One of the classic marketing stories taught in business school concerns the history of the railroads. When trains dominated the transportation market, successful railroad executives thought they were in the “iron road” business. As a result of this closed-minded vision, wheeled transportation services progressively grew in importance as railroads progressively shrank. Railroads, once the only game in town, were reduced to “bit-player” status in the transportation market–all because their managers could not see beyond steel and steam. Markets are cruel and unforgiving. But if management is sufficiently broad-minded to understand them, a company can prosper. Consider office software. A few years ago, MS Word was a clunky and awkward word processing application that took a backseat to WordPerfect’s streamlined user interface. A majority of people preferred using WordPerfect. Microsoft recognized, however, that clients tended to do more than word processing–they liked to merge data from spreadsheets, memos, graphs, and letters. Microsoft improved their user interface and integrated discrete office software products into integrated software suites. Microsoft learned fast. WordPerfect did not. You probably have some version of MS Office on your computer today. Anyone remember WordPerfect? Harvard Graphics? Dbase? Just having a flashy product is not enough to keep you on top of the heap. History consistently shows that a myopic management view of the marketplace will inexorably take you from leading the parade to sweeping up after the elephants. History is about to repeat itself among many web-based employment ASPs. Partial Understanding of Client Needs If you think about it, clients want one thing: to get skilled people in the job fast and efficiently and not get sued in the process. That’s not so difficult. They just don’t know how to do it very well. If you get out of the office and walk across the street to the university library, you will find 30 to 40 years of selection research showing the best employees are found by working from a job analysis competency list, using a variety of job-related selection tools, and carefully validating each tool. But in spite of this vast body of knowledge, both ASPs and clients alike tend to look at the employment problem as a single tree in the forest–a teensy-weensy part of a huge ecological system. You can see this by examining the vast array of disjointed tools that promise to offer the ultimate hiring solution: 1) recruiting tools, 2) resume screening tools, 3) mechanized tracking and communication tools, 4) measurement tools, 5) background checking tools, 6) key-word search engines, and 7) technical test sites. Basically, none of these tools really solves the clients’ ultimate problem–getting qualified people in jobs, quickly and efficiently without getting sued. These ASPs are in the iron road business. Partial Understanding of Good/Legal Hiring Practices The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures have been around sine 1978, yet few employers know about these guidelines, and even fewer follow them. The interesting thing about the “Guidelines” is that they are not just a legal stumbling block–they actually describe how to hire the most qualified people. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Say what you will, if you are not following the practices outlined in the guidelines, there is no conceivable way you can do a good job hiring people for your organization. I am still waiting for someone to present a compelling argument that explains how he or she can confidently hire the most qualified person for the job without basing requirements on a job analysis and using selection tools that are accurate and validated. Partial Understanding of the Hiring Process There is an old saying, “If the only tool you know how to use is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” It is a fact of life that we are all limited both by what we know and what we don’t know. This is a two-edged sword that gets us frequently into trouble. For example:
- If you peek behind the curtain of an assessment site you will probably find an assessor at the helm.