8 Technologies to consider when building a world class talent brand strategy

“Which technologies should be part of our employer brand strategy?”

It’s a question we get asked a lot at Truist. And rightfully so, given the astonishing number of entrants into the HR tech industry these days. Choosing the right technologies for your talent acquisition and branding activities can be a lot like picking out paint colors for a new house – completely overwhelming. You’re asked to sift through hundreds of options, weigh the pros and cons, and figure out what’s ACTUALLY different between two similar options. In the case of HR tech, you also have to decipher from a sales pitch what is real vs. what is a loose promise designed to get a contract signed the fastest way possible.

When considering a technology, a tool or a platform, it is also SO important to think about the need it serves in your strategy and how all end users will experience the solution (candidates, recruiters, hiring managers, and talent [employer] brand managers alike).  As I always say…

“A technology or tool is only as good as the strategy it supports and the creative content that gets delivered through it!”

That’s why I’ve dedicated an entire [long] post to sharing what technologies I’ve tried, tested, used, discovered, compared, observed and loved over the last several months, specifically to strengthen a company’s image and positively impact the talent experience.

Disclaimer: This post is geared towards companies who have upwards of 2,000 employees and who hire at least a couple hundred workers each year. I realize there may be exceptional cases where a smaller company has chosen to invest in a talent brand manager or program but may not have the resources to bring in powerhouse technologies. If you are one of the exceptions, feel free to read as an FYI (or not), but be warned that it may evoke feelings of anger, resentment or jealousy and I totally get that. You’ve been warned J

Now, for those still reading… It is unlikely that you have the luxury of starting with an entirely blank canvas when it comes to tech stack, or an unlimited budget to acquire everything at once. Therefore, I’ve approached the article with a candidate-centric evaluation methodology that will enable you to identify your biggest opportunities quickly based on which phase of the journey you’re facing the most challenges with.

The goal of managing any talent brand towards the goal of acquiring new best-fit talent is to facilitate a (hopefully) positive brand experience for candidates through 6 key stages: awareness, consideration, active interest, conversion, selection and hire.

Before we break down and offer a technology suggestion (or 2) for each phase, there are a couple technologies that will help you track, monitor and measure how your efforts are going across multiple stages of the journey – those that will help you see the “bigger picture” if you will.

Tracking impact across the candidate journey

1. Qualtrics

Recently bought by SAP, Qualtrics delivers a platform that allows you to track and receive smart alerts involving various dimensions of talent experience at any given time. It brings the real-time infrastructure used to manage customer experience programs into the talent industry – one that has historically relied on outdated, lagging indicator surveys that often generate data and responses far too late in the process to have meaningful impact.

While Qualtrics has historically focused more on “employee experience” than “candidate experience”, many of their solutions are transferrable to the candidate journey and allow you to directly ask candidates how they are experiencing different aspects of your recruitment process in real-time. That data is translated into usable insights which are segmented and made accessible by user friendly dashboards or custom reports.

Qualtrics is also in the process of launching a new employer brand tracking product which analyzes and integrates data from social sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com in real-time. (“What! We don’t have to do this manually anymore?”  You’re welcome J )

Top 3 “likes” about Qualtrics:

  • Experience data (X data) collection at multiple points in the candidate journey AND the ability to concurrently run broader brand tracking studies to measure total impact.
  • Smart algorithms make sense of the data and give action-oriented insights in user-friendly dashboards.
  • I believe they will reset the “best in class bar” to one that brings together recruitment operational data with experience data and enable recruitment and brand management teams to run as strategic, data-driven functions that deliver real value to end users.

Not a fit for: Companies that fund talent brand programs on a shoe string budget. Qualtrics can offer an amazing solution, but it does come at a price of relative significance.

2. Talentegy

A second good technology option to track certain aspects of the total candidate journey is a relatively new player to the space, Talentegy. Whilst the product is fairly new, the people behind it are industry veterans who really “get” the challenges faced by today’s Talent Acquisition leaders and Talent Brand managers.

Talentegy sits on top of your current tech stack and tracks the good, the bad and the ugly of how candidates use your technology. Its main features (feedback surveys, chatbots, live career site monitoring and aggregated employer review monitoring) deliver alerts and insights to help you make continuous improvements to the candidate’s user experience and increase ROI on your tech investments.

Top 3 “likes” about Talentegy:

  • Real-time session recordings are automatically generated, and show you exactly why drop off is occurring from the candidate’s view. This gives you a live example to use when troubleshooting fixes or improvements with your technology vendors.
  • Merges silo’d HR reporting and data analytics from multiple systems into one unified view.
  • Requires no integrations or IT involvement (sigh) as their Smart Tag technology is literally up and running in minutes (I know, I didn’t believe it until I saw it either). This also means that there’s no need to replace any of your existing HR technology if you don’t want to.

Not a fit for: Companies who do not have a career site, an ATS, and are already using some sort of technology to enable the candidate journey. Talentegy’s tagging system requires at least 1 digital destination to attach to.

Optimizing brand impact during each phase of the candidate journey

Now let’s dive into each phase in the candidate journey and establish what the primary goal of talent branding should be for each phase, and a relevant technology that can help your company be successful at it.

AWARENESS is the first phase, and the goal is to get your career message noticed with positive sentiment.

Talent brand teams tend to invest the majority of their budget and resources building online campaigns that can be launched and managed through a variety of distribution platforms like Sprinklr or Hootsuite. However, research shows that content shared by employees yields higher return on engagement and pull through of message than content shared by a brand directly . For example, a study by MSLGroup found that brand messages reach over 560% further when shared by employees, and Social Media Today states that content shared by employees receive 8x more engagement than content shared by owned brand channels.

So, my suggestion is to invest in a strong employee advocacy program that is fueled by a user-friendly technology. There are many to choose from, but we like…

3. Smarp

Smarp easily connects employees to company and industry news that is personally relevant and interesting to them, and easy to share with the click of a button. In turn, employees are ACTUALLY willing to share it without being emotionally coerced or promised a sexy gift. In a world where the amount of information available to us is growing, and the list daily responsibilities for employees is becoming more complex, you need a tool that is built around the user. That’s exactly what has driven Smarp’s product design since day 1, and they’ve managed to do it well while still accommodating for necessary brand controls and administrator rights.

We piloted 4 different employee advocacy tools at Philips, and this one led the pack both in terms of user adoption and relative earned media value. Of course, you need a strong strategy in place surrounding the technology, and a high performer leading the holistic execution of that strategy, but when it comes to tooling this one makes it easy.

Top 3 “likes” about Smarp:

  • Their proprietary content distribution structure allows all content to be managed through a single process but gives users the ability to select which content they want to personally receive (or not).
  • Built-in gamification sustains adoption and engagement. Contests, rewards and recognition incentives are easy to put into practice with the automated leaderboard.
  • Automatic language detection – makes it easy to scale to a variety of geographies.

Not (really) a fit for: Companies with under 500 employees. The solution is available to smaller companies but return on investment (and effort) likely isn’t as high.

Once aware of your company as a potential employer, a candidate must consciously CONSIDER their prospects there.

This phase typically involves research starting with a Google search and (hopefully) single click to your career website. Therefore, it’s important to create a frictionless, highly engaging experience on your primary career platform – one that sustains your prospect’s attention, showcases your unique strengths in a compelling way and allows him/her to self-identify level of “fit” for your organization early on.

There are a few major career site contenders out there, but one that is leading the pack in bringing the best of eCommerce functionalities to the talent space is…

4. Phenom People

This single SaaS platform extends well beyond just a Career site and CRM, but from a candidate’s viewpoint, those are the most meaningful touchpoints. Powered by AI, Phenom’s platform enables personalized user experiences and dynamic content that gets smarter with each click. The result is higher engagement on the talent brand content presented, and increased conversion rates of passive viewers to applicants. Phenom People recently introduced chatbots into the platform as well which assist with pre-screening and even assist with scheduling recruiter interviews directly from the site.

The company has been on a rapid growth journey the last few years, encountering their share of growing pains over the course of that journey. However, they recently secured an additional round of investor funding which has allowed them to procure essential delivery resources, build out all angles of a talent experience management (TXM) solution and establish partnerships that I believe will help them deliver even greater value to brands in the future.

(I also love companies who consciously give back, and Phenom donates to each employees’ charity of choice on their birthday. Awwww!)  

Top 3 “likes” about Phenom People:

  • Personalized career site experiences. A user’s experience (including recommended jobs and content) is customized after the user allows the site to access his or her social profile of choice.
  • Analytics allow talent brand managers to track inflow from campaigns and tagged content in order to make informed decisions about ROI management. (Note: this level of data requires full Apply integration between Phenom and your ATS.)
  • Their focus on candidate experience but consideration of the recruiter experience, hiring manager experience AND employee experience in their total product suite design allows you to execute your talent brand strategy holistically.

Not a fit for: those who don’t care about user experience. (Are there any left? I sure hope not.)

I’d be leaving a huge gap if I didn’t talk about the importance of content in the Consideration phase. That’s why we’ve doubled up on suggestions in this phase and wanted to give a noteworthy mention to…

5. Altru

Altru’s technology allows you to quickly and easily turn your employers into influencers for your company and a powerhouse for your talent brand. The days of cranking out 2-3 super expensive, professionally produced talent brand videos every YEAR are waning.  Candidates expect lots of fresh content about THEIR specific area of interest to be readily available in the desired place, at the desired time.

Altru’s mobile-based content creation app makes employee-generated content easy to obtain at scale and easy to moderate + edit into something that is authentic to the employee experience, yet still “on brand”. Distribution is super simple as you can embed the final videos into your career site, social media feeds, job descriptions or email campaigns in just a few clicks.

Top 3 “likes” about Altru:

  • Talent brand teams are typically able to create a much higher volume of quality employee videos for same or less money than they are currently spending with agency or production companies.
  • User and administrator interfaces are extremely simple and easy to use, which means minimal uphill battles when it comes to adoption and training.
  • The company’s customer service levels seem to be pretty awesome based on personal experience and reviews from others. They’ve chosen to invest more in account managers than sales reps which is always a good sign!

Not a fit for: those who don’t have the talent brand basics in place first (EVP, style guide, content strategy, etc.) Get those done first and then check out Altru for top notch activation.

Once a candidate has passively browsed content proactively offered by a brand (and maybe what its employees have to say on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com), they enter the ACTIVE INTEREST phase when they want answers to their own individual questions.

It used to be that candidates would first apply and then try to get their questions answered afterwards. Today, that has shifted in many skill areas where talent demand exceeds supply (tech, solution selling, engineering, etc.). Sought after talent will not put in the time and effort to apply until they are highly confident that the company and department is a likely match. As such, this phase is all about securing emotional commitment and igniting action. That’s why I am a huge fan of…

6. Path Motion

Path Motion takes employee ambassadorship to the next level, instantaneously unleashing your biggest employed fans to answer your candidate’s most important questions. By doing so it creates authentic, real-time exchanges,  which then also translate into an organic database of talent brand content and insights from which to build high value content on a continuous basis.

The fully branded Q&A text and video platform fits right into your existing career site and offers candidates the ability to ask specific questions 24/7. PathMotion’s machine-learning based technology pulls from previous discussions automatically and either delivers a relevant response from past conversations or poses the new question to employee responders who have been identified by the company. The invaluable content from those exchanges is then available to feed or retarget to candidates across your various talent brand channels including other areas of your career site, social media, SEO and chatbots. The ability to schedule and host Live Chat sessions is also available and easy to use.

Bonus “good citizen” points here too! Path Motion offers attractive discount schemes to non-profit and charity-oriented companies as a way to show their support for meaningful causes.

Top 3 “likes” about Path Motion:

  • Relevancy.  Candidates are forced to spend so much time researching and sifting through loads of information that don’t address the REAL questions and concerns they have. Finally, a solution that allows them to get a direct answer to their specific question.  
  • Has started to replace outdated campus recruitment practices like chaotic in-person career fairs. Candidates enjoy the experience better and Talent Acquisition departments are able to save on time and resources.
  • Over time this solution can replace expensive and time-consuming market research and content creation activities for a talent brand team. Tuning into what questions candidates are asking will help you create highly relevant content and execute it effectively (relevant SEO tags, etc.) and the organic content that is generated can be used to fulfill content needs      across multiple candidate touch points.

Not a fit for: companies who make less than a couple hundred hires a year, or those who aren’t able to secure 1 or 2 dozen employees to spend a couple hours per month responding to candidate queries (either due to culture or bandwidth challenges).

Now it’s time to CONVERT the right candidates into applicants and SELECT one. (Emphasis on RIGHT candidates because flooding your recruiters with non-quality resumes does nothing more than clog the precious recruitment “machine”).

I’m a big fan of maintaining a fair amount of personal touch and humanism in talent experiences, but there IS a role for technology (more specifically AI) to play in this day and age. Yup, here it comes - BOTS. There are quite a few out there. Some who have repurposed mediocre out of the box technology, and some who have boldly opted to create something custom that feels eerily close to a human while presenting a level of authenticity that feels ethical to candidates. One product in the latter category is…

7. Mya

Mya solves the routine existential gaps in candidate experience – not being able to get intelligent answers about a job before applying, not hearing back after applying, and having the qualification process take an insane amount of time. Sure, most bots can put their best foot forwards to try and solve for this but if not done well, it can just replace one candidate frustration with a new one. Mya actually does it WELL.

The conversational AI platform puts forth a human-like concierge that can help filter out poor quality candidates at this critical step and guide a heightened level of action and commitment to convert high quality ones. Furthermore, it can keep candidates updated in real-time as to where things are at during the [often drawn out] selection process. Beyond these use cases, the platform is actually designed to manage the full end-to-end candidate / employee life cycle from job search —> application —> screening —> scheduling interviews —> onboarding —> new hire check-ins —> redeployment. So, the platform offers scalability beyond just recruiter benefits for organizations who can align themselves against the opportunity for seamlessness and maximum efficiency.

Top 3 “likes” about Mya:

  • The sophistication of the technology. Seriously, just do the demo and its ability to interpret context, recognize intent and sustain human-centric dialogues is impressive. (The technology is available in 50+ languages with at least a half dozen of them truly localized beyond translation, to local linguistics recognition).
  • The company is working on a mid-market offering which will allow smaller companies to still compete on candidate experience (Woo hoo!). The model will be skewed towards self-service, but the technology value is projected to still be there.
  • It’s the only AI conversation agent that is an approved Workday partner. (Sigh, it’s kind of a lame benefit but given the high number of Workday users out there who are struggling to maximize THAT situation as much they can, an easy bolt-on like Mya can offer some level of relief).

Not a fit for: Recurring theme here. Currently, companies with less than a few hundred hires a year or single locations. This may change though when Mya’s mid-market offering hits the virtual shelves in Q3 2019.

Congratulations! You’ve found your top candidate, managed to not turn them off, and agreed on an offer to make them a HIRE. The recruiter’s job might be done, but your talent brand’s strength is about to be put to the ultimate test.

Multiple studies have found that how engaged a new hire is upon joining impacts their long-term tenure and productivity significantly. So, saddle up and get ready to invest some time and resources in making their pre-start and first 30-90 days exceptional! I like the onboarding platform offered by…

8. Appical

Appical makes it easy to design a proven, yet customizable experience for new joiners before and after Day 1. (They also offer an offboarding application, but we won’t get into that today). The SaaS platforms leverages various elements like videos, checklists, quizzes, interactive assignments and virtual reality to meet the functional objectives of company onboarding in a way that isn’t a total snooze fest to new hires. In my view, it really sets the stage for a positive employee experience and positions your company as one that cares about its people and is innovative in its practices.

Top 3 “likes” about Appical:

  • Supported adaptation of the platform to your brand guidelines and tone. This surpasses just colors and layout elements, affording you the flexibility to bring the brand to life in new ways like music playlists and attire options. (Implementation can be complex, but also really fun!)
  • You can easily sequence the atomic bomb of information that most companies want to lay on their new hires in a way that is digestible, logical and not completely boring. (Thank you, Lord!)
  • Collaborative nature of the provider-client partnership. Similar to Truist’s co-creation model, the implementation team really takes the time to dig into existing content, processes and requirements and comes up with solution design options in near real-time that fit the needs of all parties and is confidently grounded in past learnings.

Not a fit for: companies who do not have their current onboarding process mapped out and somewhat under control. Do the basic legwork of organizing first before procuring the technology to make it sparkle.

That’s a wrap, folks! There are loads of technology options out there, and of course not every option listed in this article will be the perfect fit for every company. However, these are fairly universal options to consider if you’re serious about optimizing your talent brand and in the market for some tech to fuel your efforts. I hope it was helpful!

If you want a warm and fuzzy introduction to leaders at any of the tech companies mentioned in this article, or receive personalized talent brand technology advising, please Contact Truist. We are happy to talk shop with you any time. Until then, all the best in your quest for the best!

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A final disclaimer:  All views and opinions represented in this article are authentic and true to my experiences and information gathered over time. In some cases, Truist has a paid referral relationship with the company mentioned, and in some cases not. That’s it!