MAR 31, 2008How sophisticated do you really have to be before you can recruit effectively over the web? I ask because Webster Buchanan’s latest research shows adoption of web-based recruitment is relatively low in the UK today - but interest is high. So how hard can it be to get going?
Our research survey of HR directors and senior managers – “Recruitment 2008: from marketing theory to the practicalities of web-based hiring” – was published earlier this month in association with Computers In Personnel. In it, we break down web recruitment into two areas. There’s the informational component – in other words, content that’s available on a website to advertise vacancies and tell people about your organization. This can get pretty sophisticated – think video tours of the campus, interviews with grateful employees etc – but it’s still one-way broadcast traffic. There’s no input from the candidate.
The second component is transactional, where prospective employees can submit job applications online, get automatic acknowledgements and start to interact with you. If you implement self-service capability, it’s even possible to give outsiders a peek into your internal recruitment process so they can check the progress of their application.
Not surprisingly, most of the action today is on the informational front, with four out of five respondents to our survey saying they either display vacancies on their website today or plan to do so within a year. By contrast, only 16 percent of interviewees currently allow job applications to be submitted via their website, with a further 26 percent planning to do so this year. And when you delve further into the recruitment cycle to look at the way the review, shortlisting and interviewing processes are handled in-house, you find, not surprisingly, that less than one in ten can handle web applications electronically from start to finish.
So how difficult is it to tie all this together? Well, there are probably two answers. From a technology perspective, it’s certainly not the hardest IT challenge you’ll ever come across. As we’ve pointed out before, recruitment is largely a standalone business process – you put data in at the front, and you want successful candidate information to come out the back and pop into your HR Management System. In between, it’s a fairly self-contained set-up. As such, it particularly lends itself to a hosted services approach – although it’s also of course entirely possible to run it in-house, or indeed do a combination of the two. You do need to be completely clear about your software vendor’s capability in terms of the ability to post jobs to third party sites, link to services for background checks and the like – but it can be done without having your IT team tearing their hair out.
For many organizations, though, the more interesting challenge is how you run the candidate-facing side. Unless you’re in the lucky position of having to fend off huge volumes of job applications from high-quality, perfectly targeted prospective employees (and if you are, do let us know how you got there) this can get to be a fairly sophisticated marketing activity. As Webster Buchanan’s survey indicated, 85% percent of respondents believe recruitment should be viewed as a sales and marketing exercise, not purely an HR administrative task. And while the web helps you reach out to the right people and sell your vacancies to them, the reality is that most organizations are still at a very early stage of applying comprehensive marketing disciplines to the process. That certainly shouldn’t stop you getting going – it does mean, though, that you may well have quite a bit to learn as you go along.
Pragmatic hosted services
MAR 19, 2008Confidentiality agreements and common courtesy prevent me from leaking details of research that we’re about to publish at Webster Buchanan, but a report we’re completing in the recruitment field dovetails neatly with a conversation I had this week about global people management. You’ll have to wait until the end of March for our research findings, I’m afraid – but I’m more than happy to spill the beans about my recent chat.
This all has its roots in a conference that took place in San Francisco some 18 months ago, when one of the speakers described recruitment software as the ‘killer application’ for what was then known as ‘Office 2.0’. For those of you who don’t follow every tortuous twist and turn of Silicon Valley’s obsession with new terminology, ‘Office 2.0’ was the name given to the latest generation of web technologies when they’re applied in a business context. (I say ‘was’, because ‘Office 2.0’ was subsequently superseded by Enterprise 2.0 – these things tend to move pretty fast). The names are largely academic, of course: what we’re really talking about is how to borrow technologies such as blogs and social networks from the consumer world and make them useful for businesses.
One common component of Enterprise 2.0 is that the software tends to be delivered as a service or hosted service – in other words, rather than running it on your own internal systems, a service provider manages the software for you and you access it over the internet, often for a monthly fee. And at the inaugural Office 2.0 conference in 2006, hosted recruitment got a name check as a service with a tangible business purpose. Given that the HR profession is, let’s say, usually a little way down the pecking order when it comes to adopting new technologies, this was an eye-opening foray into the IT frontline.
There’s a lot of logic to the ‘killer app’ argument, however. For one thing, recruitment is largely a standalone process in the context of broader people management. You spend a lot of time on it at the front end when you kick off the recruitment process, and you extract important data at the end when you find a successful candidate – but in the middle, it’s largely a discrete business process. That’s why it lends itself to the hosted services set-up – you can run it standalone, and feed the necessary data into your core people management systems as soon as you either find a successful candidate or spot some applicants that you want to keep your eye on for the future.
And this isn’t just a neat management theory. One multinational I’ve been talking to this week has taken advantage of just these characteristics as it rolls out a common HR system around the world. In countries where it hasn’t yet got round to implementing its core HR system but has immediate demand for an automated recruitment system, it’s turning to a hosted service provider. It’s a logical approach: why take a purist approach to building a common HR platform when the pragmatic answer is to buy in services that meet today’s needs?
All of which made the answers to our questions about hosted services that little bit more interesting when we carried out a survey among senior HR managers earlier this year. Is the notoriously conservative HR profession really ready for the hosted services model? Watch this space.
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