Bad HR Tech Implementations — It’s not the Tech, It’s You

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Apr 18, 2016
This article is part of a series called Wake-up Call.

It’s funny what causes people to write articles. This one is based out of frustration given recent pieces I have read online, plus comments in social media threads. In short, there is some pretty shitty advice being handed out from people who have never implemented a complex CRM or ATS solution.

This is also going to be one of my shorter articles, because to be frank, it’s really not that complex an issue. Yes, we talk a lot about needing a real robust requirements document when evaluating HR Tech, but at times we over-engineer our thinking on this as well.

For the last year alone I have spoken with over 100 TA leaders, and 1 in 3 is thinking about changing out (or investing) in a ATS or CRM. When you hear the levels of dissatisfaction in these conversations, you can’t help but ask deeper questions about why.

Yes, there are comments about crappy user interfaces and lackluster search capabilities, but from a leader’s perspective, the biggest complaint is about not being able to derive the reports and important insights from the data that is killing them. I have also seen lots of companies’ ATS data in the last year as well, given our new benchmarking solution. I’m not here to pitch that solution, so if you want to know more you can look it up on our site.

Rather than go into a lengthy tick list of feature/functionality requirements, I want to focus this where the main theme in these conversations.

This one common theme in about 90 percent of these cases comes down to what I believe could be avoided the majority of the time and does not require an over-extensive RFP/RFI process.

I’m no self-proclaimed HR tech expert, but I have over the years learned a heck of a lot from my mistakes both from using multiple CRMs/ATSs and also from being frustrated from the stupid downstream outcomes. I clearly was not asking the right questions as part of the evaluation process with the multiple solutions I have deployed for my teams over the years.

I guess this is akin to a poor intake kickoff call with a hiring manager where if you don’t clearly define the key success criteria of the job, then this leads to a poor interview/evaluation process and ultimately a miss on hiring the right candidate.

After many years of getting this wrong often, I think I finally worked out a better way.

So here is my tip for all of you TA leaders, or the person you delegate this too 😉 for the next time you think about evaluating a new piece of HR technology, particularly an ATS or CRM. It’s not a 50 item checklist. It is much simpler than that. Surprisingly sometimes the simplest things actually turn out to be the best solution.

Begin With the End in Mind

What are the critical reports and key performance indicators you want to produce?

If you get really specific with HR tech vendors and state that they must be able to produce the baseline reports and KPIs that you are interested in to run your business, then this means that the technology you are evaluating can or cannot do what you need it to do. That being said, you must get specific with your requirements here and imagine how you will not only review these reports but think carefully about the different ways you might want to cut, filter (or pivot), on them.  Or simply, as a starting point think about the fields in the ATS/CRM that you want your recruiters (or candidates) to fill in; then, look at whether those fields already exist in the ATS/CRM or not.

Let me give you two examples at a tactical level:

Example 1: Recruiting Full Funnel Throughput (FFT) Report

  1. You need to be able to look at the count of candidates who move through each stage of your recruiting workflow to define a throughput ratio. I hope I don’t need to explain why this is a critical report to have as a bassline report to run a recruiting function. Practical Example: Candidate Application → Recruiter Review → Recruiter Screen → Submission to Hiring Manager → Hiring Manager Acceptance/Reject → Hiring Manager Interview → Business Interviews → Offer → Background Check → Hire → Start. You want to work out what the ratio numbers are from the top of the recruiting funnel all the way to hire. Here is an example of what that metric looks like here for reference Full Funnel Throughput (FFT)
  2. Here are the ways your might need to look at this report by being able to cut (or pivot) on the following:
    1. By Recruiters
    2. By Hiring Managers
    3. By Job Families
    4. By Geography
    5. By Reject and Candidate Withdrew Reasons
    6. By Specific Business Units (Your Org Structure)
    7. By Diversity lens (where applicable)
    8. By Source details
    9. Etc, Etc … Or whatever else is important to the way to want to gain insights and make decisions.

Example 2: Recruiter vs Business Consideration (RVB) Report

This compares how many days the recruiting function takes to identify and screen the candidate vs. how many days the hiring manager takes to interview and hire a candidate. Put simply, you want to show where it’s not a recruiting problem — you might be finding and submitting candidates quickly — but more of a business problem given moving requirements, too many interviews, etc. I am sure you get the point of this report, but most important, it’s to hold the business’s feet to the fire. You need to have insight to what hiring manager in what locations for what job families, or a combination of all that, to find over- and under-performance on their side.

  1. Same as above example you need to look at this report by being able to cut (or pivot) on the following:
    1. By Recruiters
    2. By Hiring Managers
    3. By Job Families
    4. By Geography
    5. By Specific Business Units (Your Org Structure)
    6. By Diversity lens (where applicable)
    7. Etc, Etc….Or whatever else is important to the way to want to gain insights and make decisions.

I could give you dozens of different report examples, but my advice is the ones that you need to pay very close attention to are the time-based metrics. This is where you will quickly find challenges with the HR technology, given that not all have robust recruiting workflow (step/status) with time/date stamp capabilities. Trust me on this one, as I have seen dozens of ATS’s now, and they all aren’t created equal.

Two things are going to happen when you go through this exercise and share with the HR technology vendors:

  • They will have very specific things they need to prove that their solution can achieve for you (or in some cases can’t)
  • If their solution can’t achieve what you are looking for, it will then turn the conversation to “customization” of the application vs “configuration.”

For those of you where this is not your first rodeo, you know exactly what is going to come next here. Customization of HR technology usually means more money will need to be spent to create the capability in the solution to achieve your outcomes. Not every piece of HR technology can achieve your goals out of the box. In large HR technology projects this is where a lot of companies make their money … consulting/customization. I have made this mistake in the past because I was not clear enough on the specific reporting outcomes I was after. I was not asking the right questions and that ultimately lead to more money that I needed to spend. But stupid me did not learn that in the past until after the fact.

When you create your list of reports and filters, also stack rank in order of importance these reports. This is critical as you will find some tech companies can do only some reports out of the box but they happen to be the critical ones; others will do lots of the reports on your list but very few of the critical ones. You might end up coming to the conclusion that some of your reports are more “nice to haves” vs “must haves.” This can help you prioritize and compare what different solutions can do what you want vs. requiring customization vs. just not at all.

So next time you think about evaluating that piece of HR technoogy, come to the discussion with your report/KPI requirements, the prioritization list, and the way you need to filter (or pivot) on the data to gain those critical insights you need to continuously improve your business.

The reality is if you do not, then this is not the HR tech that is necessary wanting, but it is you for not being crystal clear on the outcomes you are looking for when doing the evaluating.


This article is part of a series called Wake-up Call.