A New Year Check Up

I am sure that the average recruiting manager or director would be shocked if he or she took the time to list the various tools or technology services they had purchased or used over the past five years.

The list might go from more than a dozen job boards to the personal contact managers some recruiters still use out of frustration with most applicant tracking systems. It would also include the hastily thrown-together Excel spreadsheets used to track candidate interviews and start-date schedules and internally developed employee referral system.

And this list wouldn’t include such social networking tools such as LinkedIn or MySpace, or referral tools like Jobster or H3. On top of this would be the web sites that are frequently consulted and all the related systems that are part of the recruiting process, such as the HRIS.

What’s really amazing is that everything more or less works, albeit with less-than-perfect efficiency or effectiveness.

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In the scramble to get competitive over the past few years, many recruiting functions have accumulated technology and have thrown together recruiting tools and processes with little coordination or deep thought.

When you are faced with a shortage of good candidates and have hiring managers demanding more and more, it becomes very difficult to approach things in an orderly or careful way. Good ideas are grasped as they arrive, with the thought that someday you will take the time to integrate, evaluate, and eliminate.

Well, now that we have started a new year, maybe the time has come. Here are some initial ideas:

  1. Outline your overall process. It would be very wise to attend a seminar on business process improvement or business process mapping, which are frequently offered at local colleges and from many independent seminar firms. There is also a good book on this topic called Business Process Mapping: Improving Customer Satisfaction by J. Mike Jacka and Paulette J. Keller. Or, get the delightfully simple book by Dianne Galloway, Mapping Work Processes. There are many other good books explaining that process mapping is a powerful tool and a way to get your arms around what looks like chaos. A team of two or three assigned to map the current processes can make good progress quickly. Perhaps you can borrow some time or at least get some advice from an internal business analyst or organizational development specialist, if your organization has one. After this first step, look at whether you have the right structure or the right tools, and you can base your decisions on how things really work. Of course, to save time and gain expertise, you can also hire a consultant to help.
  2. Map your technology and tools to your process. Look for duplicate tools or services or ones that are less than ideal. Mark these for further review. If the tool or service is working reasonably well, move on to those steps where the technology or service is less than what you want. Create a measure for each step to determine how well it is functioning. For example, you can assume that sourcing tools and techniques are working well if you usually have good candidates identified within a certain timeframe. When each step is measured against a standard, improvements become much easier and you can then document and show management the improvement. Assign a person or two to look at why the technology or service isn’t working well, and get them to either recommend changes or replacements.
  3. Realize that your outward image is critical to success, but it also has to work well. Make sure your web site not only looks good, but that it is also functions at several levels. Almost everyone has a recruiting web site ? whether a static text-oriented one or an interactive graphically exciting one, but few have sites that really deliver good, pre-screened candidates to the recruiter’s desktop. The goal this year should be to make the web site work well behind the scenes for the candidate and the recruiter. For the candidate, the site should be easy to use, informative, and offer a straightforward path to potential employment. For the recruiter, the site should deliver pre-screened candidates and offer a way to establish ongoing communication and build relationships. This means you need to take the time to evaluate your current site and rate how well it does both of these things. This is part of the process mapping I mention above. It is also a separate process that may require you to rethink what software you are using, how it might integrate into this site, at what difficulty, and at what cost. This is the time to build a plan to improve the web site and to lay out the time and budget it will take. By setting yourself some targets for improvements and building a project plan, you can make big improvements with better integration than you have had before.
  4. Aim to build relationships, not just communicate. Relationships happen when there is an exchange of meaningful information and when a level of trust is established. While email is a part of that, providing candidates with feedback on their skills, helping steer them to the right position within the company for those skills, and being honest about opportunities (or the lack of them) are all essential. I advocate a process that pre-screens candidates and allows them to opt-in for ongoing emails, blog subscriptions, even old-fashioned newsletters, phone calls, and other contact by people within your company. When candidates opt-in, they take control and can decide they are no longer interested. This frees you or your staff from having to decide who should or should not be in the communication loop. All relationships need time to grow. Make sure that you spend time with your ATS vendor and your Web people to put in place some level of automated, ongoing communication tools. Don’t forget to keep the relationships that already exist with those who have recently left your organization (voluntarily or not), known as the so-called corporate alumni. Also, communicate with those who have interviewed for jobs but not been hired. Even though they may not have been a match this time, they may be the next time; the better they feel about your company, the easier they will be to hire.

If you have read carefully, you can see how all these tie together and how they all hinge on having a careful look at what you are actually doing today. This is the year for process improvement and for the integration of all those pieces you bought or inherited. Make it a great one!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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