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You know that feeling you get when you’re waiting for a big end result?

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at a slot machine watching the fruits and numbers whiz by; seeing horse number seven come down the home stretch; waiting for the top award to be announced; monitoring the final sale that helps you surpass your goal; biding time until you get that call about the job that will change your life.

Anxiety. Urgency. Eagerness. Panic. Thrill.

This is how I feel every year as I wait for Sisense to score, tabulate and rank the 500 companies my team at SmashFly diligently researched across 20,000 data points on their career site and recruitment CRM nurture strategy. It’s part “kid on Christmas morning” and part “nervous mother watching her child in their first track meet.”

The results have no bearing on me whatsoever, but I feel invested in what the outcome will be for the Fortune 500, for SmashFly and Symphony Talent customers, and for the practitioners I know who lead these teams.

It matters because it’s a stake in the ground (albeit a stake 500 companies built) on where the talent acquisition industry stands. And it’s a moment of hope I have that recruitment marketing, talent experience, employer branding, nurture strategy ‒ all the elements that are undeniably critical to the future of work (and the world) ‒ have changed since the last year… and the previous years before that.

We’ve been doing the Recruitment Marketing Benchmarks Report on the Fortune 500 since 2015, and we just released the 2020 report with Symphony Talent today. I’ve had five straight years of lingering moments of hope and surprising disappointments. I’ve also had five years to learn and reflect on what these findings mean for the industry, for technology solutions —  and most importantly — for talent acquisition leaders.

Recruitment CRM Adoption from 2015 to 2019

There is no more important story in recruitment marketing than the rise of the recruitment CRM. I say this as a marketer who would be nothing without the marketing automation platform I utilize to grow our database, track success of programs, communicate to our target market, segment potential buyers, automate tasks, and more. 

Here’s my take on one big surprise and two disappointments when it comes to the Fortune 500’s nurture strategy over five years.

  1. Sure, 43% of companies offer a talent network (up from 27% in 2015), but the surprise is that in 2019 we saw a 67% increase in companies that also include an opt in within the apply flow (from 18% in 2018 to 30% in 2019).

    To me, this signals a stronger understanding of candidate behavior and incremental use of a CRM: companies are starting to utilize the CRM to combat applicant drop off and capture more leads in apply flow. It’s a start. More applicants don’t matter if they feel forced to apply; interested leads should be the currency long-term for potential hires.

  2. If you’re generating talent leads for the future, talent acquisition teams need a strategy to actually convert them into not just hires, but engaged employees. This is a bummer: a talent network does not a nurture strategy make. Of the 43% of companies with a talent network, almost half (47%) never send a single communication after the confirmation email. What. The. Hell.

    This is not only disappointing, but shocking that after five years of increasing technological advancement, industry thought leadership, analyst reports and conferences, CRMs are barely being utilized. Many recruiting teams are creating more detrimental experiences for talent by promising to deliver on opportunities and stories and then ghosting them.

  3. To further the disappointment, just 8% of companies with a talent network share any content other than jobs. Yes, this is up from 1% in 2015, but there is so much opportunity for talent acquisition to help candidates find careers that will fuel their lives and livelihood. Isn’t this what talent acquisition is all about, in its simplest intention?

    Over five years, we’ve seen employee stories increase, the number of companies sharing content vs. social on job news increase, diversity and veteran content increase, yet that content is rarely used in any other form than on the career site. Companies are building employer brands, but not evangelizing them in the most critical channels.

I hone in on this disappointment because it means there is opportunity. It also means we need to talk more about how we fix it; how we drive adoption of new technology; how we create intention behind new strategies; how we scale successful tactics. And thankfully, we have five years of Recruitment Marketing Pioneers spotlighted in this year’s report that can help guide the way.

There is so much more data to pour over, gasp at, and be inspired by in the 2020 Recruitment Marketing Benchmarks Report. My advice? Read it with eagerness (and a little anxiety) of where your company ranks. Take in the thrill of seeing your company’s name on the Recruitment Marketing Pioneers list … or executing on strategies most of the Fortune 500 aren’t. Finally, channel the panic of “being behind” in certain areas into urgency to change one thing each week, each month, each year.

All those emotions make for a perfect storm of transformation. Here’s to 2020.

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