Best Practices for Every Stage of Employee Experience: Stage 1, Attract
Employee experience is the sum of all of a worker’s interactions within an organization. Employee experience begins before a person is hired — when they first learn about the company — and stretches all the way to post-employment.
Because employee experience is an ongoing thing, companies often map it out into something called the employee journey (or employee lifecycle). This employee journey is broken up into seven stages:
Companies often use employee journey mapping to better understand the overall employee experience — including pain points and areas for improvement.
This is part one of a seven-part series. In part one, we'll cover best practices for the attraction stage of employee experience.
Employee Experience Stage 1: Attracting Employees
The attraction stage is the first part of the employee journey. It precedes all other aspects of the employee experience, including the hiring process. It's when businesses attempt to promote their brand and find future employees.
This stage of the employee experience has become critical in 2023, as employee expectations surrounding work have changed. Today’s workers don’t just want a job with competitive pay and benefits. They also want a company they can trust and a place where they feel they fit in and have a purpose, according to McKinsey.
That's where employee experience comes in. Brands that use employee journey mapping can look to optimize every stage of the employee experience or employee lifecycle, which in turn drives employee engagement and satisfaction.
It's during this first stage, the attraction stage, that brands can significantly influence how candidates feel about the company and the job.
Employee Experience Stage 1: Best Practices
This stage of the employee journey, when done right, can attract higher-quality candidates, assist in promoting a strong sense of culture and, ultimately, cultivate a well-rounded, positive employee experience.
Best practices for attracting top-tier employees include:
Write Clear Job Descriptions — but Don’t Limit Yourself
Job descriptions can have a negative impact on employee experience when done wrong.
When it comes to your descriptions, be specific. Don’t use buzzwords and technical industry jargon (unless you have to). In a JobSage survey of 1,000 employed Americans, 64% said one of their biggest job post pet peeves is a job description that’s unclear about the role.
Use clear, simple and easy-to-understand words, and lay out exactly what the job entails. Include the location, working hours, the role’s responsibilities, candidate requirements and how the role fits into larger operations at the company. You could also add a sentence on the organization's vision for employee experience.
Don’t gloss over the less exciting aspects of the job, either. Failure to offer transparency here can lead to hiring a new employee who ultimately doesn’t like the job and leaves, taking you back to square one.
You’ll want to answer questions like:
- Why is this position important?
- What will career growth look like in this role?
- What does the company culture prioritize?
Mary Slaughter, global head of employee experience & communications at Morningstar, also recommends not to get overly restricted in job qualifications, like college majors.
“We actually look more for characteristics and work ethic and interpersonal skills,” she said, “those sorts of things and a pattern of success that they’ve had through their academic career — and whether or not they’re sort of a cultural fit to us.”
Be Clear About Remote, Hybrid Work Options
The employee experience isn't restricted to an office anymore, and today’s employees care about whether they can work from home or in a hybrid capacity. As such, companies should set expectations early on.
“Be as clear as you can with candidates around what your expectations are for where they work and when they work because it’s become a new sorting factor on the part of candidates," Slaughter said.
Putting this information out there will ensure that when a new employee accepts a job opportunity, they walk into it with eyes wide option, Slaughter said. “Setting expectations is probably 90% of the battle.”
Beyond setting expectations, organizations should include the “why” behind those workplace decisions, as communication between companies and staff plays a big role in employee experience.
For example, in a hybrid work capacity, Slaughter said you may want to answer, “Why is being together some of the time important to the job, important to the individual candidate, in terms of career growth and their success?”
Related Article: 5 Essential Components of a Remote Job Listing
Use Keywords to Boost Discoverability
Looking for a career opportunity is often no different than using a search engine. Most job seekers turn to job boards, perusing open positions via the search function.
Companies can elevate their postings and make them more discoverable by tapping into job-seeker behavior and optimizing their job titles and descriptions.
Job titles, for example, should be specific rather than generic. Think “Marketing Manager” instead of “Marketing Role.” A 2022 Appcast report revealed there’s also a sweet spot for job title length, with job titles between one and three words getting the most clicks. The exception to that role? When you include phrases like “Hiring Now” or “Remote Work Option.”
For job descriptions, use specific words and phrases that match the skills and qualifications required for the specific job. For example, if the job requires experience with a specific programming language or software, include that language or software in the job description.
While you don’t want to get too technical, you can also include a few industry terms in the description. Think about words or phrases job seekers might use when searching your field. With a marketing job, for example, you might use terms like “SEO,” “lead generation” or “CRM platform.”
Make the Process Mobile-Friendly
According to Appcast, 67% of job applications were completed on a mobile device in 2021 — up from 51% in 2019.
With the preference shifting toward mobile, companies can optimize this stage of the employee journey by making the application process mobile-friendly, with initiatives like:
- Optimizing websites for mobile: Ensure the company's career website is optimized for mobile devices, including using a responsive design that automatically adjusts the layout to fit different screen sizes and reduces the amount of text and images to make pages load faster.
- Making job listings mobile-friendly: To improve (potential) employee experience, ensure that job listings are easy to read and navigate on a mobile device. This includes using larger fonts, simple layouts and clear call-to-action buttons.
- Setting up notifications and alerts: Send push notifications and alerts to candidates to keep them informed about the status of their application or remind them of upcoming interviews or deadlines.
- Using mobile-friendly tools: Use mobile-friendly tools such as mobile-optimized assessments and mobile-friendly scheduling to make the process more accessible to job seekers on the go.
By making the job search and application process mobile-friendly, companies can make the entire process easier for job seekers, ultimately attracting more qualified candidates, streamlining the recruitment process and driving future employee satisfaction.
Related Article: Is Your Technology Fueling or Foiling the Digital Employee Experience?
Advertise How You Want Employees to Feel
One thing Slaughter said her organization has focused on in the past 18 months is employee sentiment within the employee journey. “We tried to be way more explicit about the emotional state of what we want our employees to feel,” she said.
The company looked at areas like flexibility, belonging, growth, opportunity, etc., identified the ideal employee emotions and openly discussed them during recruitment.
“We explicitly talk about…not only what you will do and your job and what your experience will be like, not just the mechanics of what you will get paid and what the hours are, but how we would like you to feel working here,” Slaughter said.
When developing this construct, the company leaders used interns and summer associates as focus groups to develop ideas and get employee feedback. What they heard back from those workers was that it not only set a higher bar for them as employees, it also changed the way they did interviews with other companies when they were looking at opportunities.
“We’re not perfect; we don’t get it right all the time,” said Slaughter. “People are human. But we do our best to live up to the emotional side of it because we want people to really feel connected to the company.”
Maintain a Company Career Website
Job seekers don’t rely on job boards entirely. They also turn to company career websites to find open positions, especially with brands that have good reputations.
Another big benefit of a company career website is that it can attract the passive job seeker — someone not actively looking for a job but who is interested in the company. It’s a great way to attract top talent open to new opportunities.
Some guidelines companies should follow when setting up or optimizing their company career websites include:
- Design and layout: Create a visually appealing design and layout that reflect the company's brand and culture. Make sure the website is easy to navigate and that job listings are prominently featured.
- Content: Develop content that provides a detailed overview of the company, promotes the company culture and highlights opportunities for growth and development within the employee journey. Companies should also include information about products and services, as well as relevant history and future business performance plans.
- Job listings: Create a section for job listings that is easy to use and allows job seekers to search for and apply to open positions. Make sure the job listings include detailed information about the role, responsibilities and qualifications required.
- Employer branding: Use the career website as a platform to showcase the brand, company values and current employee experience. This can include employee testimonials, videos and other multimedia that give job seekers a sense of the company culture and work environment.
Related Article: How Corporate Culture Feeds Into the Bottom Line
Stand Out From the Noise With Influencers
“There’s so much noise in the job market,” said Erin Lazarus, director of solution architects at SHL.
In the past, she explained, when people looked for jobs, they searched in the newspaper or walked down the street to look for signs in windows. Or maybe they knew someone who knew someone.
“But with the world becoming digital, and virtual opportunities open to us everywhere in the world, it creates endless opportunity," she said. And that endless opportunity can be overwhelming for job searchers.
Influencers, who are trusted — because they put out content that aligns with people’s personal values — provide guidance in this process. They point the way toward an interesting company or a worthwhile opportunity to pursue. “They’re giving us clear guidance in a world that’s full of numerous options that are very hard to sort through.”
When it comes to working with influencers to promote your brand and open positions, Lazarus offered some tips:
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- Find out who you want to engage and look at the influencers they follow.
- Find influencers who look like your target audience.
- Don’t be afraid to use influencers from within the organization.
- Promote content that is authentic (less produced, more real-life) and relatable.
Ultimately, the goal of using influencers during the attraction stage of the employee journey is to stand out from the noise of the digital job search through trustworthy and authentic content.
Related Article: Find Your Learning and Development Influencers
Use Targeted Advertising Campaigns
This stage of the employee journey boils down to attracting high-quality candidates — whether they find you or you go to them.
Typical avenues include posting to job boards or directly to the company career website. But targeted advertising campaigns, like the ones below, can also play a big role:
- Social media advertising: Influencers are only one piece of the social media puzzle. Brands can also use social media platforms to promote job openings and reach potential employees through sponsored posts and paid ads. Social media is also a great way to promote employee experience and overall company branding.
- Search engine advertising: Companies can use search engine advertising to target those searching for job opportunities online. These paid search ads appear at the top of search results when job seekers use relevant keywords and phrases.
- Video advertising: Brands can use video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo to produce and distribute recruitment videos that showcase their company culture, values and job opportunities.
- Programmatic advertising: Optimize the attraction stage of the employee experience with programmatic advertising, which displays ads on specific websites. To get the most from this type of advertising, companies need to know which websites and apps their target audience visits.
Shorten the Job Application Process
The job search and application process can be tedious. Many applicants tailor their resumes to the position they're applying to. They write out a meaningful cover letter that highlights their strengths and relevant experience.
But when they apply to the job, they have to retype all of that information again. They might also have to take a quiz assessment, submit samples of previous work, create a new piece of sample work. Plus, many career websites (brand-owned or not) require applicants to create an account and verify their email address.
This whole redundant and time-wasting process can be a big blow to candidate morale. And it likely contributes to why 92% of job seekers click “apply” on a job posting but never complete the application, according to data found by SHRM.
All in all, it can take hours to apply to a single job — if no technical issues arise. And then you might never hear back.
Companies that want to improve their employee experience strategy — and hear from more potential hires — should consider simplifying the process. The best way to do this is to walk through the process like a job applicant and look for points of redundancy, confusion or friction.
By making the application process smooth and simple, you won’t miss out on qualified candidates turned off by the application process and can begin the employee experience on the right foot.
Let Candidates Engage With the Process
To improve the first stage of employee experience, companies can give people the ability to engage with the recruitment process in a proactive and interactive way, Lazarus said.
In a traditional selection process, when a candidate applies for a job, a recruiter reaches out to them to ask some questions. Then the candidate waits, and maybe someone else reaches out for an interview or job sample. Then the candidate waits again.
“But companies who create clear timelines and clear steps in the process and give candidates opportunities to engage interactively, those companies are finding that their candidates think more highly of their bran,” Lazarus explained. “And they think more highly of the selection process, so they’re more likely to stay engaged.”
Interactivity in the job search process could mean giving candidates the ability to reach out to employers first. Many job boards, like in the example below, already offer this ability to job posters. With this feature, brands can allow potential hires to reach out via chat to ask questions or request an interview.
Lazarus also recommended the use of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. “We’re seeing a huge rise in the number of people who can engage with chatbots, not just from a customer perspective, but from a candidate perspective.”
Company-candidate interactions can be in-person or digital, said Lazarus, but they should also be bite-sized, easy and available to candidates so that they can learn more about the company on their own.
Provide Access to Current Employees
You don’t want people to be surprised when they arrive for a new job, said Slaughter. One way to prevent this and build a more positive employee experience is to promote communication between candidates and current employees.
“We try to give recruits a lot of access to different people in the recruitment process,” she said. She recommends giving candidates exposure to real people in the departments they’re potentially going into or connecting candidates with newer hires, someone that’s been at the company for a year or less.
“They can relate to here’s what it’s like to join, here’s what made me successful, that sort of thing,” said Slaughter. That new hire could also be part of the interview process itself as part of the diverse slate of interviewers.
Despite giving prospective employees access to many people within the company, which gives them a more intimate view of the employee's journey, Slaughter said the process remains very personalized, with a recruiter who stays with the candidate throughout. “We want them to feel a sense of personal connection in addition to professional insight about who we are.”
Offer Candidate Feedback
Brands that want to elevate how job candidates perceive them during this stage of the employee experience should consider offering feedback, said Lazarus.
“The traditional advice that legal counsel would give us in the Americas would be don’t give your candidates too much information because they may be able to use it against you in a court if you were to be sued.”
“But,” she continued, “what we’re finding today is that candidates who are receiving that feedback are more engaged, they’re more likely to think highly of the company, they’re more likely to recommend the company to someone else to work.”
That feedback, she said, considers all the information from the candidate and gives a breakdown on the strengths that person brings to the workplace, what the company is looking for and how the candidate aligns with that description.
Providing candidate feedback still often requires collaboration with a legal team, cautioned Lazarus. But one effective strategy is to use standardized and scalable formats. That could be through narrative content, which outlines the qualities the candidate was measured on (i.e., responsibility, teamwork, achievement, safety, etc.) and, based on what the candidate said about themselves, what their strengths and areas to grow might be.
Another option is a written format, such as a short questionnaire or candidate assessment. After this questionnaire, a real-time video can pop up that lists the person’s strengths based on the answers they provided.
“Strengths-based feedback is a fantastic way to give candidates useful information about how they’re likely to show up at work. And narrative feedback is another great way to help candidates grow and learn and use that information both in the current and any future selection processes they’re involved in,” Lazarus said.
Related Article: Why Assessments Are the Next Big Thing in Talent Strategies
Employee Journey Mapping: Improving EX One Stage at a Time
Cultivating positivity during this stage of the employee experience — even for candidates who will not become employees — will ultimately make top talent more likely to join your team. And those new team members, spurred on by positive interactions they've already had, can boost employee engagement and employee satisfaction within your organization as well as create a stronger internal culture.
The best way to improve the employee experience, both for veterans and brands new to employee journey mapping, is to take it one stage at a time. Break it down into its seven stages to get a clearer picture of how employees actually perceive and feel about your organization.
Stay tuned for part two of the employee experience best practices series. Next up, stage two: hiring.
About the Author
Michelle Hawley is an experienced journalist who specializes in reporting on the impact of technology on society. As a senior editor at Simpler Media Group and a reporter for CMSWire and Reworked, she provides in-depth coverage of a range of important topics including employee experience, leadership, customer experience, marketing and more. With an MFA in creative writing and background in inbound marketing, she offers unique insights on the topics of leadership, customer experience, marketing and employee experience. Michelle previously contributed to publications like The Press Enterprise and The Ladders. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her two dogs.