There was a time, not so long ago, when work was more of a place we went as opposed to a thing we did. Until recently, work-life balance wasn’t an aspiration, but instead, something most workers could more or less take for granted.
There existed an unspoken, unseen and ubiquitous wall separating the personal and the professional, with a distinct divide existing between our work lives and our home lives. Work began – and ended – at the factory floor or the office doors.
Things have changed. And in today’s world of work, we’ve seen a seismic shift in terms of both technological innovation and workers’ expectations. This evolution has inevitably blurred the line between work and home. Work is increasingly no longer somewhere we go, but rather, something we do. Where we do it, how we do it and when it gets done are no longer limited to the workplace or “working hours.”
When it comes to our proverbial calling, most workers are always on call, erasing the distinct divide between who we are and what we do. The convergence between our personal and our professional identities is increasingly absolute.
Of course, this shift isn’t the only one that’s changing our fundamental understanding of the very concept of “work” and its larger interplay – and bigger impact – on our lives.
As the shortage of skilled workers continues to grow along with the already cutthroat competition for top talent, the power dynamic between companies and their people has shifted decidedly from employer to employee. So too have those employees’ expectations when it comes to employee experience.
As Dr. Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School of Business once noted, “employees today are consumers of work – and like all consumers, they have a choice.”
This means that recruiting and retaining top talent requires companies to start thinking about their workers not strictly as employees or candidates, but as customers, too.
And if those customers aren’t getting the service or value they expect, just like any consumer, there’s a good chance they’ll take their business – and their talents – someplace else. This is one opportunity cost no talent organization can really afford.
The amalgamation of candidate and consumer preferences has created a new type of worker, best described as a “TalentSumer.”
Being the employer of choice that more choice employees choose, subsequently, requires companies to rethink – and reframe – what workers need, and what they expect, to make their work actually work for them.
The companies best positioned to win the war for talent tomorrow will be the employers who can deliver on or exceed those expectations today. We’ve talked a lot about how candidates are like customers, and there’s a lot of truth to this. Similarly, every employee is a consumer, too.
This means that in the age of the TalentSumer, total talent management success requires a consumer marketing approach, albeit one with a slightly differentiated call to action for a purchase that’s about as big ticket as it gets.
Unlike most purchasing decisions, filling a job requires selling something that pretty much all of us need. Which pretty much every employer out there is already acutely aware of, but we don’t necessarily need a job at your company, either.
The thing is, all of us in the workforce today have become TalentSumers; this trend is in no way related to Gen Y workers nor any other specific segment of the workforce.
While the commoditization of work might be something that’s much more natural to Millennial workers, who have long viewed their professional lives largely as a matter of personal choice, older workers are also adjusting to new ways of working – and adopting a new mindset and mentality about that work, too.
The rise of the TalentSumer isn’t about new workers, it’s about new ways of working. Just as significantly, it’s about being adaptable and flexible enough to be open to changing how we go about acquiring those workers, too.
The profound implications for the rise of TalentSumers from a talent acquisition perspective means that companies must realize that selling work is like selling any other product or brand promise; if it doesn’t deliver as expected, consumers are going to find out.
Just like recruiters are researching candidates, candidates are researching companies, too. This means your employees are already talking the talk, no matter what it is you say in your job descriptions or on your career site.
And if you’re not walking the walk, you probably won’t like what they’re saying about you online or to their professional networks and personal connections.
And even the world’s best recruitment marketing or employer branding can’t compensate for a broken culture, nor can it overcome negative word of mouth from employees or candidates.
This is why you can’t go wrong keeping it real; it’s incumbent for employers to be upfront and honest about what working for your company is really like rather than what your talent organization may think candidates – or your company’s senior leaders, for that matter – might want to hear.
Like consumer marketing, truth in employer branding is everything. The difference, of course, is that unlike consumer marketing, in recruiting, TalentSumers are both the product and the people.
That’s why creating an employer brand that TalentSumers will respond to means your people need to be the ones telling your story, since ultimately, your employer brand is only as strong as your employees. Nothing resonates with real people more than real people telling real stories about what real work is really like at your company.
Which is one thing you really can’t fake. For real.