Will You Marry Me? Part I: Synergy

Many articles have been written lately about selecting an appropriate Hiring Management System (HMS) or Applicant Tracking System (ATS), one that is targeted toward human resource and recruiting executives looking to outsource their recruiting technology. Certainly, over the past few years, the information around this topic has grown in maturity and sophistication. In this series of articles, I’ll take a slightly different angle on the matter, examining the selection process as analogous to building a committed, long-term relationship. The time is right Many corporations today are searching for “the one” ? the ultimate system with which they can partner for a mutually satisfying and fulfilling long-term relationship that will help both parties continue to grow and evolve. With a high rate of divorce, many organizations have already been through at least one, if not two or three, generations of recruiting systems. They are ever in search of the one that will help take the recruiting function to a higher level, one that would impact not only the time spent on sourcing and screening but also have a strong impact on a corporation’s retention. HR executives want the relationship between the candidate and the company to last, and require a technology solution that is a strong partner in its own right and that promotes increased employee retention. Right now corporations worldwide are combing through lengthy RFP’s and conducting vendor evaluations to see who will become their technical partner in the recruiting-and retention-marriage. If we approach this matchmaking process with a marriage analogy, we may discover some strategies to help avoid making the wrong choice, which can lead to costly and painful long-term consequences. A marriage encompasses compatibility, adaptability and growth…each party needs to be willing to give and take, and hopefully to fulfill the needs of the other in a successful partnership. One might say that the company/vendor relationship is not a true marriage because the “customer is always king.” However, just as a one-sided relationship is always doomed, so too, is a business relationship that does not take into account the long-term success of both partners. Let’s take this analogy a bit further and look at several stages to finding true technical bliss. Identity One key to understanding what partner might “click” with your organization is understanding your corporation’s identity prior to the marriage/partnership. There are literally thousands of systems in the marketplace if you count everything from “home grown,” one-client operations all the way to major ASP, enterprise-class solutions. Systems come in all different shapes, sizes, ages, looks, features, and “families” of people organized in varying structures and cultures. Some have a proud heritage, others are unknown and still others are trying to repair a “bad name” picked up along the way. Some systems were only meant to fit certain types of businesses, such as agencies, for example. Knowing what system will be right for you starts with knowing yourself first. Let’s take a Fortune 500 company with 50,000 employees. Not only must the corporate culture be a part of the identity equation, but also how the recruiting organization is structured, the leadership, the skill and type of the recruiters, the volume of hires, the existing process and strategic vision for a new one, and other peripheral systems, not to mention the legal and government control climate. I know a large pharmaceutical company that only looked at one system and ultimately implemented it because it was the one installed at the VP’s previous company. No synergy, just a “marriage by association” of sorts. That company is now in a difficult place, because that vendor closed its doors and the company never got what was expected from the relationship. A thorough examination of what your company, culture, and recruiting organization’s vision and process is all about will go a long way toward selecting an ideal ATS mate. Dating This is the time where you make a list of what you are really looking for and then go out and try to find it, or even better, let it come to you. In many instances, companies develop complex and exhausting RFP documents and submit them to vendors. This is fine, and necessary to gather lots of somewhat uniform data on various vendors and technical detail. But the problem with RFPs is that often the end users ? the recruiters ? don’t have much involvement in their creation, and the amount of data can be overwhelming. A complement to this document can be a shorter, friendlier evaluation list that can be used in the matchmaking process by recruiters and others involved in the vendor selection. Recruiters, IT and support people can discuss this “ideal system” list and rank the items into 1) deal breakers, 2) important to have and 3) nice to have items. The RFP information can then be used as a reference for more detail. Dare we say that computer dating services use this same type of platform? Narrowing the field can be fairly simple if you do your research and zero in on the systems that “match” what you’re looking for. For example,

  • Have you determined you want a web-based outsourced model?
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  • Do you want prescreening capabilities in your system?
  • Do you need the vendor to handle resume processing?
  • Must they have at least a few other clients the same size as your company?
  • Is globalization an issue?
  • Do you have budget parameters?
  • Does the vendor’s vision of the future match your own?

In addition, list specific features that you would like to help automate your recruitment process like “can the system send bulk emails to the results of a database search.” Finally, due diligence on financials, stability, technical infrastructure, service level agreements and key staff will help avoid surprises down the road. Determine where each vendor stands as you talk with and see demos of different systems. You may add or subtract to the list as you get exposed to more technology along the way. Don’t underestimate the importance of “user-friendliness” and “system support,” as these two items tend to come back and haunt you like a mate’s bad habit you originally thought was “cute.” Don’t even bother bringing those that don’t meet your minimum criteria home to meet your “parents” (senior management). Make sure the vendor can clearly communicate their vision with senior management, not just demo features to end users. Only spend full demo time with your short list. How many systems should you review? I know a large worldwide telecom company that reviewed 35 systems, and another large IT consulting company that reviewed only six. I think it depends on the knowledge of your evaluation team, the time you have to spend, and your specific requirements. Clearly researching the marketplace will help this effort. Some sources to aid in vendor selection are Workforce.com which has an Applicant Tracking Decision Guide, reviews on HR.com, as well as ERE research reports. Just as any budding relationship, this process needs focused time and attention. How long should it take? It depends in large part on internal forces driving the decision, the dedicated resources on the project, and the complexity of the organization. I’ve seen some selection processes take almost a year, and others take just a matter of weeks. To continue, in my next article we’ll take this relationship to the next phase and look at the stages of “Courting” and “The Wedding” in the journey to selecting a HMS/ATS partner. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Gretchen Sturm (gsturm@recruitsoft.com) 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.