Technology is evolving at the fastest rate in recorded history, and tools relevant to recruiters are not exempt. Every day a new piece of hardware, software, or service is announced that could be used to better support world-class recruiting. Staying abreast of evolving technology is difficult but essential for any savvy recruiter hoping to stay on top of efficiency and effectiveness expectations.
Technology by itself is never a solution, but it often enables leading-edge solutions and approaches. When someone becomes aware of a new tool or service that makes an activity easier or cheaper or faster, they naturally see how that tool could work in other parts of their life even if that tool wasn’t created with those other purposes in mind. Hiring managers, candidates, and savvy recruiters forge such expectations, so failing to be aware of and address how emerging technologies could impact your recruiting operations is akin to saying “I am happy being a laggard.”
While there are numerous indicators that that you may be on your way to becoming a “technology dinosaur,” some of the more obvious are highlighted below.
If you don’t text, tweet, own a smartphone, or know what OMG means, it might be a good idea to take the self assessment and see where you stand on the dinosaur scale.
The Technology Dinosaur Scale
The following top 10 indicators provide you with some insight into how far you are behind the times. If you are falling behind on more than five of the factors, you need to consider yourself a potential technology dinosaur.
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- You wear a watch — the first and most obvious indicator that someone is “old school” is a watch on the wrist. Most individuals under 25 have become accustomed to using their mobile phone to check the time. A wrist watch is a redundant “single tasker” that is often wrong.
- You carry a camera –– for anyone other than a photography enthusiast, owning a separate digital camera or — gasp, non-digital camera — is evidence of life in a bygone era. The cameras embedded in smartphones and tablets often shoot general purpose photos/video at quality levels akin to consumer cameras. In addition, embedded cameras are not likely to be forgotten and can share the captured memories with friends and family instantly. Even the national media have begun to use pictures and videos captured by mobile devices because of their quality and the fact that such devices are almost always present at the seen of a newsworthy event. If you need further proof that the stand-alone video camera is becoming obsolete, look no further than the recent announcement by Cisco Systems that it will shutter its Flip business unit which produces standalone high-definition camcorders, even though it just acquired the business two years ago for $590 million.
- You still use a fax machine — if you use a fax machine on a regular basis and have the fax number listed on your business card, you are sending an instant message that you live in the past. Desktop scanning solutions offer far better options for transmitting hard-copy documents electronically. The fax machine has joined the pager and the VCR in the technology antique shop.
- You use printers and file cabinets — typewriters, long ago headed toward extinction (there is only one producer left on the planet) should have been an indication that print in general was on its way out, but many missed that. Printed documents are expensive to produce, to duplicate, to store and to distribute. Digital documents are far superior because they can be stored, backed up, updated, and accessed more efficiently. As Internet access grows even more pervasive and digital document creation, collaboration, and sharing services evolve, print will disappear. The technology-savvy have already abandoned file cabinets and printers. Even books will fade away; Amazon now sells more e-books than hard copy books.
- You make telephone calls — communicating by a telephone is rapidly becoming passé. Today there are so many alternative/asynchronous communication channels including text messages, tweets, social network messaging, video conferencing, etc., each of which offer distinct advantages over the sometimes dreaded phone. You might still hold the notion that phone calls provide the “personal touch,” but the data is in, and fewer and fewer people are answering!
- You rely solely on e-mail — if you have an e-mail account with an old-school provider like AOL or Hotmail, most already know you are old-school. While e-mail itself is still alive, it has many faults that will soon doom it to the history books. Techno-savvy individuals are shifting to communication channels that restrict access, don’t transmit viruses, and offer 24/7 access.
- You carry a day planner — worse than wearing a watch, nothing sends a message that you are not techno-savvy more than a paper-based leather bound “Daytimer” or calendar. Few under 25 even know they once existed. The technology alternatives are loaded with capabilities the antiques simply can’t rival including electronic alerts and CRM integration. Losing a paper-based day planner can literally be a disaster; electronic alternatives on the other hand provide numerous safer and even encrypted backups.
- Your language — those that openly embrace technology realize that it brings with it its own language. For example, you can’t possibly text or tweet without knowing the latest acronyms like OMG, WTF, LOL, etc. But you should also know that this new language is gaining usage in all forms of communications and messaging. Even the length of typical messages is changing and becoming shorter to better fit the size limitations of tweets and the miniscule keyboards of smartphones.
- You listen to CDs — if you still buy or listen to CDs, the world has already passed you by. Most newer cars have switched to MP3 technology, but even carrying an MP3 player is an indication you are falling behind the times. That insane multi-tasker called the smartphone can not only play MP3 files, but also access audio streamed live over the Internet or by satellite radio stations.
- Miscellaneous factors — in addition to the previous factors, there are some indicators that are hard to categorize. For example, MySpace and Friendster might have been “cool” a few years ago, but today they are considered the domain of laggards. If you watch 100% of your TV shows on TV as opposed to TV.com, Hulu, Joost, or iTunes, you are lagging. If you play video games on a standalone home console versus on an Internet gaming network or even more recently on your mobile phone (i.e. Farmville and Angry Birds) you are also not “with it.” If you can’t walk fast while texting or if you participate in meetings without your mobile phone or laptop on the table, you may be falling behind the technology trend.
Falling Behind in Talent Management Technology
Technology designed specifically to support talent management or that is relevant to the things talent managers do is evolving just as fast as that for other domains. New software-as-a-service offerings, Internet applications, desktop software extensions, mobile applications and social media platforms, are making more advanced talent management solutions not only possible, but also economically feasible for even firms with the tightest financial controls in place. Some of the technological advances you as a recruiter should be knowledgeable on include:
- Collaboration tools — if your company experimented with collaboration products in their early years, chances are you have grown to hate the category of collaboration software, but the offerings of today are easier to use, much more powerful, and in many cases integrated with the desktop applications you rely on. Basic services like Google Docs and Zoho and more advanced products like Microsoft Sharepoint allow talent managers to build technology-empowered processes that deliver exceptional internal and external customer (candidate) experience.
- Social networks — while most in recruiting still look at social networks as a playground for sourcing, the capabilities of the major platforms themselves and the applications that extend them can be used to empower activities throughout all stages of the recruiting lifecycle. By incorporating document sharing and live chat, your careers fan page on Facebook could very easily become a real-time candidate support application.
- Software-as-a-service offerings — the sheer volume of software-as-a-service solutions available today is overwhelming. While enterprise solutions can still be costly, pricetags often pale in comparison to licensed software. Advanced CRM solutions, workforce planning tools, collaboration websites, and even full blown applicant tracking options abound. For companies really lagging behind the times, many service providers now offer free/low cost personal accounts that you as an individual could leverage.
- Desktop plug-ins and services — Plug-ins extend the functionality of the desktop applications you use every day. From plug-ins for your browser that let you organize your Internet research or automatically monitor websites for changes, to e-mail application plug-ins that let you send/receive messages to all of the major social networks, this category of technology is immense. If you can imagine it, chances are it exists. One of my favorite tools is Contact Capture from Broadlook Technologies; it parses the text of web pages extracting identifiable contact information and makes it available to a variety of contact databases, no more cutting and pasting.
- Knowledge domains (ideagoras) — first coined by author Don Tapscott in Wikinomics, ideagoras are online places where large numbers of people gather to exchange ideas and solutions. Like it or not, one of the key labor types that will dominate the workforce in the future if the contingent resource engaged through any one of several dozen engagement models. Great examples of ideagoras relevant to recruiters include Slideshare, Wikipedia, and InnoCentive.
- Mobile applications — I have said it before and I will say it again, the smartphone is without a doubt the most powerful tool in the modern recruiter toolbox. Not only can the smartphones of today support unified messaging across all channels of communication, they can also run a bevy of applications aimed at making the modern recruiter more effective an efficient. Online document sharing applications, social networking applications, remote access to enterprise applications, mobile CRM tools, location-aware applications, and productivity tools let recruiters do almost everything that could be done in the office outside the office.
This quick assessment is meant merely to be a wake-up call to those that have been too busy to keep up with the latest technology. If you find yourself slipping behind, I recommend that you adopt the approach that Jack Welch used on his technology lagging executives at GE: acquire a technology mentor (probably a recent college grad) to guide you through your upgrading process. Set as a goal to learn one new technology each month until you become the technology leader within your department.