As people often do at the start of the new year, we recently took time to reflect on the online staffing assessment trends we saw unfolding during 2003 and thought about what these trends will mean for 2004. This article discusses five emerging trends that we believe will characterize the use of staffing assessment systems during 2004. We have also highlighted potential ways that companies might capitalize on each trend. Trend 1: Overlooking the importance of candidate quality. The general recruiting industry continues to move in a positive direction when it comes to the adoption of new hiring technology. Most organizations understand the general role of the web in their talent sourcing process, have adopted the use of applicant tracking systems, and are beginning to understand the value provided by staffing technology. Recruiters and job seekers have come to realize that technology can provide a valuable advantage to everyone involved in the hiring process in terms of connecting people to jobs. But relatively few organizations have implemented automated staffing systems that provide additional value beyond simple gains in efficiency. Despite the demonstrated value of online assessment tools, many staffing organizations continue to put relatively little emphasis on the use of assessment technology that significantly improves candidate quality. Opportunity: Companies that move swiftly to embrace the use of web-based techniques to improve the quality of hiring decisions will have a distinct competitive advantage over companies that continue to evaluate recruiting primarily in terms of efficiency metrics like time to fill and cost per hire. Trend 2: Increased use of metrics and “six sigma” techniques. An increasing number of organizations are realizing the value of using metrics to increase their understanding of what is occurring within their staffing processes. Assessment technology is helping staffing to adopt a more data-driven, continuous-improvement approach similar to the Six Sigma and total quality management methods traditionally associated with manufacturing and supply chain management. These methods use ongoing metrics to better understand the costs/benefits of staffing processes and to guide decisions that affect these processes. Opportunity: Having data is one thing, effectively analyzing it is another. Companies that invest the resources required to effectively interpret staffing data in order to identify trends affecting talent management will be able to “outthink” the competition when it comes to finding the best people. Trend 3: Sourcing and sorting companies (i.e., job boards and ATSs) will begin to expand their product offerings. In an effort to create more value for their customers while also increasing their own ability to generate revenue, job boards and ATS vendors will begin to expand their product offerings and provide in-house tools offering additional functionality. The integration of assessment tools into the sourcing and candidate management process will be an integral part of this trend. The future of ATS and job board companies will depend on their ability to provide clients with tools that impact both staffing efficiency and effectiveness. We predict that within three years all of the major ATS and job board vendors will offer assessment tools as a key part of their core product offerings. Opportunity: ATS and job board companies that are developing assessment tools focused on improving staffing effectiveness will be looking for design partners to help them develop their capabilities in this space. On the one hand, this means 2004 could be a good year for small staffing assessment companies that want to get acquired. On the other hand, staffing organizations may be able to develop design-partner relationships with ATS and job board vendors where they can get some custom system development work done at very low costs. Trend 4: The number of assessment vendors will continue to grow. More and more people are realizing that there is money to be made providing organizations with tools to add value to their hiring process. This means that the continued influx of new vendors offering solutions will not slow down anytime soon. The 2003 Rocket-Hire Buyer’s Guide to Web-based Screening and Assessment Systems included over 60 vendors. For the next edition of our Buyer’s Guide, we have already identified over 100 vendors and are adding more each week. Unfortunately, the increasing number of vendors will make choosing a reputable vendor with a legitimate solution for your needs an even more difficult task. Opportunity: Although the large number of staffing assessment vendors has led to huge variations in the quality of assessment tools, it has also helped spur innovation while lowering assessment prices. Companies looking to implement new assessments would do well to spend time shopping around the market because there are some great tools out there ó many from companies you probably have not heard of ó and often at very reasonable costs. However, we would caution against going into this market without some form of expertise that will allow you to distinguish between tools that reflect a highly creative and effective use of science and those based on voodoo and glossy marketing brochures. Trend 5: Technology will not replace humans. We continually get push back from people who think we are advocating that technology replace humans in the hiring process. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to hiring decisions, humans should always play a central role. Human judgment should be the ultimate decision-making power. The role of technology is in providing humans with the tools they need to reduce information overload while simultaneously helping them make better, more informed decisions Opportunity: Use staffing automation not as a tool to reduce recruiter headcount, but instead as a tool that frees up recruiter time to do those things they do most effectively. For example, by using assessments to screen and evaluate candidates ó something recruiters are notoriously poor and inefficient at doing ó it’s possible to free up recruiters to spend more time identifying and selling high potential candidates on the value of the company. We sincerely hope that the information in this article is useful to those interested in helping to use technology to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their hiring processes. In the coming year, we hope to see organizations of all shapes and sizes benefiting from the opportunities we have discussed in this article.