When 'We'll Get Back To You" Won't Do...

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The days of generating large volumes of CVs, assessing them rapidly to generate a short-list and filing the rest in the ‘we’ll get back to you if a suitable opportunity arises’ bin are over, argues John Spiers, chief marketing officer at StepStone ASA.

Companies with strong brand recognition operating in well-defined markets often use targeted media campaigns to build awareness amongst potential recruits. However, these are both expensive and typically lacking in long-term impact. Hence most recruitment assignments are still driven tactically, starting afresh each time in attracting appropriate candidates.

Yet arguably recruitment is the most critical enterprise process since, without a constant supply of staff, any business will quickly grind to a halt, irrespective of whether it is growing or merely replenishing natural attrition. So it is ironic that recruitment is the most weakly supported and measured enterprise process. There are many reasons for this. Many organizations have become so dependent on agencies that in reality they do not ‘own’ the critical recruitment process. Recruitment responsibilities and costs are often fragmented across hiring departments. And the largest recruiting cost, the lost opportunity of vacant positions, is not visible and not generally accounted for.

But perhaps the biggest reason why ERP has been slow to arrive on the recruiter’s desk is that implementing a recruiting process on its own is akin to buying a razor with no blade, a car without fuel or a stock-trading terminal with no market data. A recruiting system can never be better than the quality and volume of candidates flowing through it. This is totally unlike the established ERP processes, for example in asset management, MRP or financials, where the system provides the engine which runs on a business’s own fuel.

In the late 1990s all manner of traditional businesses adopted the Internet. Early attempts were generally little more than an online implementation of the traditional offline model. So many early web sites were simply electronic brochures and catalogues, and early e-commerce was often an online order form.

In recruiting, this manifested itself as job sites centred on online advertising, which could offer a broader reach and a quicker, cheaper alternative to traditional media.

As the Internet matured so its true value - its ability to enable new services, which are unique to the online world - has emerged. Many consumer sites have become communities, whilst e-procurement now embraces capabilities such as automated tendering and reverse auctions, which simply could not exist offline. Two clear threads emerge: firstly: businesses are leveraging the Internet to integrate their internal processes with those of customers and partners; secondly they are seizing the opportunity provided by rapid low cost communication to build and exploit communities.

However, in recruitment, these new paradigms have been slow to emerge. To many, online recruitment is still seen simply as a way of advertising job vacancies. Many company job sites do not even allow online applications, a reminder of some early e-commerce sites that resorted to the fax machine.

Sadly, the majority of recruiters using online recruitment sites still prefer to advertise a job and hope for the right response, rather than to exploit the candidate database, searching, short listing and pre-qualification capabilities that technology allows such sites to deliver. Recruitment is frozen in pre-web times.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have led the way in allowing organisations to build a long-term relationship with their actual and target customers. CRM systems show their full potential when used in conjunction with Internet technologies allowing cheap, efficient, interactive and engaging communications with their targets, and automation of the business processes that join the supply to its customers.

These same principles are now starting to be applied to building relationships with Talent, a company's potential employees. Targeted candidate marketing campaigns are used to attract candidates to a company's Talent Community and to educate and inform potential recruits. The talent community then provides the ripe pool of candidates from which to draw as specific recruitment needs arise. Automatic searching and matching technology can be used to create short-lists of candidates against a job profile, and these can feed directly into the recruiting process. At the same time, this process can be automated ERP-style, to improve the efficiency, speed and effectiveness of both the candidate interaction and the internal process.

The benefits of this approach are many-fold. Organisations can take a long-term view of their strategic hiring needs. With knowledge of conversion rates, they can calculate the size and skills required in their talent community to fuel future recruiting needs. Companies can use their brand to attract candidates to the community and enhance their brand-values through a professional relationship with potential recruits. Campaigns can target the required skills and profiles ahead of hiring needs.

In a time of skills shortages, the talent community provides a major advantage over competitors hiring from scratch. In times of surplus, candidates can be redirected to the talent pool, where talent marketing programs can be used to build the candidate relationship: the hackneyed phrase 'we'll keep your details on file" can be made a reality.

By taking direct control of candidate sourcing, employers can avoid the high costs of attracting candidates tactically through advertising or through agencies. Time to hire can be significantly reduced. At the same time, the use of technology to give a much broader selection of candidates than would be possible by other means can significantly improve hiring quality.

A number of leading employers are starting to apply the same principles to internal hiring. By facilitating an internal job market, staff can be encouraged to progress their careers within an organisation rather than outside. The internal talent community is particularly valuable at a time of staff reductions where organisations typically find themselves having to replace staff lost through natural attrition, whilst laying off employees in another area. An avoided redundancy is the cheapest hire there can be, turning a significant expense into a no-cost hire.

An effective internal talent system needs to be much more than a list of jobs on an Intranet site. In fact, a truly effective internal job market requires the same disciplines and techniques as an externally facing system. Candidates need to feel in control of their own data and to be able to preserve their anonymity. Matching and notification technologies are needed to actively drive jobs to potential candidates and vice versa. An active marketing approach is needed to encourage use the system and to engage in an ongoing relationship to keep them coming back.

Few organisations could expect to generate all the candidates they might ever require through their own internal or direct communities. This is particularly true for larger, geographically distributed organisations. For example, a large engineering company based in Germany with a one-off requirement for a service engineer in Ireland is unlikely to have had the foresight to create a pipeline of suitable candidates. In such circumstances, the recruiter will need to reach out from their hiring process into the community of external or public candidates. And where do such communities of potential employees reside? The answer - with external job boards, whose value will be increasingly seen as providing a ready-made community of talent from which a recruiter can draw to supplement their private resources.

The future of recruitment therefore revolves around two major themes: management of talent communities, and support for ERP class recruitment processes.

For the larger organisation, the talent approach will embrace a focus on building relationships with planned communities of candidates ahead of specific hiring needs as well as the recognition and integration of all 3 possible sources of talent: internal employees, external direct candidates and the ‘public’ candidates with whom job boards maintain a trusted relationship.
The second theme is support for the management and processes of recruitment at an enterprise level, both in their internal aspects (for example approvals) and their external aspects in the automation of candidate interactions.

And as these systems are adopted then recruitment can take its place alongside MRP, CRM and the rest in the world of enterprise systems and processes.


John Spiers is Chief Marketing Officer of StepStone ASA, Europe’s leader in online recruitment and specialists in providing Enterprise Recruitment Solutions. John can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)1483 739450 or via email at [email protected]

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