entering the workforce. A low unemployment rate means a lower supply of workers which means it’s harder for companies to hire. But, this is not unprecedented, so what’s different?
  2. Workplace transparency is at an all-time high. People talk. And now they have megaphones and easy search at their fingertips. Thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Glassdoor, job seekers are well-informed. If you’re a great place to work, it may attract applicants. But, if your work environment is poor, the world will know immediately. This puts exceedingly more pressure on companies. Actually being a great place to work and treating people well is now table stakes. Workplace transparency is the new norm.
  3. Personal computing power is at an all-time high. It used to be that if I wanted to find a new job, I folded open a newspaper, circled classified ads and applied with a paper resume and snail mail. If I was an unhappy worker, I was stuck, beholden to my employer. Today, workers can find and apply for a new job more quickly than ever—now in a matter of minutes. A mobile phone in everyone’s pocket has triggered the rise of the gig economy. Altogether, candidates and employees have more option value than ever before. An unhappy worker has so many alternatives to earn a living. This too is the new norm.


Together these three factors have created an unprecedented force in the employment marketplace. Power is shifting rapidly away from employers and to workers at all stages of their employee journey (from passive job seeker to applicant to active candidate to employee).


Candidate Experience is the New Customer Experience

To respond to these changes, companies must start by thinking about the candidate experience, i.e. the entire journey of your employees before they become employees. This includes everything from the first encounter with your employment brand across multiple channels to the experience on your career site to ongoing nurturing to the application process to interviewing to onboarding.

While there are tactical approaches that are becoming popular for modern companies – like using data and analytics to evaluate what your candidate funnel looks like, where drop-off happens, etc. -- there are also a handful of more strategic approaches for companies to be proactive about treating candidates like customers. An easy way to think about attacking this is by looking at new categories of emerging companies in talent tech or work tech: (1) recruitment marketing / chatbots, (2) video interviewing, (3) personalization & fit. Each of these encompasses multiple stages of the applicant journey and there are a few leaders emerging in each area which overlaps somewhat in their offerings.

  1. Recruitment Marketing– Phenom People is like marketing automation software for talent acquisition teams. Their platform includes everything from well-designed career sites for companies—which are instrumented like marketing funnels--to new AI-powered chatbot tech to real-time CRM and campaign management. They work across most stages of the candidate journey including attracting, nurturing and converting applicants.
  2. Video Interviewing / Chatbots Montage Talent pioneered pioneer purpose-built video interviewing software and points out that the key to great candidate experience is making the process fast, easy and transparent for candidates. They strike a balance between high-tech and high-touch, both of which are key to a great candidate experience.
  3. Fit & Personalization – Traitify’s personality data platform helps companies collect candidate/employee personality data to make smarter hiring decisions, but also give value back to job seekers/workers. Inventing the fastest personality assessment in the world (90-seconds, image-based) makes it painless for candidates. Companies use the results to give seekers personalized job recommendations (like Netflix with movies) and drive applies, to nurture with personalized career advice and to help recruiters prioritize and go deeper with the right candidates.


Power Shift Winners and Losers

The power shift in the employment marketplace is happening. For companies who don’t acknowledge this shift—and aren’t thinking about job seekers, applicants, candidates and employees like they think about customers—they expose their companies to an existential threat. People are the lifeblood of companies. Customers can’t be served if the employees serving them are not taken care of. 

Leaders who must contend with this are no longer just People Ops, HR, and Talent Acquisition, but CEOs, CFOs and all hiring managers. Those who ignore this shift will struggle at best and fail at worst. It’s only a matter of time.



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