A Brief Guide to Successfully Implementing Recruiting Technology

Recruiters have typically been slow to adopt technology. Probably less than 30% of all organizations use applicant tracking systems, although they were the first of the tools available more than a decade ago. Though most large companies have put them in place, in many cases they have done so to deal with the administrative recordkeeping that is required by Federal law. Job boards are the next most commonly used form of technology. Perhaps because they are cheaper and easier to understand than applicant tracking system, even more organizations are using them. Recruiting websites are also common now, but most organizations have implemented very simple ones that do not use much technology. Candidate or talent relationship management software, workforce and succession planning tools, screening and assessment software, and communication tools such as instant messaging (IM) are used by only a handful of the leading companies. Most organizations recruit essentially the same way they did 30 years ago. The only obvious difference between recruiting today and then is the increased use of job boards and email and the decreased use of newspaper advertisements and paper resumes. Organizations have successfully lowered the cost of corporate banking by using the Internet more effectively. They have decreased the cost of computing, the cost of accounting and bookkeeping, and the cost of janitorial services. But the cost of recruiting is the same, and in some organizations, higher than it was just a few years ago. Why don’t recruiters adopt technologies more quickly? Can technology make a difference or is recruiting something that has to done face to face? The answer is that technology can and will over time significantly improve the efficiency and the quality of recruiting, but it must be adapted with care and only after a strategy and implementation process is in place. Technology bought because it is in favor at the time, because the recruiting manager or director likes it, or because the IT department thinks it would be a good idea will most likely fail to be widely accepted. Technology should be implemented according to a master plan that will move the organization down a logical and flexible path toward a technically advanced recruiting function. Random approaches and attempts to implement software, as it is available or according to a fad, inevitably lead to failure. Here is a guide to a five-year progressive approach to implementing a technology-driven base for your recruiting function. Well-implemented software can reduce the number of recruiters you need or let you deploy them more effectively where humans still have an edge ó in sourcing, branding, and selling your organization to candidates. Let the technology assume the responsibilities for screening and initial assessment. Technology can improve candidate quality, reduce the number of candidates you have to produce before a hire happens, and let you know more about your successful candidates so you can find more of them. Poorly chosen and poorly implemented software will only raise your costs and reinforce any criticism or reluctance to adopt these tools that may already be present. Let’s get started. Phase One Organizations should carefully decide what approach they will take to using recruiting software. Spend time to develop an overall strategic plan for the use of technology, roughly plan budgets and implementation resources so there are no surprises and so that you and your boss are in agreement over the longer term approach. Over a three-year period, most organizations can successfully integrate an applicant tracking system with candidate communication tools and a robust recruiting website into their recruiting flow. This will improve your organization’s ability to attract candidates and improve data capture and reporting. These tools also can quickly lower costs as parallel manual systems are removed or the people and resources you are now using are reassigned to do things that are more productive. Phase Two Over the next year, an organization can put online screening and assessment in place with the goal of improving candidate quality in a measurable way. Spending the time to define for your organization what quality is and how to measure it will be the most difficult part of this implementation. The plus side is that once this is completed, tracking candidate quality will be much more straightforward and useful than it was in the days of endless interviewing and arguments over who is a great candidate. These tools, combined with a good website that communicates the organization’s values and expectations clearly to the candidate also help to reduce the number of candidates who apply and may end up getting hired who are poor fits for your culture. The Final Push By the end of a four-year period, serious organizations can have an entire candidate or talent relationship system in place. The technologies we have talked about form the core of talent management systems. What the CRM tools add is the integration of the systems and the ability to mine data and make better sourcing and hiring decisions based on past performance. The fifth year is used to consolidate and streamline the systems and ensure that they are linking together smoothly. It is the year of refinement and improvement, which will ready you for the next phase of upgrades. As with most systems, evolution is constant. The knowledge that these systems will have to be upgraded must be built in to every plan. Ongoing Work Keep abreast of changes and improvements, but beware of the new just because it is new. I recommend that you stick with any vendor for at least two product improvement or release cycles. Always remember the 80/20 rule: you are most likely only going to use 20% of what the vendor has to offer well. The other 80% either makes little difference to you or is too complex for you to adopt right away. If the software meets your needs, be cautious about quickly jumping to another vendor for a few additional features. In subsequent columns, I will discuss some of these technologies in more depth and provide some case studies of how others have implemented their systems. Be sure to stress to everyone that all of these technologies have to be viewed over a several-year period time, not on a quarter-by-quarter basis or even on a year-to-year basis. Commitments are large, savings are often only realized after a few years, and frequently a manual system will have to be maintained in parallel with the technology until all the bugs are worked out. Knowing this as you go into the process will make it much easier to live with. Are the tools worth this effort? The answer is yes. For those who have implemented these tools successfully it is as significant a change as was the transition from the horse to the car.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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