Employers will need to tailor their messaging, value propositions, and recruiting tactics to the unique and changing interests of different candidate types.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Carter Bradley.

Carter Bradley is the Co-Founder and CEO of Veris Insights, an insights and analytics firm dedicated to supporting Talent Acquisition, University Recruiting, DEI, and Employer Branding leaders in their most difficult work.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

When I was a senior in college, my senior thesis was a quantitative analysis of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. Truthfully, I was completely inept at quantitative methods. So, I was relying heavily on my advisor and others to basically give me a step-by-step playbook. I just assumed there was a “correct” way to do things, and I didn’t know it. So, I had to rely on others.

This hamstrung my progress, though. I had to go back to my advisor after I finished every step to ask what to do next. Eventually, he stopped telling me what to do next. I was frustrated. I was stuck. But, out of frustration, I just decided to do whatever felt correct. Just to think it through myself. I wasn’t sure if any step was perfect, but I just did it. The final product ended up being pretty good.

I realized there isn’t a set playbook for everything. And, when one exists, it’s simply someone else’s best attempt. Not an objective truth. In many cases, there’s no reason to believe someone else’s thinking is any more valid than mine. That realization was formative — and it is something we talk about a lot at Veris Insights too. We’re under zero presumption we have all the answers. But, we do know that we have the talent and drive to find the answers if we have the confidence to think each issue through originally.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

So, what will be the same — or continue. For the last 10 or so years, we’ve seen a movement towards access and democratization of opportunity. Partially due to scarcity of hot talent types, partially due to more qualitative corporate missions, we’ve seen employers seeking talent from sources they traditionally did not target. Those trends accelerated during the pandemic, with the spread of remote work and the overnight inability to recruit in person.

Broadening the talent funnel is not easy, however. Employers have to invest in automation and virtual tools to enable personal recruiting processes at scale. But most have made substantial progress in restructuring their recruiting processes. And, they’ve found success in hiring more broadly.

I would predict this trend continues. There is no sign that supply for scarce talent types like software engineers, data scientists, and others will catch up to demand. So, employers will continue to invest in their capacities to find, screen, recruit, and retain talent from broader talent pools. Those who succeed will be those who can systematically draw talent from any source.

What about the flip side — what will be different? Finding a new job gets easier every year for candidates. Now, I do want to note that I’m drawing a strong line between getting a new job and finding a new job. Getting an offer can be challenging. But, candidates do have the ability to find and apply for thousands of jobs without much effort. This has been and will continue to lead to a fluid talent market.

Employers recognize this. And, they are investing heavily in retention — increasing pay, offering large bonuses, working on their value propositions…etc. However, most haven’t structurally changed how they think about their positions to accommodate the fact that employees might not be with them for a while. Most still run high-investment, long onboarding processes in the hopes that an employee stays and contributes for the long-term.

Should the fluidity of the talent market continue, as we believe it will, employers may start thinking more about maximizing short-term value from team members. That could mean shorter onboardings, ready-made replacement plans, perhaps even less L&D. They may start to see their employee relationships as shorter-term and transactional.

I’m not arguing the virtue of these changes either way. And, I’m not sure we’ve seen the starting signals of these trends. But, they follow as a logical consequence of talent fluidity.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Recruiting is very tight right now. Even with a looming recession, demand far outweighs supply. Many employers attribute this tight labor market to the pandemic. But, that isn’t the whole story.

In fact, job openings have been outpacing hires since mid-2014, voluntary resignations had been rising for a decade before the pandemic, and candidate openness to changing employers has been largely rising for more than a year. COVID, it seems, accelerated long-established macroeconomic trends. It did not create the current tight recruiting market.

What does this mean for employers? Well, it means that we should expect current conditions to continue. Sure, there might be momentary relief if we hit a recession. But, there is little evidence to suggest that the longer wavelength of recruiting won’t bend towards increased competition.

Our research suggests three strategies pose promise in this new reality.

  1. Real-Time Message Calibration: Candidate priorities change quickly. And, they vary dramatically between different talent types and candidate identities. The more an employer can develop systems to tailor their recruitment messaging and value propositions to specific candidate segments, the better they’ll compete.
  2. Low-Attrition Candidate Process: Candidates are also applying to more companies and dropping out of processes more readily. Investments in shoring up leaky moments in the recruiting pipeline will render the time employers spend on each candidate more efficient and effective. There are a few key ways employers can do that, which I’d be happy to talk about more in-depth.
  3. Burnout Proof TA Teams: Recruiters are burnt out right now — primarily due to the req loads they’re carrying. This burnout is rendering it more difficult for TA teams to solve the problems that are leading to burnout in the first place. Companies that take care of their recruiting teams by hiring more recruiters, decreasing req load per recruiter, and investing in targeted engagement strategies will succeed.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Candidates prioritize remote work flexibility more than employers. Eight in 10 candidates highly prioritize some remote work flexibility. But, only about 50% of employers offer or plan to offer it.

That’s not surprising. Consumers will always want more options. But, it also reveals a potential opportunity.

Many employers view remote work as something they begrudgingly will give. But, you could also see it as a competitive advantage. Think about it. If 50% of employers are unwilling to offer some flexibility, you automatically raise your candidate appeal — and might find yourself in the running for previously unattainable candidates — by offering flexibility.

More research will come out over time. We don’t yet know the long-term impacts of remote work on organizations. But, it would be foolish to think there won’t be any costs. Culture may be harder to build. Employees may feel less connection to employers…etc.

But, instead of solely focusing on what is lost, it seems worthwhile to compare what is lost to what is gained. Is a dip in culture or connection worth a potential increase in talent quality?

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Historically, many people have found a social community at work. If you move to a new city for a job and don’t know anyone, you can make friends, build networks…etc. at the office. Remote work changes that. You may be the only person living in your city who works for your company. You may spend close to zero time with colleagues outside of productive work sessions. Work may increasingly become, well, work.

Candidate preference data reflects this trend. Mission and impact of one’s employer is not a top priority for Gen Z candidates. Work-life balance, however, is always a top four consideration. Candidates want more clear separation between work and their lives. They want flexibility to work from wherever they’d like.

Remote work may accelerate the process of work becoming more transactional. A preference that is reflected in some candidate data. And, a natural consequence of it being more difficult to derive your social and emotional fulfillment from work.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Historically, hiring processes and screens piggyback on experience and credentials. Employers look at one’s school, past companies, past experience…etc. as a proxy for the value they’ll bring an organization.

Skills-based hiring has been a topic of conversation for some time, but its adoption has been slow. Trends from the last few years, however, point to the potential for skills-based hiring. It is much easier for an employer to accurately assess the potential contribution of a candidate who comes from a non-traditional talent pool if they look at their abilities rather than their experience and pedigree. Take someone who is re-entering the workforce after a decade, two decades raising a family. An automated screen that looks for recent experience might eliminate them from contention. But, a skills evaluation might reveal potential.

How do you do that? How do you assess candidates based on abilities rather than institutions? Well, that’s tricky. It would require companies to have incredible mastery over the specific skills necessary for every job. And, it requires reliable assessments that measure aptitude. Few such assessments have garnered widespread adoption.

But, the question here is about societal changes. What societal changes would be necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone? Detaching merit from institutional credentialing would do the trick. Of course, we’d need reliable ways to assess merit differently. But, that would give a broader group an accurate shake.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

A focus on access and inclusion — both from a strategic and mission perspectives — have endured through economic ups and downs and other shakeups to the talent market. A focus on DEI is here to stay.

That’s a good and, for employers, necessary thing. Younger generations of talent prioritize DEI highly. Gen Z and Millennials disproportionately prioritize DEI compared with their Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

One newer but potentially promising strategy is psychological safety training. Information on how a company builds psychological safety is highly important to candidates overall — but particularly important to specific candidate identity groups.

  • Black/African American and Hispanic/LatinX candidates rate psychological safety as more important than their Asian and white peers.
  • Women rate it as more important than men.
  • And LGBTQ+ candidates rate it as more important than those who do not identify as LGBTQ+.

However, psychological safety is a new initiative for most employers. Only 29% of employers implement training on psychological safety. It is the least common inclusion initiative among those we asked employers about. Despite being the second most appealing inclusion initiative for candidates.

Our work shows that people don’t quit companies. They quit managers. Training managers in the basics of psychological safety could move the needle.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

I actually might take this question in a slightly different direction. Culture, of course, matters enormously for retention and employee happiness. But, I’m not sure culture is the lens through which we should think about the “Great Resignation.”

There’s a strong argument that the Great Resignation was just market forces behaving like they normally do. That it had less to do with people coming to their senses of what they wanted out of jobs than it did supply and demand.

Job openings (demand) has been rising much faster than hires (supply). Thus, companies raised salaries and offered perks like flexibility to draw scarce talent away from other companies. Those salaries, promotions, and perks were appealing. So, candidates left their companies in favor of other jobs.

Culture is always part of a company’s value proposition. But I believe the headlines missed the mark slightly in attributing the record number of voluntary resignations to a cultural revolution.

None of this is to discount the cultural changes that have occurred the last couple years in the workplace. Remote work is a big thing now. Companies are listening to what their candidates want. But it is important to recognize the macroeconomic trends at play in the rise of voluntary resignations.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

1. The Rise of DEI

  • Younger generations disproportionately prioritize finding companies with a strong emphasis on DEI. As Gen Z and Millennials take up more and more of the workforce, corporate DEI progress will grow in importance.
  • DEI does not just matter for recruiting, however. 55% of new employees say that they’re very or extremely open to changing employers when employers fail to meet DEI expectations set during recruitment.
  • Employers will need to broadcast emphasis and follow through.

2. Liquidity of Labor

  • For (more) than the last 5 years, we’ve seen voluntary resignations outpace the 20-year historical average. COVID supercharged this effect, and a potential recession will cool it somewhat, but this disruptive trend is likely here to stay.

3. The fate of remote/flexible work (especially if there’s a recession)

  • I noted above candidates have a strong preference for remote/hybrid work options.
  • Many employers and some outspoken CEOs are pushing for a return to office.
  • Currently, the tight labor market favors the preferences of employees and job candidates, but a recession could tip the balance of bargaining power.

4. Heavy Investment in Recruiting

  • Recruiting competitiveness (here, referring to the delta between open jobs and hires) has been more or less growing for the last 10 years.
  • And, despite the potential for temporary disruptions like a recession, there are few signals that the longer arc of the industry will bend back towards less competitive.
  • Companies are taking note, investing in their recruiting teams, and adding headcount. I suspect that trend will continue.

5. Broad Reach, Precision Targeting

  • Remote work and blurring geographic work requirements open enormous pools of candidates for companies to consider.
  • But, companies can’t target, screen, attract, and hire all of them. A broadening of the pool requires better-tailored tactics.
  • Employers will need to tailor their messaging, value propositions, and recruiting tactics to the unique and changing interests of different candidate types.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“It’s not about you.” This is something a mentor of mine said to me in my first few years building Veris Insights. It stuck.

Basically, he reminded me that everyone has their own goals, aspirations, challenges, fears…etc. You’ll do well in life and business by organizing your conversations, actions, value propositions, or anything else around the other person’s goals rather than your own.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Pep Guardiola — Happy to fly to Manchester 🙂

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.