Best of Breed vs. Just Good Enough

Jun 10, 2002

Is your current staffing automation technology just getting you by? Sometimes burning platforms only smolder. Without a major catastrophe, there is little incentive to find a better solution. But don’t become too complacent in accepting the status quo, or just accepting the CIO’s default choice of upgrade, when there may be a staffing platform that operates at an even higher level still. Just Good Enough Listen to this tale of a fictional company. Ira Lotte is the director of staffing at “Conduco,” a large Midwest Fortune 1000 corporation. Times were tough during the economic retraction, but Ira considers the staffing department to be lucky. Hiring continued during the slowdown, although at not quite the same torrid pace, and the organization came through relatively unscathed. The company is emerging from its hibernation. While still remaining cautious, Ira is projecting 85 new hires and more than 200 internal reassignments over the next two quarters. Before the downturn, Ira pushed the company to upgrade a much older, much-despised applicant tracking system. The upgraded system has eliminated some serious impediments to productivity and is fairly reliable, so there are no longer prolonged periods of downtime. Searches on candidates’ resumes, which used to be scheduled to run overnight, now return results with the same speed as a Google search, albeit sometimes with the same degree of inaccuracy or irrelevance. A longstanding company goal was to increase the proportion of candidates sourced on the corporate website. Ira’s team selected a web-enabled system, giving the database a candidate-facing front-end on the Careers site. As it stands now, the site has a passable job search engine, allowing candidates to find suitable positions without much difficulty. The database automatically populates the Careers site with the details pertaining to a requisition-job title, description, location, and contact information. It certainly is an improvement over the time when job postings had to go through the bottleneck of the corporate Webmaster. A so-called “Resume Builder” form imports a candidate’s personal information directly into the database. What’s Missing Ira is pleased with the updated solution. Candidate volume is up noticeably, with no major crashes. Grumbling from within the staffing department has become quiet, though there are still some nagging doubts about adoption and usability. Ira suspects that many recruiters are simply paying lip service to the idea of using the recruiting solution, and are often going outside the system to perform tasks on paper. There may be some recruiters, particularly among the more experienced ones, whom Ira feels will never come around. Training by the new vendor focused mainly on screens and buttons, without any discussion of overhauling the recruiting process. Though HR management considers Conduco to be in a good position to benefit from Internet recruiting, the truth is that current levels of functionality at the company are at a bare minimum. Certain key best practices are missing, both on the front-end and the back-end. Front-end Best Practices Visitors to the Conduco Careers site cannot send a job description to a friend’s email address, so the company misses out on the additional exposure to potentially qualified, pre-screened candidates. The Careers site also lacks a Job Agent, which would help establish connections with passive candidates. Without a Job Agent, it is unlikely a passive candidate will ever return to the site. The fields in the Resume Builder form merely mirror the structure and content of a conventional resume: contact information, education, work history, and so on. During implementation, the vendor sold the company on the idea of dissecting the resume into ever more fine levels of detail, which lead to numerous fields in the candidate database: fields for dates (month and year) for each degree; fields for the beginning and ending month and year for each past position; and so on. To populate these fields in the database with data, many of the corresponding fields in the Resume Builder on the Conduco Careers Site are mandatory. However, the candidate must fill out the unwieldy Resume Builder form with the same basic information, for every requisition applied to. Moreover, no thought was paid to how Conduco could exploit the interactive nature of the Web, to pull from the candidate pieces of information that lie outside the bounds of the traditional resume, but that nevertheless are much more pertinent and telling about the candidate. The company would get a much more rounded picture of a candidate if it asked about skills, career goals and interests, or work/life balance issues. Back-end Best Practices Back-end functionality at Conduco is barely adequate, and is truly holding recruiters back. The lack of automated pre-screening capabilities on the front-end leads to trouble in the back-end process. Conduco’s limited technology leaves the entire screening up to keyword searches on resume fields. As any recruiter who has been down that road will tell you, searching for keywords in resume fields is not a scalable screening practice: it takes considerable time to match candidates, and the amount of time it takes rises in linear proportion to the total volume of information being screened. Also, Conduco lacks a true workflow. A configurable workflow would enable the department to route the process differently by functions or locations. Best of Breed In the fictitious example above, key pieces of front-end and back-end functionality were missing. Though the company thought it had furnished the staffing function with the right tools, best-of-breed functionality would bring new levels of efficiency and quality. The technology used at Conduco merely automates an older process: it takes the same, resume-based process, and makes it just a bit faster. As an overall approach, this is more of an impediment to attaining an efficient staffing function at Conduco than missing any particular best practice. Although it is difficult to know when the status quo is in fact holding you back, be aware of the opportunities for improvement provided by best of breed vendors. It could make the difference between being just good enough to being a leader in your organization, utilizing a best-of-breed solution to deliver an efficient, quality process and greater ROI.

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