Candidates in 2018: Informed, expectant and always ready to move

Candidate expectations and behaviours are changing dramatically yet too many Australian employers are still doing what they’ve always done. Here’s what’s changed and how you need to respond.

Remember when we used to talk about passive versus active candidates? Forget it. Now more than ever, it’s one long spectrum, from the 24/7 job hunters to that talented new hire who you thought you’d locked in. The majority of quality employees are now ‘continuous candidates’, always open to the right move. So if you’re not nurturing your best people and actively targeting your competitors’ superstars, prepare for a fall.

So what’s behind the change and what should you be doing about it?

1. We’re happy to shake things up

It’s estimated that we’ll change jobs 12-15 times in our life, and that number is rising. Why? Well, relative economic stability is a good place to start. Few of us have lived through a world war and neither did most of our parents. We don’t yearn for the stable ‘job for life’ which was once so attractive… which is a relief because there’s no such thing now. Workforce casualisation… commercial tightening… a trigger-happy restructure culture. We’re well aware that we can never get too comfortable. Want three more factors? We have more casual earning options available to us; we’re more comfortable with financial debt; and there’s less of a social stigma around casual work and periods of unemployment.

2. We have the tools to flirt, be found and do our homework

Technology is a major disruptor in this space. It’s now quicker and easier than ever to explore new opportunities. And thanks to digital and social advances, jobs now find us. Employers are able to directly target high calibre people, en masse. Many professionals, of course, will usually keep half an eye on our own ‘brand’, ensuring that we are visible and attractive to future employers. And when an employer does come knocking, it takes seconds to do our homework on you, as we decide whether to engage. If you haven’t seen SEEK and Glassdoor's anonymous employer reviews, you should probably take a look.

3. We’ll vote with our feet (Loyalty is not the same as passive obedience)

Unsurprisingly, we’re more likely than ever before to quit if we’re not happy, or if something better comes along. I’ve seen this held up as an example of the lack of loyalty and integrity of ‘youth nowadays’. I think this is unfair and shortsighted. Most of us have grown up being sold to 24/7 and have developed a greater mistrust of government, institutions and corporations, including employers. We’re aware that we need to use the tools we have to stay in control of our income, our job and our career. So if you think that new hire is locked in, you’re wrong. In 2018, people rarely commit to you until they’ve had a chance to ’see behind the scenes’.

4. Values, purpose and fulfilment matter to us

It’s unsurprising that in an advantaged society where most of us aren’t worried about whether we’ll eat or where we’ll sleep that night, we’re more likely to experience and prioritise needs around what Maslow labelled ‘belonging’, ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualisation’. In a Facebook-fuelled, broadcast world, it’s also no surprise that many of us are instinctively seeking meaningful relationships and connections to fill the void. Employers are consistently finding that in 2018’s knowledge economy, telling someone you’ll pay them a fair wage and provide some training just doesn’t cut it. People need to connect to your purpose, to feel that they belong, to know that they’ve achieved, and to hear you acknowledge their contribution.

Five actions for employers:

1. Treat your current employees well and put them at the heart of everything.

This not only helps retain the stars. It also drives employee advocacy. Your people are your greatest recruitment marketing tool.

2. Understand and shape your employer brand and talent offer.

Starting with an employee value proposition which is unique and authentic. If you can’t show people why you’re a great choice and inspire them around that, you’ll never consistently attract the best.

3. Treat candidates with the same seriousness and care as you do customers.

They have equally high expectations and rightly so. A poor recruitment experience will impact on your hire and retention rate and on the buy-in of new employees when they start.

4. Invest properly in recruitment marketing.

Skill up, gen up and develop a robust, personalised strategy. There’s a huge opportunity for proactive employers who are serious about talent.

5. Measure, listen and learn.

This is a moving feast and will always be a work in progress. Don’t take your eye off the ball.

Mark Puncher

About the Author

Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 22 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.

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