Fun and Games with Business Process Interoperability

Jan 21, 2008

In my previous article, “The Naked Truth about Recruiting at Diversity Conferences,” I focused on how companies could achieve a return on their conference investment by implementing a detailed process. We now need to look at a more elusive problem and understand how it impairs the recruiting initiative. That problem is called Business Process Interoperability. (Stay with this folks, it’s brilliant…)

When you really think about it, recruiting is a fairly simple process that deals with moving information and events from one stage of the process to the next: getting a candidate’s resume into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), submitting a candidate to a hiring manager, or closing the candidate after an interview. The problem with its successful execution is not always the completion of the obvious major steps of the process, but often the communication gaps that exist between these steps in the process.

Before I get into how this concept impacts the recruiting process, let’s consider the following definitions:

The IEEE defines “interoperability” as: “the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.”

This term has evolved from the technology industry and it clearly pertains to many of the problems that exist in the recruiting process. The interesting part about interoperability is that it focuses on the negative space of the process, the connector of two functions of the process. (Think of it as the black arrow on a flow chart.) For example, if you look at two pieces of software independently, they might operate flawlessly alone; but, if they need to work together to be effective and don’t, overall success can be greatly compromised.

Now let’s look at the word “process.” The definition given by my good buddy Noah Webster is: “a systematic series of actions directed to some end.”

A process within a business (such as the business of recruiting) is a way to put parameters around specific goals or targets. It sets out a list of activities that will need to be accomplished to reach one’s goal. When we put “business” in front of the word “process,” it takes on a slightly different meaning.

A business process is defined as: “a systematic series of business actions directed to some end within a business.”

Put them all together and you get the concept of “business process interoperability,” and the question of the day becomes clear: How well are the different functions of your business process working together and what is it costing you in compromised recruiting when it is not?

If you look at most business processes, there are many opportunities where communications can and do break down. (How many times in your career have you lost a candidate because something that should have happened did not happen?) In established business processes such as payroll or accounts payable, the steps are well defined and documented; everyone knows what role he or she plays. If they aren’t well defined, which is often the case in recruiting, a phenomenon know as “information silos” forms. There are places where information is captured but never communicated. This is the antithesis of a best practice and the last thing we need if we are to ultimately hire great candidates.

Now, let’s take this idea and apply it to the recruiting process.

First, let’s define a sample recruiting process:

  • Talent-Demand Forecasting: Determining what type of talent is needed.
  • Sourcing: The process of finding candidates.
  • Screening: Determining the candidates’ qualifications, their interest in the opportunity, and their availability to proceed to the next step in the process.
  • Interviewing: Further determining the candidates’ qualifications and interests. Compatibility testing for both the company and the individuals.
  • Selection: Selecting a candidate for the specific position.
  • Offer: Providing written documentation for the candidate to say “yes” or “no” to the opportunity.
  • Hire: Providing the candidate with a paycheck for work or services.

Now, let’s look at the concept of interoperability as it relates to recruiting. The best example would be the communication between a sourcing team and a recruiting team. Independent of each other, they may be very effective and produce results for their phase of the process, but effectiveness is greatly reduced when information is not efficiently transferred from one function to the next. How many candidates actually make it into an ATS? How many candidates never get to the offer stage because of the lack of information from the manager? Who gets lost between the cracks? You can see how interoperability can hurt even the best recruiting processes, as well as the best recruiters.

How many times have you seen a successful recruiting team falter or even fail because of the sourcing team or its strategy? How many good sourcing teams don’t have a functional recruiting team or strategy? How many times have you heard a sourcing team say, “The recruiters aren’t processing the candidates”? And how many times have you heard a recruiting team say, “The sourcing team isn’t getting me enough candidates”? You can see how focusing on the “negative space” between each function of the process will determine success as much or more than the steps themselves. It is that black arrow on a flow chart that keeps the process flowing effectively. Attention to these important details helps recruiters deliver great hires.

Looking to improve business process interoperability in your recruiting organization? Consider the following:

  • Delineate the recruiting process clearly. What are the different functions within your recruiting process?
  • Define recruiting process functional goals. Set expectations. Work with the next function of the recruiting process to determine what success actually looks like. (What is going to happen if these things occur?)
  • Emphasize negative-space communication. The supply chain, defined by communication between two recruiting process functions, must not be allowed to falter.
  • Encourage information flow. Information must travel in both directions. Feedback is just as important as delivery for overall success.
  • Assign accountability. The ultimate recruiting word. Who was supposed to do what?

Now it is time to focus on the interoperability of the recruiting process if you want to really improve results and become more effective. Before you try to fix the top of the funnel, make sure your ROI isn’t leaking through the holes in the process.