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Can You Turn Employees Into Internal Customers?

Adrian Dixon

March 5, 2019

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Have you ever considered the idea that your employees are also your customers?

Let’s think through a new idea here: What if you started viewing your employees as internal customers? This might be a leap of thinking for a lot of people who run organizations, but it makes sense: employees work on the products and services that you ultimately sell for money. We tend to have developed strategies for our customers — customer service, customer success, customer experience — but our strategies around employees are less developed. Yes, we’ve talked more about employee experience and employee engagement in recent years, but we still spend way more time focused on customers than on employees. This might not be wise.

A look at some of the data

First, men between 25 and 34 in the U.S. only spend about 2.9 years in a job. Even if you extend the age range upward, average employee tenure is somewhere around four years in a given role. That admittedly hasn’t changed much since the 1980s, but is down significantly over time. In short: there’s a lot more turnover. Turnover is costly to businesses.

And when businesses try to replace people, you know what happens? Ineffectiveness and confusion. Look at some of these stats put forth recently by Josh Bersin:

  • The average open position receives more than 150 resumes
  • More than 45% of candidates never hear anything back from the employer
  • 83% of candidates rate their job search experience as poor

Those are all not-so-great statistics that make it hard for employers to get quality people, and subsequently keep them.

The first shift: how you think about employees

Employees are internal stakeholders. They do the work.

Investors and customers are external stakeholders. They give you money to move the work even further forward.

Both categories need to be thought of as stakeholders for work to, well, work well for people.

The second shift: how do you solve these issues above?

The idea here is to fix these three bullet points above. Companies that don’t cultivate an ongoing relationship with their talent pool miss a big opportunity and cost themselves time and money.

Let’s take it bullet-by-bullet to improve the candidate experience, which will in turn help with the employee experience (if you were treated well as a candidate, you enter feeling better about the place, right?).

150+ resumes for open positions

That’s way too much screening for human beings to do — or, rather, it’s too much screening for humans to do because their time will be pulled away from things that matter much more. The solution: Use technology to resume screen at scale. Save time and have recruiters reinvest in relationships.

Candidates never hear anything back from the employer

There are job-seekers who currently have a role, yes. But a good percentage of job-seekers might be unemployed too. In that case, they are researching roles, looking for fits, and hoping something works because they need income. And then, time after time, they hear nothing from the employers they’ve researched. It can be very frustrating, and it sinks candidate experience — which, by the way, hurts your brand too. (Who’s going to buy from you if you ignored them through a hiring process they really needed to go well?) Solution: Use chatbots for quicker communication around timelines or FAQ, and/or use Rediscovery to find qualified candidates already in your pipeline that you can reach back out to.

83% of candidates rate job search as poor

Communicate more — i.e. the above — and you begin to solve this problem. Automate what you can to free up your recruiters to actually interact with candidates, instead of screening their resumes. Have job descriptions that speak to what the role actually needs and what the role could evolve into in 1, 3, and 5 years. Have systems that talk to each other properly so that tech doesn’t slow you down. Change your vocabulary as mentioned above — > employees are now internal customers/stakeholders, and start calling the process of talent management “a supply chain” (a supply of people!). Oftentimes executives understand what “a supply chain” is, but don’t fully understand “talent management.” Use relatable terms and the process gets easier to work through.