iCIMS’ New CEO Talks About Vanity vs Value Metrics

What should companies be doing differently now to improve hiring? Which metrics should matter most to employers? Is candidate experience as important today as it was several months ago? And what will the future of work look like (hint: you’re seeing it now)?

Steve Lucas has ideas about these and other pressing issues that you’re facing today. Lucas is the new CEO of iCIMS. Prior, he spent two decades in top positions at companies like SAP, Salesforce, and Marketo, where he was also chief executive.

I recently spoke with Steve about his views on talent acquisition. Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Let’s start with what organizations can do as part of a process of creative destruction to improve hiring right now. For example, should we assess skills differently? And do we really need 600 interviews before hiring someone?

You can’t have 600 or even 20 interviews going forward. Velocity is going to have to change. Likewise, there should be a focus on how to drive more effective assessment and make collective group decisions entirely remotely. We’re going to have to rethink what qualifies as a high-performer in terms of skills inventory and job description.

Think about a salesperson. The usual job description would probably include lots of travel. But right now, that’s probably not going to be the case. At the same time, you might normally focus on in-person strengths around having presence. But today, you need to think about how such a person will be digitally effective and empathetic. When thinking about a high-performer who’s working remotely, it’s about whether the person can make emotional connections virtually that are normally made physically.

Is that hard for people?

People who weren’t born with an iPhone in hand are on a fast learning curve. I was born when cell phones didn’t exist, but I’ve always been driven to use tech. These days, engaging with each other digitally is not a choice, and so over the long term, people will develop digital resonance.

Let’s talk about which metrics matter most right now? For companies still hiring, is time-to-fill more important than previously? Are diversity metrics still as important?

There are value metrics, and there are vanity metrics. Vanity metrics are around volume of hiring, hiring many people, shrinking time to hire. They look good in PowerPoint.

Value metrics, on the other hand, focus on areas like D&I and digital transformation initiatives. Take the latter. Most companies have some type of digital transformation, but it’s important to dig deep to discover value drivers behind that.

Same with D&I. At iCIMS, D&I is not just a good idea. We know that it actually drives growth and performance. I can show metrics that show that the more diverse your organization, the higher-performing company you will have. Full stop. For me, this isn’t even worth debating. And so we help organizations discover blind spots and biases in their TA systems that would cause them to miss incredibly valuable candidates.

What about candidate experience? With the pandemic raging, is it just as important as it was several months ago? 

I worry about the massive increase in unemployment that we’ve seen. We’ve got a huge increase in the candidate pool across industries. However, this should not shift focus from employers creating an amazing candidate experience. The reality is that companies that will lead going forward are ones that will lean into the personalized needs and wants of applicants and candidates.

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Except many companies aren’t hiring right now. 

Even if you aren’t hiring right now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be having meaningful conversations with talent and teeing up opportunities for when you are ready to hire. “Nurture” is the word that comes to mind. How are we nurturing talent now? Are we being mindful of personalizing the experience?

There are way too many companies that think candidate experience is just engaging people on mobile devices and having a careers site. But those are just foundational notions.  Again, candidate experience is really all about personalization — the right line of communication through the right medium at the right time.

How can companies ensure they are personalizing meaningfully?

By developing good candidate profiles. For example, suppose you are hiring field-service employees. Some will be single parents, some will have elder-care needs, and so on. Think about how to personalize messages that value them as humans. So if a candidate has childcare needs, focus in on those aspects in your employment offerings to that individual.

I believe the future of work is built not around filling positions but around hiring people to perform tasks and work on projects based on skills, knowledge, experience. Any thoughts on this?

The future of work is happening right now. All the challenges we are currently facing are also opportunities. We’re in a world where our intellectual stimulation often comes from having variety. So before you hire anyone, think about how you are going to engage people and stimulate them. It’s important to give people opportunities to work on wildly different things, as opposed to having them swim in their lanes. The future of work is about having that increased variety in day-to-day work.

An important question I always ask is: How do we get work done today vs 10 years ago, and how will it differ one year and ten years from now? For example, the gig economy was not a thing years ago, but now 20% of people participate in it. So suppose you want to get a logo designed today for your company. You might use someone in-house or you might use a freelancer.

Workplaces will increasingly be about having different types of workers doing different types of things in different types of roles. It’s about taking a broad perspective when it comes to finding talent. The heat map for how we get work done is radically shifting. 

Vadim Liberman is editor of ERE.net and TLNT (the devil wears TJ Maxx) — a workplace renegade advancing how we think, work, and live. He has previously worked as a strategy consultant to HR and recruiting tech companies at The Starr Conspiracy, as a talent management professional at Prudential, and as senior editor of The Conference Board Review, a magazine for business leaders. Vadim loves to talk about all things HR, talent acquisition, and Bravo TV shows. Bring it!

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