– Stevie Nicks is the Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine – a website that covers the topics many care about. One will find articles about lifestyle, travel, fashion, trends and relationships – each of which is written in their unique style.
It cannot be understated how important making the right hiring decisions is to a business.
The first wave of employees can shape the future of a small business. The right HR personnel can define the attitudes and culture of a workplace. A visionary manager can have a significant impact on the productivity and creativity of a team for years.
Every hire has an impact, good or bad. However, there is one trait in hirees we think is incredibly important, that often goes overlooked.
Lived experience is a crucial element of what prepares you for a career, no matter what that experience is. You can have all the qualifications in the world but only lived experience will give you the tools and drive necessary to really excel in a role.
In this article, we’ll cover exactly why recruiters and businesses should look to applicants with real-world experience for their next hires, highlighting the unique benefits they can offer enterprises and their working environments.
As we’re working with a rather vague term here, it’s important to define what we believe lived experience to be in the context of employment.
The Oxford definition of lived experience is: “Personal knowledge about the world gained through direct, first-hand involvement in everyday events rather than through representations constructed by other people.”
When it comes to recruitment, this means identifying candidates who may not have the formal qualifications or the typical checklist of past jobs you would expect, but have experiences outside of those environments that would contribute to their ability to bring something to the role.
They can relate to your audience on a deeper level
Connecting with your audience is absolutely crucial in today’s economy, where the customer is always right and has a direct pipeline to both communicate with and complain about you at the few clicks of a button. Having the right people to both keep these audiences entertained and calm over the phone or by email is crucial, and lived experience gives employees the tools to do just that.
Whether it’s de-escalating a potentially hazardous situation or striking the right tone in a piece of copy, lived experience provides great guidance to what consumers actually want and how they want to be communicated with.
This is particularly important in the charity sector or for businesses that regularly deal with vulnerable people. Providing the right kind of support doesn’t just require a textbook definition of their problems, but the kind of sympathy and understanding that can only be developed through lived experience.
Take a business such as VA Claim Pros, for example, who focus on providing tools and resources for veterans alongside assistance in claiming benefits they’re entitled to. They make a point of establishing strong veteran representation throughout their workforce as they know only veterans can help guide them towards the right solutions and talk to consumers who may be in distress about their unique concerns. These are skills that can’t be trained in an afternoon, and are an invaluable asset to many businesses.
They help you solve unique problems
When you break down a job to its bare bones, it’s essentially just a series of problems that need solving.
Emails that need just the right tone in their reply. Technical issues that aren’t quite straightforward. Unique customer service challenges. These are all just problems that need to be solved every day. The great thing about lived experience is it teaches you to think on your feet.
People with lived experience usually think in a way that is grounded in practical solutions. They don’t revert to what their college professor told them, they react to the situation and relate it back to solutions they’ve used before. This creates a less linear way of thinking that allows for inventive solutions that save time and money.
With diversity becoming such a hot topic across the country, hiring decisions must also consider the backgrounds of potential employees and how less conventional lived experience may come to benefit them in the future.
Many people with lived experience may not have been formally employed before, but have used their time outside of the world of work to better themselves and enjoy new experiences. Someone who has traveled the world might not know much about accountancy, but has the know-how to build their own blog and attract an audience.
They’ll ensure your culture doesn’t get stale
There’s lots of evidence out there to suggest employers should be aiming to think outside of the box when it comes to the right culture fit, but all these lessons really suggest that workplace cultures and communities are an ever-changing beast that feeds off variety.
Hiring someone with lived experience who may be outside of the typical college or apprenticeship pipeline can ensure you’re constantly mixing up your workplace and keeping things fresh around the office or site.
Pumping your workplace culture full of different ideas, personalities and experiences can ensure your team doesn’t get bored and help you hang onto more ambitious employees for longer. These days, people will often take risks on a role based on what they know about the culture and feel less inclined to constantly switch companies if they like their colleagues. With benefits and happiness becoming more and more important to applicants, it’s imperative you do your best to mark your workplace out as unique.
Everyone wants a bit of variety in their lives, and who they work with can be just that for so many people. Do what’s best for your company and bring in people with new stories, big personalities and a different idea of fun.
They improve your marketing and messaging
Developing a brand and mastering the art of marketing is essential for all businesses these days.
No longer just an issue for fashion brands and would-be celebrities, social media and the direct line it has given consumers to their favorite companies (no matter how dull) has demanded every business has a voice online. This means companies now have to concern themselves with how they market themselves and what messaging is associated with them.
Fortunately, lived experience can help employees strike just the right tone to attract a customer and craft a campaign that will catch the eye. Across social media, digital marketing, and print advertising, more companies should be turning to people just like their consumers to produce their marketing campaigns, rather than relying on theory alone.
Consider a business such as UK magazine, The Big Issue. The publication famously hires the homeless as magazine vendors on the streets of British towns and cities. More than a good deed, this gives people the opportunity to start earning their own money again and become part of a well-established business, which has become an essential part of the magazine’s branding and marketing.
This is not a cynical strategy though, and the employment of homeless people has helped The Big Issue to connect with homeless communities across the country through the voice of people living in the same situation as them.
Someone with lived experience might not just be able to craft your next great marketing campaign, they might just be it.
All lived experience is unique and has something to offer employees from across a number of sectors to some extent.
You may feel your vacant office position is only suited to a college graduate with the right grades, but someone who has strived to overcome addiction finds themselves outside of the army for the first time or has made traveling across the world their purpose could just as easily provide the new perspective needed to grow your business and excel in everything from customer service to creative strategies.
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