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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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Delta's Customer Experience Investment: An Example Staffing Should Follow to Fly Higher

More than retailers, restaurants, or hotels, don’t airlines best illustrate the way businesses treat clients? In very few industries do we consistently see such glaring examples of customer care (or abuse). Quality in-flight experiences generate crazy levels of loyalty among travelers. Yet, the news is also packed with stories of air carriers eliminating seats, meals, and conveniences while hiking ticket prices or charging exorbitant fees for services that were traditionally free -- like checking a bag. The root of all service problems generally boils down to this: the company is doing what’s easiest for itself, not its consumers. There’s no difference with tales of candidate experience tragedies. Interestingly, Delta just went the opposite way to raise the bar for its competitors. And I think workforce solutions providers can learn a lot from this lesson.

Clearing the Air: How We Confuse Business and Safety on Planes

The airlines industry has a fascinating history. Decommissioned warplanes ended up becoming skyfaring commuter shuttles. The once vaunted and elegant experience of flying transformed into a mad, messy cattle call. The difference between first-class and coach is as pronounced as the divide between luxury suites and steerage (the seedy underbelly of the hull) on ocean liners like the Titanic.

Stranger still, airline passengers tend to either misunderstand rules or stick to them with the unquestioning servility of subjects under authoritarian rule. Here’s what I mean. Something like the role of the cabin crew -- it isn’t actually a business value. It’s for security. It’s functional. The restriction on using cell phones? Safety, right? Nope. That’s all business.

In the first situation, travelers seem to operate under the misconception that flight attendants are hospitality hostesses, concierges, or servers at a bistro. Not true. The staff are highly trained safety experts. Some even have paramedic skills and EMT certifications. Their job has little to do with fetching coffee or fluffing pillows. They exist to keep passengers safe in the event of an emergency. They serve people food and beverages to keep them pacified in their seats -- to prevent potential disruptions that could compromise a smooth voyage.

Now let’s look at the other side of this coin. Mobile phones. Can’t use ‘em unless the cellular service is disabled -- something charmingly referred to as “airplane mode.” It’s true that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforces a ban on cell phone usage in planes. But why? Ask around. You’ll discover that few people can explain it. Most believe the rule attempts to prevent interference with the plane’s controls. And that’s not the case.

Commercial aircraft are designed to withstand intrusion from foreign signals, and they operate on entirely different frequencies. The no-phone rule didn’t emerge as a safety protocol from regulators -- it was pushed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Making a call from 30,000 feet involves bouncing the transmission off multiple cell towers, not just one, which can tie up networks on the ground. The rule’s in place to appease cellular service providers and their customers. It’s convenience, not safety. It’s a business decision.

Flights of Fancy: Selfish Business Decisions Stall Airline Profits

Even though the most seasoned air travelers may confuse customer service with customer safety, it doesn’t mean the two aspects are mutually exclusive. A safe, uneventful journey is a happy one. The more amenities an air carrier provides passengers, the more satisfied they are. That’s important.

When travelers are cramped, uncomfortable, irritable, or worried, they’re more likely to be disruptive -- which of course becomes a safety risk. But their perception of the carrier’s customer service may lose serious altitude, too. And air travel is still big business.

Look at the disastrous aftermath of United’s horrendous customer service. A little over a year ago, cabin crews began a bizarre practice of forcibly ejecting people from flights for dubious reasons. The most newsworthy incident, which took place in April 2017, went viral. It eroded trust in the business. It caused consumers to boycott United and book passage on other carriers, even at higher fares. And it sent stocks into a steep nose dive that wiped out an estimated $255 million in the company’s market value.

United presents an extreme example. Other airlines are eliminating space to accommodate more passengers, cutting meal service, removing in-flight entertainment options, and more. Some are even installing these weird hanging jump seats to cram even more people onto already packed planes. The Skyrider 2.0 compact chair, as Fast Company describes, “positions a willing passenger almost completely upright on a polyester saddle and back support.” It looks like the harness you’d expect to see on a stand-up roller coaster.

But all of this is what makes Delta’s recent announcement so stunning. “American, United, and so many others are far more concerned with shoving as many seats as possible into planes -- even reducing first class legroom -- in order to make a few more dollars to pad their executives’ shareholdings,” writes Chris Matyszczyk for Inc. “Yet here was Delta suddenly thinking about, well, the people who give it their money?”

Brian Pascus explained the bold shift in his piece for Business Insider: “On Monday, Delta announced a ‘full-fleet interior renovation’ that will in part widen economy-class seats to 18.5 inches. For comparison, American Airlines' and United Airlines' seats are about 17 inches wide.”

Delta isn’t stopping there. Its premium-economy section will also get more room. And Delta One Suites, the first-class cabin section, will have “sliding-door accesses to a private cove filled with entertainment options, a personal table, and a 24-inch-wide reclining seat.” Why would Delta inject so much capital into customer-centric renovations like these?

“The comfort of our customers — across all cabins — is a top priority,” Savannah Huddleston, a Delta representative, said in a statement to Business Insider on Thursday. “That’s why we’ve committed to remain at 9-abreast seating in the Main Cabin as we modify our 777s, versus the new norm of 10 across. With 9-abreast, we’re able to offer wider Main Cabin seats — the widest of our international fleet — and more preferable seat options.”

Unlike its competitors, which Delta is putting to shame, the airline realizes that incredible profits can come from enhancing the customer experience -- by undertaking efforts that are easiest and best for the consumer, not the business. This is precisely why so many staffing technologies are languishing today: the machines function according to what’s most convenient for the companies, not the candidates.

Staffing Challenges with Stellar Candidate Experiences

Matt Alder posted a great article in ERE Media about the “Future of Career Sites.” His assessment of the dissatisfaction with outdated tools and stagnation in the evolution of many workforce technologies hits on the themes we’ve been exploring. To sum up the crux of Alder’s research: “The functionality and user experience of the vast majority of career sites has remained unchanged for two decades.” In some cases, as with airlines, it’s gotten worse.

Challenges persist because employers and developers are sticking with what’s familiar and easy for them. They’ve done little to reshape their solutions to the needs of modern candidates. Here are some of the issues.

Classified Ad Mindset

“Unfortunately,” Alder says, “many employers are still exhibiting classified advertising thinking and are marketing to ever-smaller active audiences of job seekers, rather than nurturing the more passive talent they actually need.”

ATS Scope Creep

The applicant tracking platforms that hiring managers and staffing providers use aren’t just old, they’re still focused on processing applications that have already been captured. They haven’t grown to incorporate marketing -- engaging, nurturing, and converting talent to apply. Passive candidates, experts believe, are the richest sources of skilled talent. ATS systems essentially ignore them.

Limited Mobility

Outreach, sourcing, engagement, and interaction have become mobile experiences. People apply for jobs on their smartphones. Recruiters and prospects communicate through texts and social apps. The concept of “conversational commerce” is gaining steam around the world. We’re using video technologies to showcase employment cultures, conduct interviews and assist with onboarding. And soon, we’ll be tapping into the realm of virtual reality to enhance those efforts.

Within the next few years, 25 billion devices will be producing and delivering information on any subject imaginable. Immediacy and on-demand access are the themes driving the push toward the small screen. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of job seekers rely on mobile devices exclusively when scouting and applying for positions. That figure rises to 53 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds. Close to 80 percent of U.S. candidates say they would apply for jobs on their phones if HR tech companies streamlined the process and launched platforms designed specifically for mobile devices.

Companies that fail to create mobile-friendly job tools will be left behind. Anyone who wants to reach and engage prospects must champion a positive mobile experience. However, as Alder points out, too many companies push job boards, which continue to function with legacy features like long, drawn-out applications. Candidates want a Tinder experience. They won’t spend precious time answering lengthy questionnaires. So what happens? As Alder states, organizations spend millions on “recruitment advertising to drive traffic into a broken conversion funnel.”

Hiring Platforms and Ecosystems Prepare for Take Off

To succeed in attracting people in this fiercely competitive marketplace, staffing technology must embrace the digital expediency that today’s talent crave. And the candidate experience should become the epicenter for any shifts made. Otherwise, developers will continue to design tools that address the desires of their companies or their clients, but not the workers being sought.

Recruiting efforts, Alder writes, have to be “underpinned by a robust technology platform to offer the level of effectiveness and flexibility employers need. This technology platform needs to fit the purpose, as it is clear that the 20-year experiment of stretching ATS technology to power career sites hasn’t worked.”

Fortunately, newer companies are seizing the opportunity to strengthen the candidate experience by designing hiring platforms that create genuine exchanges that unite talent, talent suppliers, and hiring organizations in a Human Cloud ecosystem. Their platforms put the user experience at the forefront of design.

  • Flexibility and agility through a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach that constantly innovates and keeps pace with ongoing advances
  • Optimization and conversion through real-time metrics, reporting, progress tracking, gamification, and performance visibility
  • Personalization in customized workflows, messaging, and candidate experiences
  • Omni-channel recruiting capabilities tailored to specific audiences

One of the key lessons from Delta’s example is that a sense of humanity and high-touch service becomes even more critical in the digital age. The rise of machines is great for curbing costs and streamlining efficiencies, but too much automation risks sacrificing the heart and soul of quality experiences. Like Delta’s customers, candidates want more “leg room” and to “move freely about the cabin.” It’s an investment that every organization in search of talent should be making.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley thought leader, speaker, motivator, and the visionary behind the groundbreaking Crowdstaffing ecosystem. Blending vision, technology, and business skills, he is transforming the talent acquisition landscape and the very nature of work. Prior to launching Crowdstaffing, Sunil honed his skills and experience as a business leader for companies such as IBM, EMC, and Symantec. "We need to think exponentially to mindfully architect the future of humanity, civilization, and work. When we collaborate and work together, everyone prospers."
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