Lessons in recruitment marketing from the smartphone industry

As I was mulling over the whole consultancy over the holiday break, I had an epiphany. My son said he might want a new phone. He said the current phone worked really well, so he wasn’t sure, but some of the things he likes to do on his phone require an OS that doesn’t work on his current device. Now, I, too have been thinking about a new phone because I want a better camera. So, we both haul off to the phone store to check out the brand we all like. We get there. Everyone is super helpful, very friendly, and looking forward to helping us. They show us our options and within less than a minute, the kid and I are ready to walk out. It took us less than a minute to see that the new, shiny phone was not a fit. Because it doesn’t physically fit comfortably in our hands. They were too hard to hold. They were too big for us. We don’t want something that big and it was disappointing. As I was talking to a friend shortly thereafter and it hit me, the phone story was a metaphor for talent experience. Just hang with me, I’ll get there.

For the last 20 years, I have been helping companies fill the funnel with new talent. Always new. Always new. Always new. And over the last 20 years we have watched unemployment fluctuate, but right now, it is at an all time low. But we still keep trying to pile new names into the top of the funnel. And then I noticed something, the funnel always ends with Hire or Offer. I see this in countless presentations across our industry. I’ve always felt really uncomfortable with it, but I could never put my finger on what made me feel so itchy about it. But, my experience with the phone brought it right home. The transaction is never over. Hire isn’t the end.

At a certain point, everyone has a smartphone (or a job). Where things get dicey is what do you do when everyone has a smartphone. Well, as a marketer, you have two paths (and you should go down both in parallel): You develop a “switcher” strategy. What are you going to do to get them to switch to your brand. Meaning, what do you need to do to get iPhone people onto Samsung? The second is UPGRADE. Meaning you put out a new phone every year with tons of new cool features and you market the snot out of it in hopes that people upgrade to the more expensive phone and leave their old device to their kids. #SorryNotSorry, kids.

This weekend, I saw an article that indicated smartphone manufacturing has been dropping for 5 consecutive years. Much like unemployment, people who want a smartphone, have one. So, manufacturers are working like crazy to create new features that will drive upgrades or switchers, and so far it’s not working per the report.

In talent acquisition, we are in the same boat as the smartphone industry right now. Pretty much everyone who wants a job, has a job. Where we have diverged from our consumer marketing counterparts, we are putting every single egg in the “switcher” basket. You see, the majority of strategies that I come across these days focus on filling the top of the funnel with every new name you can find. THAT IS THE PROBLEM! We are running out of names. When I think of the funnel, I see that we are missing some key components. Our funnel should NEVER stop at Hire. Our funnel should end with Hire -> Onboarding -> Advocacy.

In fact, it should have a big arrow going from Advocacy back up to Engage. We need to do more to help people upgrade their career within our own companies. Sure, we need to have a switcher strategy, that’s important, but why aren’t we marketing to our current teams? Why aren’t we looking for ways to engage them, and nurture them? We all let way too much money walk out the doors of our companies each year because of someone else’s switcher strategy.

What if we spent some time on our upgrade strategy for our current talent so that we can not only thwart off the other brand’s switcher strategy, but so that we can keep the best of our best working for us and not taking their institutional knowledge to the other guys. We need to find a way to get people to raise their hands when they are having a bad day with us (you know when they want a better camera in their phone), and show them that we can upgrade their career with something that may be a great fit for them tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. We need to start developing a holistic view of our talent strategy.

In times like these, we need to be thinking about our universe of talent. Not just people who are new to our company. But we need to develop an upgrade strategy for our talent. We need to get our A-players actively involved in conversations about their future with our company. And we need to make it EASY! We need to find ways to elevate our people. We have to focus our efforts across all of our people, the new ones we want to attract, and the ones we already have on our payroll that are hungry for the next move in their career.