How to Attract Top Talent in 2024

Talent acquisition teams and staffing agencies have had to prove their adaptability over the past few years as contrasting workforce trends emerged from the remote work revolution to the great resignation and layoffs across the board for key industries.

As we step into Q1 2024, many of these trends will continue impacting how organizations hire and manage talent. Despite the economic stresses of 2023 and what experts foreshadow for 2024, the US remains a competitive talent market.

We've witnessed three emerging workplace trends already underway: the search for meaning, the desire for flexibility, and the advent of AI, which has enabled different ways of working but is also fundamentally changing jobs and the skills required. It also led organizations to scrutinize how they hire, develop and retain talent.

As a result of these shifts, employee expectations have also evolved. While traditional tools, like compensation and promotion, are still important, they no longer hold the sway they used to. Employees today have different priorities, and it is up to employers to attract them. McKinsey calls this the Great Renegotiation, where the employee-employer contract is set to change permanently. This change is expected to persist, even if the economy continues to struggle because the most in-demand roles and skills will see intense competition.

Decoding Candidate Expectations for 2024

The candidate experience should be a top priority for companies trying to attract top talent. But before we look at how you can get there, let's dissect the reality of today's job hunt:

  • Blind recruiters: A recruiter reaches out with a generic pitch, clueless about your skills and experience. It's like they never even glanced at your resume!
  • Repetitive hurdles:  You send your resume to an email, then retype it into countless tiny boxes for an applicant tracking system (ATS) - hoping it doesn't crash and make you start over.
  • Communication black hole: You submit your application and vanish into a deafening silence that lasts weeks, months, or… nothing.
  • Uninspired interviews: If you make it this far, expect generic questions like "Tell me about your resume" and the dreaded "Strengths and weaknesses?"
  • Post-interview limbo: No clear next steps because often, there simply aren't any. The whole process drags on.

This approach alienates the best candidates. Organizations that want to win the talent war must make the candidate experience seamless, engaging, and transparent.

Here is what candidates expect from their employers:

1.    A seamless application process

Only 22% of job applicants in North America reported a positive last application experience. At a time when you can buy a car with a single click, why should applying for a job feel like an exhausting obstacle course? Shorter, one-click applications should be the norm. Platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and others are already solving for this, but it's far from becoming an industry standard.

Adding to the challenge is when you've already communicated with recruiters before applying and shared your resume via email. It's unreasonable for candidates to duplicate this effort by filling it in the ATS. Organizations must adopt an empathetic approach to candidates' application experiences to achieve a consumer-grade job application process.

2.      Personalized outreach

What do the best sales development teams and recruiters have in common? It's meticulous research. The top-performing sales reps understand the reasons behind a potential purchase and the customer's specific needs. Likewise, exceptional recruiters invest considerable time researching candidates to ensure a strong fit.

Candidate databases provide recruiters with a wealth of information about potential candidates, enhancing the quality of conversations that ultimately lead to applications. The objective isn't to cast a broader net but to leverage technology for precise targeting. Organizations still relying on information provided by candidates themselves risk limiting their ability to attract and secure top talent quickly.

3.    Skills over pedigree

One aspect of job applications that has yet to change is how organizations approach education and experience requirements. This approach can discourage potentially qualified candidates who lack a specific credential. Companies must shift their focus from emphasizing degrees to prioritizing skills to broaden their candidate pool. This isn't about lowering entry barriers but instead altering them. For instance, companies can assess candidates based on relevant qualities instead of assuming that a management role requires an advanced degree, a specific number of years of experience, or an understanding of specific terms or concepts.

Amidst tight labor markets, many employers are adopting this direction. For example, the official policy of the U.S. government is "to limit the use of educational requirements" in federal contracts. In 2021, the government encouraged agencies to "increase the use of skills and competency-based hiring for employment." In 2016, IBM coined the term “new collar” for positions requiring transferable skills instead of a bachelor’s degree. As of 2021, the company has done away with degree requirements for half of its openings in the US.

4.    Autonomy over predefined career paths

Research underscores a growing desire for individuals to shape their careers based on flexibility and well-being, steering away from predefined corporate ladders. With skills rapidly evolving, employees increasingly recognize the need to take charge of their professional development, seeking autonomy in crafting their own career paths.

Post-pandemic workforce trends reveal a shift towards new sectors, particularly for those with in-demand, industry-agnostic skills like data scientists. This challenges companies to move beyond mere replacements and embrace adaptive approaches. Offering extensive development opportunities and innovative practices, such as self-directed learning platforms and badging, becomes crucial for companies aiming to support individual aspirations and organizational needs. The consolidation of credentials into accessible learning records further facilitates talent identification within the organization. For instance, Walmart has made it easier for its employees to catalog, signal, and authenticate their achievements and skills in real time.

5.    Inclusive meritocracy

Many companies have committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, recognizing its positive impact on profitability. Research indicates that companies with high representation of women and ethnic minorities in leadership roles are more likely to achieve above-average profitability, with this advantage increasing over time. Realizing the full benefits of diversity involves hiring individuals who align with the existing corporate culture and ensuring the culture is adaptable and supportive of diverse talents. This adaptability is crucial for unlocking creativity, innovation, and diverse perspectives. Achieving this transformation requires data and accountability, integrating diversity metrics into performance evaluation and promotion processes.

People analytics, such as pulse surveys, natural language processing, and network analysis, can help companies extract meaningful insights from the noise. Empirical data allows managers to pinpoint reasons for employee exits, whether driven by parents, women, older employees, or newcomers. With this understanding, companies can enhance their culture to increase employees' sense of value, thereby improving retention rates.

Conclusion

Even before the impact of Covid-19, 90% of businesses were concerned about future skills gaps, yet only 16% believed they were adequately prepared to address them. The World Economic Forum predicts that technology could reshape a billion jobs, heightening the global competition for talent, especially considering the strain on many labor markets.

Recognizing that becoming an employer of choice isn't an outcome but a continuous set of processes is crucial. Companies must strategically play both offense—by enhancing their employee value proposition to attract new talent—and defense—by creating an environment that retains existing talent. Implementing the changes outlined in this article is no small feat, but they are essential to meet the demands of the evolving talent market, both present and future. 

Want to learn more about how ChatterWorks can help you find and hire top talent? Book a demo to see how we operationalize candidate data to help you deliver better candidate experiences!

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