TalentTalent AcquisitionEmbedding the Candidate Experience into the Heart of your TA Strategy: Ruth Bielderman, ABN AMRO

Embedding the Candidate Experience into the Heart of your TA Strategy: Ruth Bielderman, ABN AMRO

Ahead of her appearance at the HRD Summit EU, June 19th-20th at the RAI Amsterdam, Ruth Bielderman, ABN AMRO, spoke to HRD Connect about how the organisation measures success, not just within the recruitment process, but the entire employee experience.

Embedding the Candidate Experience into the Heart of your TA Strategy: Ruth Bielderman, ABN AMRO

The talent acquisition landscape is drastically changing, causing organisations to rethink how they source and attract the talent that will bring their organisation into the future.

To attract the right people for business success, ABN AMRO has placed its focus on the experience of its candidates in the talent acquisition phase, devising innovative methods to attract their ideal future employees. Including, among other innovations, a recruitment escape room.

Ahead of her appearance at the HRD Summit EU, June 19th-20th at the RAI Amsterdam, Ruth Bielderman, ABN AMRO, spoke to HRD Connect about how the organisation measures success, not just within the recruitment process, but the entire employee experience.


What do you think organizations are getting wrong in their talent acquisition strategies?

I think a lot of companies are still thinking inside-out, instead of outside-in, which means they’re really focusing on their insights and their politics, attracting talent from a company perspective, instead of a employee perspective.

People often ask me how they can improve the way they recruit for their company, which tells me that they are struggling with their interior way of thinking and way of work. I’m inspired by something Bill Gates once said – “Banking is necessary, banks are not”. Focusing on experience, product and job content is far more important to a prospective employee than the environment or the company itself.

Secondly, we consider brand advocacy and brand ambassadorship to be very important. It’s essential to realise your brand identification, instead of pushing your old brand by a new name or promises.

It’s key to identify the main reason why people would want to join your organization. To be honest, the perception the majority of people have is that it’s not that nice to work for a bank or a financial institution. People really like to identify themselves with the company they work for, in their personal beliefs, whether that’s to do with sustainability or whatever else. So, we forced ourselves to think more about how our candidates might identify with us, and how people might want to connect with our organization, instead of simply selling our company’s name, provenance and product. This is all part of thinking outside-in, finding the right people and convincing them that this is the right place for them.

How has your new digital candidate experience impacted your recruitment process?

We didn’t start out with the intention of creating a digital experience. It was a result of design thinking, and thinking about employee experience as our top priority. I would never advise people to start by digitizing their candidate experience – fall in love with the problem first, before you fix it. In this matter, the first step was to deepdive the journey, with the goal to create an experience that matters.

For ABN AMRO, we thought about how the journey of a regular candidate looked like in our organization. We drilled this down to a couple of key touch points, figured out if those points were a disappointment or an advantage to the candidate, and identified what we could do to improve those touch points within the journey to make the experience even better. In improving those touch points, we saw that it was necessary to add more relevancy and simplicity to the process, in order to remove those disappointments, which in our case turned out to be building a more digitized process.

We’re still developing the acquisition process, but we now have a 70% perfect version of the system, and we are having far better results. This is not only because it’s more relevant, easier and far simpler than before, but crucially because it’s had a great deal of success in the first phase of our attraction process. This stage of creating awareness and consideration, before candidates even apply for our jobs, has really benefited from being more digital. It allows us to meet potential candidates with better experiences, suited to the demands of the groups we want to target.

Tell me about your recruitment escape room – what was the purpose of this exercise, and how has it impacted your employees?

In focusing on those touch points, we realised that in order to build awareness and consideration of our vacancies, we needed to do more than simply spreading the word that ABN AMRO is a great place to work. In some cases, in the opinion of the candidate, it’s still just a bank. We needed to think about how to target the right audience of digitally-minded people, how we could reach them and in what way we should do so in order to let them consider us as an employer of choice.

When I say to an IT professional, “You should really work for ABN AMRO”, they’re going to say, “Why would I do that, when I can work for Google?”. Working for a bank or financial institute typically isn’t on such a professional’s radar. We really had to think about how can we convince those people that ABN AMRO is the place for them. Then, it all came together.

We thought, as a target group, just like data science professionals, IT professionals really like to play games, and they really like solve puzzles and challenges around their area of expertise. So, we came to the conclusion that a  game would be perfect, one that would be spectacular. We wanted to create a game supported by new technology, such as augmented reality, for instance. This brought us to the idea of an escape room 2.0!

To make sure that the escape room was really interesting for those potential candidates, we built it together with our IT department, because we have a lot of IT developers in-house who really understand what tech-minded people find exciting. They had a lot great ideas about blockchain technologies, cryptocurrency and so on, that like-minded talent could get excited about. Finally we created The Lockdown.

Once we had the Lock Down A.R. escape room, we had to target this audience at the heart of where they live and work in their digital lives. We made our A.R. escape room app available in the App Store and Google Play, and launched the app at The Next Web, which is a huge Tech conference in Amsterdam of around 18,000 people a year.

We started a campaign to make sure that people really wanted to download the app and play the game, while creating awareness around topics like blockchain and other philosophies around cryptonomy. When those potential candidates play the game, they see at the end that those topics are similar to the work they would do with ABN AMRO.

The game resulted in a major conversion increase. Last year, we saw an increase of visitors to our IT landing pages of around 41% on the previous year, and we had around 32% more applications to our IT and data science jobs. By inspiring and motivating people, we were able to create awareness and consideration.

Once you’ve identified the right talent, how does your onboarding process continue their experience?

This is a very important and very tough part of the recruitment process. We’re doing a good job but we’re still working to improve this experience. One part of improving it has been reducing the number of interviews we take our candidates through, from around five interviews to only two. We’re also investing in gamification in our assessments to make that process much simpler, with faster results and less bias involved.

We launched a new onboarding platform last December with Talmundo, our onboarding partner, which really helped us to improve the candidate experience. In the past, once a candidate received an offer it could take one or two months before they started working or receiving information about their job, team, and so on. Then, once they did, there were no flowers to welcome them aboard, there was little help offered, sometimes there wasn’t even a laptop waiting for them on their first day. It was a bad experience that had to change.

This year, we invested in a totally new onboarding experience, particularly in a platform a candidate can enter during the offering process, which allows them to view information about their team, what their first day will look like, and 360-degree movies about their new place of work. It even guides the line manager during the hiring process so they better understand how to upgrade the candidate experience themselves. We offer this to candidates during their first months, weeks and days in the office, which transforms the entire experience. We measure the success of this experience using surveys, which ask the candidate about their first day, first week, first month and so on. As a result, we’ve seen that the total experience of onboarding now has a four-star rating. We use this feedback to identify business lines where we can improve, give feedback to the managers, and continuously improve the experience for our new employees.

How do you think you might further transform your employee experience in the future?

Continuing with those main areas will be a priority, especially focusing on the recruitment and onboarding processes to make them as easy and relevant to our target candidates as we can. We’re currently focusing on Dutch candidates in our first minimum viable product, so the next step will be to include international workers and our flexible staffing population. We have around 3000 people working for us on a flexible basis, so this is a key area for us to crack next.

We are also busy working on our new company platform, which we are, at this moment, optimising by developing our mobile-first version of the website, in which people can apply for roles via LinkedIn, instead of sending their resume. This is a big step for ABN AMRO, because a lot of hiring managers are still asking for resumes and long , time-consuming letters explaining why you want to work for us. We really want to make that process seamless, no more long, irritating questionnaires but just simple LinkedIn clicking. It’s all about making those processes more seamless and profitable for us.

Crucially, we believe that by continuously listening to our candidates and optimizing our processes, we will help people to experience ABN AMRO more as a platform for talent, instead of simply an employer.

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