Focus on Employee Communications
By Sarah Fister Gale
Jun. 1, 2017
Millennials and their Gen Z successors have little time for thoughtfully crafted emails or telephone pleasantries.
These digital natives grew up texting and often consider other formats to be cumbersome and outdated. So it should come as no surprise that they think text messages are a completely appropriate way to communicate with recruiters and their future workplace peers.
A recent survey from Yello, the talent acquisition software company, shows 86 percent of millennials “feel positively about text messages being used during the interview period,” and a similar HeyWire Inc. survey shows 67 percent of employees are using text messaging for business-related communications.
While it may seem like an overly casual environment to connect with potential hires, texts offer a lot of benefits — especially in a recruiting setting, said Jason Weingarten, co-founder of the Chicago-based Yello. “Text is faster, it’s easier and it’s more personal,” he said. It can also solve many of problems that create a negative candidate experience, including delays in communication, lack of follow-up and overly generic form letters.
“There are many points in the recruiting process that are very stressful for candidates,” he said. “Getting a quick response or update can ease some of that anxiety.”
It can also be handy for recruits who have another job and don’t want to communicate via their company email or phone, said JoAnne Kruse, chief human resources officer at American Express Global Business Travel. “They are lot more responsive via text, and it’s an easy way to move the process forward.”
A Strange Bunch
Besides convenience, texting is a great way to get a sense of a candidate’s personality, said Jack Barmby, CEO of Gnatta, a customer service software company based in the U.K. His developers and support staff use text messaging to talk to each other and to potential new hires. “It is the underpinning of how we communicate,” he said.
The company uses Slack, a cloud-based team collaboration tool for its text platform, creating different conversations for different projects, teams and topics. Participants post project updates, questions and comments that others in the group can see and respond to.
“It’s more efficient than email because users can quickly scroll through posts, find those that are relevant, without getting bogged down in a bunch of ‘reply-all’ email chains,” he said. There are no formal rules for use, beyond the basics — don’t be a jerk, and don’t post comments that are not relevant to the topic. “Otherwise it’s very organic, and we encourage people to let their personalities flourish.”
Gnatta also uses it as a vetting tool for new hires. When a candidate makes the hiring short list, they are invited to join one of the casual Slack channels, where Gnatta employees talk about what’s going on in their lives. The recruits get a chance to see how the team communicates, and the team gets a sense of their personality, Barmby said. “The ‘shine’ of the interview comes off, and they have a chance to be themselves.”
Inviting candidates to engage via text helps his team determine who will be the best cultural fit for the organization, and it ultimately becomes an extension of the onboarding process. He admitted that some candidates are turned off by the process because it adds a week to the decision, but others love the opportunities to connect with potential peers. “Developers can be a strange bunch, and not everyone is a good fit,” he said. Spending a week chatting with the team is a great way to decide who will fit in.
For all its conveniences there also are risks to using texts in recruiting. Companies need to be thoughtful about the information they share via text and how those communications can be tracked, Weingarten said. “If you get audited, you need to be able to show the source of the texts, how they were sent, and what messaging you used.”
Recruiters shouldn’t put too many rules around how texting is used. Where recruiters are looking for better, faster and more personal ways to engage with talent, texting is a cheap and familiar solution that can add real value to the process.
“Text is the next iteration of how we communicate,” Kruse said. “It can be a hugely helpful way to quickly connect with people, is a style that they prefer, so why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?”
Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in the Chicago area. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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