Moving from Adoptability to Adaptability

In my last article, Technology Adoptability: Is It Possible to Herd Cats?, we looked at the factors that influence the adoption of a technology into a company and, more specifically, into the recruiting organization, whether third party or corporate. We examined two aspects that influence the initial adoption of a technology: the early design stage and change management at the point of implementation. Now we’ll take a look further down the pipeline to the “adaptability” from an individual user’s perspective. From Adoptability to Adaptability “Adopting” a newly introduced technology into an environment means that the organization receives, accepts, and utilizes the system and its associated processes. “Adapting” to the new technology means the end users actually employ the technology for a specific use or situation. The average recruiter’s use of technology includes management of a variety of elements, such as candidates, managers, sources, and requisitions ? not to mention the dimension of time. Each individual user must take the set technologies and processes and adapt them to his or her own work approach, personal best practices, and user habits. The degree to which a user can successfully combine all these elements, as well as the degree to which the technology can meet and conform to user needs, will influence the adaptability of the system. High adaptability leads to further optimization of the system and processes, which in turn can improve ROI and organizational performance. Low adaptability can lead to inconsistent processes, disjointed data, poor metrics, and loss of significant investment. The bottom line for most substantial investments into recruiting technology is whether the end users not only use the system, but also use it to its fullest potential according to the best processes for that environment. User Habits The first challenge in increasing adaptability is the degree to which user habits can be maintained or changed with the new technology. Here’s an example: Suppose a recruiter used to keep several email folders showing candidates in the offer stage for their requisitions. These folders consisted of a standard email the recruiter would send out to the candidate ahead of a formal offer letter. The new system now allows for the recruiter to send out the same communication and easily view and track all offers, along with countless other activities and pieces of data that accompany the hiring process. The recruiter, who is used to seeing the offers in an email folder, may not want to let go of the personal habits she has developed and perfected over the years. But doing the same activity in two systems essentially introduces redundancies and inefficiencies into the equation. If the recruiter continues to use her own personal system, then the new technology, which offers that same function (but presents it differently), has lost “optimization,” and adaptability in this small area will remain low for this particular user. If you multiply this same scenario by “x” number of recruiting users with “x” number of sub-processes and functions meant to be performed in the system, you can see that there is potential for countless redundancies and inefficiencies which lead to a poorly utilized solution, despite a full quiver of system features and functionality. If users start to see success with the new system, however, in the form of fewer tasks, new key capabilities, and time efficiencies, they will start to let go of older habits, and become “believers” in the new system. And how does this happen? It’s the old problem of the chicken and the egg. First impressions are hard to change. If the initial perception is that the new system is “cumbersome,” the user is already ten steps behind. Power users, or “system advocates,” need to continue to coach users away from bad habits. As recruitment technology applications focus the user on value-added activities, chances are a user’s own “human system” may be focusing on things that don’t need to be done, tracking things that don’t need to be tracked, or searching for items that won’t ever be found. What organizations put into the early stages of deployment and users put into their own personal learning curve has a significant impact on the long-term adaptability quotient. System Improvements/Enhancements The second factor that can influence adaptability is the degree to which the user can continue to influence improvements, changes, and enhancements into the system environment. Many systems have support and communication models, either direct or indirect, linking the user’s experience and needs with the system designers. There are also customization and development policies with vendors and internal development resources that put controls on this factor. Some of the vehicles to communicate enhancements like modified or new features include technical support desks, account management contacts, focus groups, and user groups. Information collected from these vehicles that translates into features in later releases can contribute greatly to the confidence and adaptability users have with the system. For example, a recruiter discusses a desire to have a new search feature added to the system at an internal user group. The company, in turn, communicates that feature enhancement to the vendor or internal IT developer and, based on guidelines, the system may incorporate the idea or improvements in that area in a future release. The recruiting user will be more likely to continue to put effort into adapting his work to the technology as the technology adapts to the work. Tips for Increasing Adaptability Following are specific tips for increasing adaptability of new recruiting technology in your organization:

  • Form small internal user groups, either geographically or functionally, who can discuss use of the system. Share success stories, war stories, best practices, etc.
  • Article Continues Below
  • Train from a “before” and “after” perspective, showing benefits to the users in the “after” scenarios.
  • Get on the horse early and often, and get back on it when you think you may have fallen off. Ensure users get on the system as soon as possible and are included in decision-making. Work with concerns and issues surrounding change management with a high level of maintenance in the early stages of adoption.
  • Encourage individual users not to just “complain to a neighbor” when they would like something changed, but to make appropriate contact to get the enhancement officially logged with the vendor or designer.
  • Provide rewards and recognition for users who contribute creative ideas for using the system.
  • Have point persons, such as system administrators, keep track of enhancement requests by staying in touch with the vendor or designer.
  • Allow internal and external users groups to start a forum for sharing tips, shortcuts, and creative usage of the system. Regular e-newsletters or tip sheets can help.
  • If resources are available, assign “super-users” to work with other users to reinforce process, standards, and best practice usage of the system.
  • Provide frequent mini-audit reports for users that reveal various gaps in usage.
  • Tie usage to performance if possible, and provide a clear platform for recruiting managers to manage performance.
  • Remove access to older tools that may still be available to users and are hindering progress.
  • Make sure training programs are both ongoing and targeted to areas of the system that need the most attention.
  • Form peer-to-peer accountability groups so others can review and encourage correct usage.

Adaptation doesn’t occur overnight. It’s a process, and like all processes, adaptation needs to be managed, controlled, and improved. High adaptability correlates directly with satisfactory results from system implementation and utilization. Good planning, effective training and ongoing monitoring and adaptation of user practices can make the difference between realizing adequate results from a technology tool or benefiting from a superior process with a technology solution.

Gretchen Sturm ( is Knowledge Manager of Services with Recruitsoft, the leading provider of Internet-based recruiting solutions for major corporations. She manages the implementation, eLearning and product knowledge transfer for Recruitsoft's consulting services and global client base. Her career has focused on integrating technology into the full hiring cycle and establishing effective Internet recruiting strategies. Previously, Sturm managed the recruitment technology and online recruiting areas of the Unisys worldwide recruiting team and oversaw recruiting technology and sourcing for CIGNA Corporation's US-based operations.