Talent Leaders: When did you last check your ‘front of house’?

It’s Friday evening and you are meeting your friend, a general manager for an upmarket hotel chain, in a local bar. As you wait for them to arrive, you contemplate the job of general manager. You admire your friend; it must be a demanding and challenging job. A mini CEO almost. All the different areas to be on top of – operations, finance, food, accommodation, maintenance, sales, marketing.

Your friend arrives and after pleasantries and the ordering drinks, the conversation begins….

You: “So, how are you?”

Your Friend: “Hmmm, not so good… I’ve been let go.”

You: “What?! No! What happened?” (You are truly shocked. You rate your friend’s capability. They have a good pedigree and a great CV. You immediately assume the business must have suffered some catastrophic commercial failure.)

Your friend: “Seems like my customer satisfaction stats were down in the unacceptable range for way too long. By the time I realised what was wrong, it was too late.”

This surprises you. You are very familiar with the hotel chain. It has a great reputation and you don’t doubt the competence of your friend.

You: “I don’t get it – was it the staff? I know how hard it is to get good people these days.” (You yourself are the head of talent for a leading high street retailer and finding great people is your number one challenge.)

Your friend: “Well, not directly. It was the rooms. Apparently they were well below par. The amount of customer complaints became too much and I was the fall guy.”

You: “Wow, how bad were they?!”

Your friend: “I’ve no idea. I never really went into the rooms to check. There was always something more important to do…”

You: “Oh……”

What would you be thinking if this story was real? If it was you standing in front of your friend who had just lost their job? You would be forgiven for thinking they may have bought it on themselves; a hotel general manager who doesn’t check the rooms?! One of the prime customer facing front of house experiences yet it sits at the bottom of their priority list, somewhere between toilet rolls and paper clips?!

Well, if you are a head of talent for an enterprise business, like the other person in this story, I wouldn’t be so quick to criticise. When was the last time you checked your front of house, hmm? I’m talking about your “customer window” – your application experience. The process your candidates go through in their attempt to get a coveted place at your organisation. From my experience, very, very few of you will be able to tick that box. If we valued the candidate experience as much as the customer experience, then the local bars should be chock full of unemployed talent leaders crying into their G&Ts.

I’ve spent many, many hours looking at the resourcing processes of the top global organisations, applying for jobs, engaging in the process and experiencing first-hand the extent to which my application appears to be valued. And it’s not good. Not good at all.

Of all the times I’ve done a review in the last 5 years (and that’s a lot of reviews, take it from me), and presented that back to the organisation, not once has the recipient said, “We know exactly what you are going to say. Put the deck away, we are totally aware of every issue. We know it’s bad, we check it weekly,” etc., etc. Not once. In fact, only last week, we presented back an audit of the recruitment process to the top team at a global business and the reaction? Total surprise and shock. The Group Head of Talent commented: “I’ve never applied for a job…”

If you listen to the industry narrative, it’s all about the candidate experience. How getting it right is critical to business success. The echo chamber rings with the constant dialogue of the “war for talent” and “treating our candidates like customers” but from where I’m sitting, it seems that there are an awful lot of people leaders out there who, when it comes down to it, clearly don’t give a toss. Not really. They may say they do, but from the evidence, it appears to be lip service.

So, what to do? How long are we going to tolerate listening to the great and good in talent say how important this stuff is when in reality they do bugger all about it? Maybe the only way to really shift the dial on this issue is for some people to actually lose their jobs. Can it really be acceptable for an organisation to invest a not too insignificant sum – usually six figures – in a talent lead who hasn’t a clue how bad the candidate experience really is?

I don’t think so. Do you?


Jun, 19, 2017