Charles’ Concern: An Interactive Case Study

Editor’s note: This case study features a purely fictional person.

Charles Godden is the up-and-coming leader of the recruiting function for a very large and well-known corporation. This company has over 18,000 employees, located in 12 countries, with sales of more than $10 billion.

The average age of employees is around 35, with most of the top managers just over 40 and the CEO in his 50s.

The company has a good reputation for customer service and is very proud of its high standards of service. Customers find that response times are reasonable and that their issues get resolved quickly. This is a big difference from many other companies that Charles has worked for in the past. It is known as an innovative organization and is focused on attracting the best young people it can.

Charles is an innovator, and in his two years at the company, he has re-designed the careers website so that it is interactive, fun, and highly productive. His focus has been on building a site that college students and young people love. In fact, his recruiters have been getting more than 60% of all their hires directly from the website.

This site is so well done that it has won several awards and consistently gets a positive reaction from candidates, even those who don’t make it though the screening and assessment that is built in. His boss has been positive about his work and the CEO sent him a congratulatory email.

He has been working hard to move the technology and mind set of the recruiting function, as well as the thinking of management into the social networking world. He has investigated once again redoing the careers site to incorporate some of the social networking concepts he finds most compelling.

For example, he wants to ask candidates to refer their colleagues and friends to the site and perhaps even offer them compensation for doing so. He also has thought about providing applicants who have agreed to take assessment tests a preferred status as candidates for positions as they become available.

He has also thought about letting candidates create their own Web pages providing more information about themselves and letting candidates see each other, if they choose to make themselves known. He also wants to start a blog giving details about work life in the organization.

Most of these ideas are found in public social networking sites such as MySpace, but they have not yet been incorporated into the corporate recruiting world.

However, he has run into opposition from a number of places and has spent restless nights trying to decide what he should do.

At a staff meeting a few days ago, many of his recruiters told him they felt some of his ideas bordered on the illegal. By giving candidates preferred treatment he might be violating EEOC or OFCCP guidelines. Others thought that providing candidates with their own Web page might also do the same thing.

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Putting information on MySpace is one thing, but when a company encourages candidates to provide this information, those who don’t feel comfortable doing so may feel disadvantaged. The blog got less criticism, but many felt the legal department might be an obstacle.

While Charles sees their point of view, he also feels they may be more opposed to change than they are to the actual issues. They struggled with accepting the new career site and at first weren’t too comfortable with its interactive style. Now they love it.

Charles also knows that we are living in a talent-scarce world, where anyone who can give you a competitive edge may make all the difference. He is more than willing to stretch the traditional world of recruiting if it can attract that scarce talent.

He also isn’t convinced these practices are illegal or against guidelines, but he doesn’t want to put the organization into a legal or moral battle. After all, don’t hundred of recruiters search MySpace pages to learn more about potential candidates? Don’t we all see candidates during the interview? What are we really doing with the technology that we can’t already do in person?

We’re just shifting when and where we see people and how we communicate with them. Microsoft and many other firms have recruiting blogs.

Charles also knows that when he proposes this to his management he had better have thought through all the issues and have good answers to their certain objections. They will probably be tougher on him than his recruiters.

The issue is how can Charles move his organization forward and be one of the first to tap into the power of social networks and yet not violate any regulations or laws? Is it even possible to do this? Can he make a good case for this approach? If you were Charles, what would you do in this situation?

I will collect your responses and print some of them (anonymously) in a week or so. I will also provide an expert opinion about what Charles should do. You can provide your comments by clicking on Charles’ Concern.

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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