Building an Advanced Talent Acquisition Function Today: HRTech (Part 3 of 3)

Oct 6, 2017

In part one we covered people and different talent acquisition structures. In part two, we went into some depth around optimal process and operational governance.

Today, we are going to dive into HR technology: how you need to be thinking about evaluating and implementing.

I am not an expert in all things HR tech, but I know enough to be dangerous given that I started off life as a RPG/COBOL programmer (not many people know that about me) and for the last 10 years, have been generally in the role of financial decision maker on HR tech investments.

As you know, the recruiting tech ecosystem is large and complex to navigate, as you can see by this graphic from CB Insights (click to enlarge), and this is only tip of the iceberg in the HR tech landscape.

Here’s where I want to go with this article. I don’t want to suggest the best technology for each category, but rather three key lessons learned and trade-off decisions you need to consider as a buyer/leader, regardless of the HR tech investments you need to make.

Lesson One — Begin With the End in Mind

Yes, yes, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s the best way I can describe the intent. In short, here is what I mean. Stop comparing feature/functionality between products in a category, and focus on outputs and results. If you want the longer version, then read: Bad HRTech implementations – it’s not the tech, it’s you.

If you have defined the outputs clearly, and you can report or analyze those outputs to show if the investments you are making deliver on said promise, then you are starting off from the right position.  Define what type of reporting you want. Be clear on the different ways you might pivot/cut/analyze the data (city, job families, job level, source, etc., etc.).

Share those defined outputs with the vendors you’re evaluating as part of your evaluation criteria. HR tech vendors like to think in use cases, so lots of them will welcome the fact that you are defining what success looks like. It has saved me time and money in the past.

Lesson 2 – Consider Engaging a Professional

No, I am not suggesting that you engage me. As I said, I know enough to be dangerous when it comes to HR tech, but my full-time focus is more around TA strategy, process, metrics/analytics, and people.

I have lost count of the number of bad investment decisions and implementations that I have witnessed and heard through conversations with unhappy TA/HR leaders. Logically, this advice is relevant for the larger investments, but for smaller investments, still having a few experts you can trust to ask for advice is a solid personal investment in my experience as well.

Having an independent consultant help you navigate the complex waters of selection and implementation at times is just the smart thing to do. They spend countless hours going deep in the HR tech space, and for a very good reason. So the next time you are thinking about changing out your ATS, unless you have the deep market knowledge and PM skills on your team, don’t be a hero and hand it across solely to some of your recruiters to evaluate. Take a moment to think seriously of bringing in a SME, to worst-case advise you on your journey.

If you are thinking about engaging an expert on HR technology, here are two people that I have lots of respect for in the industry and who are experts in the space. Disclaimer: I do not get paid or a kickback for recommending them in this article. If you want to reach out and name drop me and this article, that is your call.

Elaine Older — CEO Of Talent Function

George LaRocque — Founder LAROCQUE & HRWINS

Lesson 3 – Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

When evaluating HR technology, particularly when that solution might end up touching multiple stakeholders (TA/HR/business/marketing/procurement/legal/finance), be very clear up front who is playing what role in the evaluation and configuration/customization process.

If you have ever been part of a HR tech project that required multiple stakeholders, be it users or just those who will provide an opinion and input, it can quickly end up being a train wreck.

Yes, you should get voice of the customer input on those who will end up using the system, but if you are the executive decision maker you must balance that input with the reality that you are not going to find much technology that will be all things to all people.

In the earlier part of my career, I started using an ATS that was one of the most over-engineered bloated things I have seen. When I started to ask questions of people .. “how did this system end up being in the Frankenstein state that it is?” … the response from those who lived through the evaluation and deployment process all basically said the same thing. Dozens of HR generalists were involved in providing input to the CHRO on what they wanted in an ATS. By the way, none of these generalists where going to be users of the system, but rather would be asking for reports out of the ATS.

I am sure you can finish my thinking here.

The final solution had hundreds of totally useless fields created in the ATS which put so much administrivial burden on the recruiters that it was just crazy. I am sure this company had 30 percent more recruiters than they optimally needed, because so much time was spent on filling out erroneous fields in the ATS.

My final advice if you are driving towards a new ATS/CRM solution for your business:

  1. Be crystal clear on who is involved, why they are involved, and most importantly, set expectations that just because they give you input, it does not automatically mean that input is going to be used as part of the final solution.
  2. Read this article that I wrote about how best to configure an ATS and the associated related context about the tradeoff decisions you’re going to need to make: A template for optimal ATS step/status configuration. If you have read article part one in this series, you will notice I also show how to tie in the talent-relationship future fit methodology into the step/status structure of your ATS configuration. This last part is key given that the reports and analysis you want to generate to show progress are only as good as the system design you have created.

Finally, while its near impossible to write a three-part article for all company types, variances in culture, different people you need to hire, and just the sheer depth of topics in recruiting, I hope you got some nuggets of value out of my three-part series.  I have been doing this for most of my career. I have learned lot, and failed a lot, so writing and sharing is my way of continuing to give back to a profession that has given me so much.


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