Corporate Culture & Productivity

Talent attraction and acquisition: 12 strategies for our hybrid reality

Emily Byrne
September 14th, 2022

Talent attraction is more critical and more challenging than in any time in recent memory. 

Thanks to the lasting effects of the pandemic and the Great Resignation, we’re now in a well-established employee’s job market. Even amid fears of a coming recession, human resource professionals can still expect steep competition when sourcing top talent. The best talent out there is often demanding hybrid and/or flexible working—and a whole lot more.   

In this article, we explore talent attraction in our ‘new normal’. We focus on 12 talent acquisition strategies that are well-suited for an incredibly competitive market .

We’ll also explore why creating the right flexible work environment and company culture is often the key to onboarding your ideal candidate. We draw on insights from Emily Mullen, Manager of Talent Acquisition in People Operations at OfficeSpace Software.

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What is talent attraction?

Talent attraction refers to all the steps and strategies HR and talent acquisition professionals take to make their company an attractive place to work. It’s about what happens before the hiring process. Good talent attraction strategies put your company on the radar for the types of potential candidates you want to have in your workforce, so that you’re always flooded with great applicants for any job posting. 

Talent attraction can look different for different generations in the workplace. It can also look different for various industries and types of positions. Professionals in the space need to stay up to date on the latest trends both in their own field, and in workplace experience overall.

Both talent attraction and acquisition focus on two types of potential employees: active candidates and passive candidates. 

Active candidates are those applying for specific, current open positions. 

Meanwhile, passive candidates are the types of people you know you’d like on your team in the future. Even when there’s no vacancies at the moment. The idea is to keep their eyes on all the benefits of working for your company. This way, they’ll be more responsive to future job advertising. 

In the past, the focus in most recruitment initiatives tended to be on how long it took HR to fill open positions. But today, leading companies are much more focused on candidate experience. Also, on finding the right people for the right job.

That’s why Emily says her team regularly checks in on how well new hires are performing, both in the near and long term, along with the experience all candidates have in the hiring process.  They then make adjustments to their recruiting strategy as necessary. 

“It’s a constant circle of feedback,” she says.

What is the difference between talent acquisition and talent attraction?

Talent attraction and talent acquisition are two sides of the same coin, so enhancing one should enhance the other. 

Talent acquisition is about finding the right person for the right job in your organization. This covers everything from posting the job listing, to then interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new staff; it’s the active work of recruiting active candidates. 

Meanwhile, talent attraction is about all the other ‘stuff’ that strengthens this process. It’s about fostering a company culture and building up a host of benefits. This should entice potential candidates to want to apply for that job listing in the first place. These efforts should also support both talent acquisition and talent retention efforts.    

Both tasks are often handled under the HR umbrella. But most companies will find they need a dedicated talent acquisition manager when they hit 150 employees or so. 

How has talent attraction changed in recent years?

Like so much else in the world of work, talent attraction has changed dramatically over the past few years. 

“Everyone in talent acquisition has seen a shift over to the employees,” says Emily. “Potential candidates are really able to demand how and where they want to work.”

And what these potential candidates are most often demanding is either remote work or hybrid work, followed closely by a good company culture.  

“If someone makes the decision they don’t want to be in the office full time, there’s so many more remote options out there,” Emily says. “It’s really opened the door to people who are making the decision they don’t want to go back to the office.”

Talent attraction and the distributed work environment

In fact, even at OfficeSpace Software, which has a fully distributed work environment—employees can work at one of three office locations, or from anywhere else they like—Emily says the question she still fields the most in interviews is whether the work is ‘truly’ remote, or whether employees are expected to come into the office sometimes. 

Followup questions, once learning that working at OfficeSpace is truly flexible, are often about how the company maintains a good culture, given that people aren’t working in the same space. It’s a common concern, since maintaining culture is certainly one of the biggest challenges of hybrid working.  

“Luckily, I get to share the story of OfficeSpace and how we’ve done a really good job between our hybrid workplace and the three cities that we’re in. We operate more on Slack than email, so everything is a conversation. And we have a ton of conversations over Zoom, too. I haven’t met a single human here in person yet, and I feel like I know the team. If I bumped into them in the street, I would know exactly who they are.”

Finally, one of the biggest changes in the hiring process post-pandemic comes down to what questions people managers themselves are asking in interviews. 

Emily notes that several years ago, the norm was to ask prospective candidates why they wanted to work for your company.

But today, that has totally shifted; recruiters now have to showcase why candidates should want to work for them, instead of vice versa. 

“We’re selling people on the opportunity to work with us. I know there’s 20 other tech companies out there that also offer remote work. And a big part of the way we sell that opportunity is through our culture,” she says. 

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Why is talent attraction important?

The Great Resignation may not get the same headline coverage it once did. But make no mistake: we’re still very much in an employee’s job market. 

In a year where over four million American workers quit their jobs each month, and where 66% of employers have increased their hiring activity, we’re in virtually unprecedented times when it comes to staffing and hiring. 

More than half of North American software engineers, for example, are approached by recruiters at least once a quarter

Meanwhile, consider that about half of people who are happy with their current job are either actively or passively looking for a new job. Or that 30% of people actively looking for a new job say they are very happy with their current job.

Clearly, just being satisfied with your position isn’t always enough to stay in it anymore. This places more pressure on companies and their HR departments to attract and retain workers.  

Moreover, note that a poor experience in the recruitment process makes about 64% of job seekers less likely to purchase goods or services from that employer. For larger companies, this can easily translate into lost future revenue. 

In short, talent attraction is critically important to both short and long term business interests in practically every industry.  

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Post-pandemic talent attraction strategies

Job posting sites are all well and good for attracting talent, but the right people probably aren’t regularly checking them. 

Plus, as we’ve covered, good talent attraction efforts are required long before a job is posted. Dove-tailing with Emily’s experience as a talent acquisition manager, a 2021 LinkedIn survey found that what employees want most is a good work-life balance. This is followed by compensation and benefits. Colleagues and culture also top the list.

In other words, employees don’t just want a good job with a good paycheck anymore. They want a good life, too. And they’re willing to do the work to find a company that will support them. 

Empty promises just won’t work anymore, as companies across the board are boosting their recruitment strategies. The competition is steep, and HR professionals will need to up their game accordingly.  

Specially, the following 12 talent attraction strategies can help attract both passive and active candidates in our new, hybrid, competitive job market.   

1. Compensation

First and foremost, companies have to ensure what they’re offering for salary is at least inline with the industry standard. Or higher.  Given the competition for talent, it’s no surprise that 96% of organizations globally have increased their salaries and salary budgets. Yes—like we’ve covered, job seekers aren’t only concerned with their paycheck anymore. But they’re certainly in a position where they don’t have to settle. 

Employees are stakeholders in the company, and deserve to be compensated as such. Paying people well is a smart, long-term strategy, and not just something to boost your acquisition efforts. 

Companies with smaller salary budgets may want to consider selectively outcompeting competitors for key positions. Offering location flexibility is another way to increase the real money in an employee’s pockets. If they don’t have to pay to live in New York or LA, for example, their living expenses go down. This increases the value proposition of the job, despite a lower income. Four day workweeks or other flexible work arrangements can also sweeten the deal. 

2. Autonomy and flexibility

Employees have always wanted to be treated like adults. Now, thanks to the pandemic, we know first-hard that employees can be trusted to be just as productive offsite as they are onsite. In short, they are adults, and they do the work.   

“Over COVID, we’ve seen that if you give autonomy to your current employees, not only are they going to get their work done, they’re also going to be very happy. And you’re going to find that they’re going to stay with you longer and do a better job,” Emily says.  

Now as return to the office plans are well underway, workers don’t want to give up their new found freedom and flexibility. 

That means they want the option to work fully in the office, fully remotely, or on a hybrid work schedule of their own choosing.

Providing the right choices

“Our world will be much more respectful of employee choices on where they want to work,” says BlackLine CEO Marc Huffman. 

Note that it’s critically important that employees have as much say over when and where they work as possible. In fact, employee experience scores jump from 45% to 74% when employees are given complete choice and freedom here. 

“We have to trust and empower our people to make the right decision, and they will rise to the occasion,” says workplace strategist Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield.  “When a worker has the choice to pick which days are best given the workload she has for the week, and given what’s going with the rest of her life, that is where employee experience scores start to go up.” 

While this amount of flexibility may not be fully possible in every company or industry, companies still need to figure out a way to create a flexible work environment. One that supports workers wherever they are. 

“Autonomy is huge. Everyone’s talking about it.”

Emily Mullen, Manager of Talent Acquisition in People Operations, OfficeSpace Software

Thankfully, new technology in the workplace is making this easier and easier. Particularly as companies are now able to provide digital workplace solutions for remote and hybrid employees, while also providing tools that make it easier to navigate the physical workplace when they’re there.      

3. Benefits

When people talk about ‘benefits,’ they don’t just mean things like healthcare coverage or a health spending account. Although these are important and often deal-breakers, too.

‘Benefits’ can also cover things like having a casual dress code, tuition reimbursement, free lunches, gym memberships, and more. 

For example, supporting education is widely considered an important benefit. One study finds that 85% of workers believe employers should invest in their continued education. Employees want to work for companies that are invested in their career and skills development. Like Joe Dusing, Senior Director of Learning and Development for Paylocity, tells SHRM, “every potential employee wants to know two things: ‘What are the skills that I need?’ and ‘What are the programs that you have in place to support me?’ If you don’t have answers, they likely won’t want to work for your company.”

And don’t forget that flexible work in general and remote work specifically are some of the biggest perks going. 

“Work-life balance has been a hot topic for years,” Emily says. “People assume that if you’re offering remote work, you will have better balance. Even not having to spend a few hours a day commuting to work can be a big incentive.”

Note, however, that research also shows that benefits alone are not enough to make up for low remuneration. They’re also not going to gloss over an inflexible schedule or a lack of work-life balance. Remember that perks are just that—great ‘extras,’ but not enough to bolster an otherwise weak job offer. 

4. Vacation policy

Vacation policy is such a critical benefit that it warrants a special mention. Companies are wise not to forget that time-off for workers is mutually beneficial. It allows employees to come back refreshed and recharged. It’s also something that matters to job candidates across the board. 

Ultimately, when constructing a vacation policy, companies should look to make their offerings as attractive as possible. In fact, unlimited vacation is becoming the norm in many high-tech companies. Some companies (like OfficeSpace) go a step further and have a minimum amount of vacation every employee must take. 

5. Company culture

Company culture has always been incredibly important in talent attraction. Although it can be more complicated in a remote or hybrid office

Remember that some of the most frequent questions that come up in Emily’s interviews with potential candidates center around how OfficeSpace maintains company culture with such a distributed workforce

“If the culture piece isn’t there, it’s really, really easy for a candidate to walk away and go find the culture somewhere else,” she says. 

Companies like OfficeSpace can use events (whether hybrid or in-person), recognition and awards programs, and regular all-hands meetings with leadership to ensure employees feel connected to each other and to their mission. 

Perks like lunches and get-togethers (think game time and coffee chats over Zoom) also get people to interact in a variety of ways (online and offline) that are not necessarily part of their daily work. Just because we can’t all congregate around the same water cooler anymore, doesn’t mean companies can’t provide the same spaces and opportunities for bonding and relaxed conversations that make the workday more enjoyable.  

“HR leaders tell me they’ve got new employees onboarding to work remotely, and they’re worried about them becoming less attuned to the culture since they can’t come to the office and meet everyone,” Cecile Alper-Leroux, group vice president of research and innovation UKG, tells Chief Executive. “I tell them ‘culture’ has nothing to do with colocation.”

Finally, it’s important to note that companies will need the right tools and spaces in order to foster culture and collaboration in the workplace.

The importance of collaboration

We’ve already covered the importance of creating a digital workspace that keeps everyone connected. That includes the usual suspects like Zoom and Slack, which can dramatically improve communication across space and time zones. 

“We’re a Slack company first and foremost,” says Taylor Graves, Senior People Operations Manager at OfficeSpace. “Whether it’s messages in the general channel or reaching out to employees in more niche groups, the vast majority of my company-wide communications happen in Slack. I like to keep communications friendly and light whenever I can.”

Companies may also want to consider workplace Slack and Teams integrations that help employees connect on the same platform they use to book desks and meeting rooms. 

Employees should also have good wayfinding solutions that help them navigate the physical office whenever they’re in.  

And since the office is becoming more and more of a place for collaboration, mentoring, and teamwork, companies should ensure they have a variety of collaborative workspaces that are easy to book and use. 

“We’ve always treated our employees as a big extended family. Our pay and benefits are competitive, but where we stand out is our culture—a positive work environment, beautiful lunchrooms and rest rooms, monthly recognition and award programs, a defined career path and a company newsletter reporting on everyone’s life activities and work accomplishments.”

Rita Case, CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group, as told to Chief Executive

In short, company culture suffers when it’s hard for people to interact with each other, with their tools, or with their physical workspace. 

This means that HR may want to work with facility management (FM) professional(s) as well as IT to ensure they’re continually working to improve employee experience for everyone. 

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6. Employer branding

Consider that 91% of job seekers will review an employer before applying for a job. Or that 86% won’t apply for a company that gets a bad rep from former employees. Ultimately, how people perceive how a company treats its employees matters to job seekers.

Employer branding (sometimes referred to as recruitment marketing) is the sister to company branding and marketing in general. Instead of sharing and highlighting what makes a company’s goods and services great, employer branding is about sharing and highlighting what makes working for the company great. Applying for a job can be a time-consuming task. And good employer branding can make people more willing to make the effort. 

“Satisfied employees became a walking advertisement of the company, recommending it to friends and in the mass media.” 

Izydor Nowakowski, writing for LinkedIn

Google offers one of the better examples of employee branding in action. Many would consider working for the company to be a ‘dream job’. Not in the least because of its stellar employer brand rankings, or because 73% of employees say they’re proud to work there.  

And since Google famously only ends up hiring about 0.2% of the people who apply, their employer branding affords them the ability to always hire the best and the brightest. 

7. Account for diversity 

Part of creating an inclusive company culture includes building diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts into the talent acquisition process.

For example, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to use social media to discover job opportunities and connect with recruiters over social media. And, women, people of color, and working parents are more likely to want flexible, hybrid working options. 

“Every policy must be put under a microscope to ensure it includes a promise of better equity; otherwise, the company risks a backlash among current employees and job candidates at a time when our surveys suggest that seven in ten employers are struggling to find workers with the right mix of technical skills and human capabilities they need.”

Art Mazor, Deloitte principal and global human capital practice leader, as told to Chief Executive

Companies need to take these considerations into their talent attraction strategies. 

They also need to understand that workers today, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are demanding that companies take a proactive approach to environmental and social issues. This can play into whether or not they decide to work with a company. 

“Workers have a ‘voice’ now more than they’ve ever had before,” says Art Mazor, a Deloitte principal and global human capital practice leader.

8. Use social media and email marketing

Using social media can be a great tool for attracting passive talent, assisting in employer branding efforts. 45% of job seekers say social media is ‘very important’ to their job search, and that 48% of Gen Z and Millennial have applied to jobs they found on social media. 

And of course, when it comes time to active recruiting, companies can also use social media to advertise job openings. 

Larger companies may also consider using email marketing. This is done by adding applicants to an email list so they can be apprised of future job openings. 

9. Employee advocacy and employee referral programs

Like we’ve covered, would-be employees pay attention to what people say about your company. Job seekers simply trust current and former employees and reviews from fellow job seekers more than recruiters, execs, or the company website. In fact, 55% of them will abandon an application if they read a negative employer review. For these reasons, employee advocacy can play a big role in talent attraction. 

Talent acquisition managers should also note that while satisfied employees are often happy to share their experiences, they may need a little push to do so; 50% of American workers say they would share social media content from their companies on their own personal channels. And 26% say they’d be more likely to do so if they were asked. 

And remembering the importance of autonomy, consider as well, when employees have time and location flexibility, they’re 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for their company.

Assuming you have happy employees, you may also want to consider encouraging them to share experiences on platforms like Glassdoor. Emily stresses that it’s important to make it easy for employees to make referrals (perhaps by using something like Glassdoor). And to keep encouraging people to do so. 

Some companies also create referral programs with incentives attached.  

“Make sure that you have a group of people at your organization who love it there so much that they would recommend it to their friends and family to apply.”

Emily Mullen

Finally, another strategy is to collect metrics around your employee net promoter score (eNPS). This can help HR professionals understand where things are working and where they can make improvements. Employees with high scores (i.e.: a 9 or 10) are the ones who will recommend your company as an employer of choice. 

10. Career fairs 

Career fairs are still a valuable tool for high volume recruiting for entry-level positions. And now that many have gone virtual, they can also be a great tool for smaller companies looking to hire. HR reps no longer have to travel across the country, but instead can sit in on a few virtual ones to conduct interviews. 

11. Write clear job descriptions

While it may seem simple, a big part of attracting the right talent is simply advertising for the right people. A good rule of thumb is that more detailed job descriptions attract better applicants who understand what will be required of them. 

This means writing job descriptions that specifically outline both the tasks and responsibilities associated with the position, including core and desirable requirements.  

Clear job descriptions are also important for the onboarding process. They ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations. 

And don’t forget that the job description is yet another place to ‘pitch’ the benefits of working for your company, aligning with employer branding efforts as well. 

12. Use talent management database software

Finally, Emily stresses that using talent management database software (also called an ‘applicant tracking system,’ or ATS), is essential when managing the application process.  

“The automation part of this software is phenomenal,” she says. 

With the right software, HR and talent acquisition can keep their pipeline moving. This ensures they’re getting back to candidates more quickly and efficiently. 

It creates a smoother experience for candidates, because they’re constantly moved forward by hiring managers. 

And it’s a better experience for hiring managers, thanks to the amount of time saved and increased efficiency. 

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What is the first step to talent attraction?

The first step to talent attraction is understanding what employees want. This will change over time, and will vary depending on where people live, along with their culture, life stage, generation, and past work experience. 

Today, it’s a safe bet that job seekers will want a good life-balance and a good company culture. Meaning options like hybrid and remote work will be critical to talent attraction for the foreseeable future. 

“Remote work has made it so much easier to attract people to work for us. So for companies that are considering moving from 100% in-person work to a hybrid work model, I’d say that it’s going to open up a world of opportunity for them to find better talent,” Emily says. 

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