There’s an old saying that the only real thing you can ever count on is change.
Even a perfunctory look back at the past reveals that the only real variable throughout the rapid and constant evolution of human history is not whether or not change will occur, but instead, which have – and will – prove to be the most impact on shaping our world and our perception of it.
To understand our past is to understand our present.
And it’s only when we do that can we have any hope whatsoever of anticipating the future, in talent acquisition or otherwise.
Some of the most profound changes throughout history have, in fact, resulted less because of sudden revolution or innovation and more because of constant and continual iteration of the way in which our cultural norms actually operate.
Story of My Life: A Hiring History Lesson.
The Age of Enlightenment, for example, occurred largely because collectively, some of the greatest minds the world has ever seen – think Benjamin Franklin, Descartes, Kant, John Locke, Voltaire, even – began to completely rethink the nature of human existence.
The hugely influential treatises of the time were backed by an emerging understanding of cosmology, physics, mathematics and natural science; our increased insights into our universe and our own minds created a shift in what it meant not only to be human, but the very nature of humanity itself.
Our expectations for what we was possible caused a profound process change on so many levels – as did the magnitude of our operations. We could suddenly build, create or engineer more or less anything, and human greatness became largely limited only by the limits of our collective imaginations.
The unshakeable confidence, our inherent faith in innovation, ingenuity, and our shared commitment to progress, all ideals espoused during the Enlightenment, continue to shape our expectations – and our aspirations – to this day.
Now, imagine a world in which those great ideas were successfully realized, where the most improbable or seemingly impossible innovations are achieved, and where the possibilities of our imaginations become reality.
Of course, all the progress in the world doesn’t really matter if people don’t adapt their behaviors and thinking to new possibilities, challenge the status quo or flaunt conventional thinking. If the mainstream never catches up to the cutting edge, we’re forever going to be left behind; while change is inherently scary, the scariest thing about change is what happens when we resist it.
A century or so after the Enlightenment, mankind underwent yet another rapid, revolutionary “rethink,” as it were, and it led to not only the way we understood humanity and our purpose in the world personally, but our professional perceptions, too.
Through steam and iron, we created new processes for mass manufacturing like the assembly line and the blast furnace; these new advances, of course, required a new set of specialists and professionals, who ultimately gave rise to a heretofore unprecedented Middle Class, credence to the possibility of the “self made man,” and profound improvements in the quality of life for pretty much the entire planet.
The economic growth and positive lasting impact of the Industrial Age would never have been possible had people resisted or ignored these changes instead of almost instantaneously accepting and welcoming them as necessary innovations with the potential for making our lives – and our world – a little bit better. Which is really all anyone can ask for, to be honest.
So, I’m going to ask again: what if the Industrial Revolution happened, but no one answered? What if the factories were built, new processes invented and new tools created, only to see the masses stay behind, perfectly content in staying back on the farm, eking out a living on the same land as generations before them?
If mankind were content in the expediency of today instead of looking forward at the possibilities of tomorrow, we’d remain perpetually stuck in the past – and wouldn’t have progressed nearly as far as we have today.
The explosion of self-actualization and critical thinking of the Enlightenment has largely flatlined, however; the economic and societal gains realized during the Industrial Revolution have similarly plateaued at present. I think that this slowing can be attributed, largely, to our diminished desires to push ourselves – and each other – forward. Instead of embracing progress, we have started resisting it.
And perhaps nowhere is this troubling trend more superficially self-evident – or painfully obvious – than when it comes to HR Technology.
Drag Me Down: How Recruiting Really Became Broken.
Knowing that the past is prologue, it’s important to look at the historical precedent that’s been well established throughout the course of human history to best understand and chart the future trajectory of human resources.
The stasis of today, the staleness of the status quo and the acceptance of the incremental over the desire for the innovative continue to present persistent problems to talent acquisition and recruitment, particularly as it comes to the resistance to technological progress, which we choose (for some reason) to ignore.
In this profession, though, ignorance is anything but bliss.
It’s the biggest professional liability any recruiter can have, really. What we don’t know as recruiters can hurt us, and does.
For decades, employers have operated talent acquisition functions and structured recruiting processes in more or less the exact same way. First, you get headcount approved. Then, you create a job posting, market the job posting, review profiles, collect resumes, source, screen, slate, select, hire, onboard and repeat for every open req. This process is as entrenched as any part of our profession.
Sure, applicant tracking systems and job boards have evolved a bit over the years, and we’ve moved from manual, paper based processes to online, mostly automated and completely digital. These incremental changes, though, only hide the fact that job boards are serving the same role as newspapers, and ATS systems are largely nothing more than the new file cabinet for most employers.
While the tools of the trade may have shifted, the process remains stuck in the status quo. So too does our professional mindset, which is probably why (as every vendor will inevitably remind you) recruiting today is broken. Well, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves for that fact.
For going on around 15 years now, recruiting has largely lagged behind most other business functions in terms of overall sophistication, organizational impact or bottom line results. The function has become inflexible, anachronistic, and at most businesses, a giant cost center that’s often hopelessly outdated and increasingly obsolete.
Sure, software and systems play a small part in this recruiting reality, but let’s face it. There’s really one big barrier to realizing better recruiting outcomes for talent acquisition professionals and employers (and the candidates we support and serve).
It’s the fact that the best technology in the world can’t fix a broken process – and no matter what systems or software our organizations choose to buy, it’s not going to matter if we can’t figure out how to somehow fix the fundamentals and improve our core processes and professional practices.
Let’s forget about tech for a minute and let’s take a look at the real problem with our recruiting reality.
More Than This: Why Every Recruiter Should Resist Business As Usual.
As I’m sure you probably know by now, there are nearly as many tools for analyzing and interpreting data driven recruiting as their are applications for using these inputs to drive better outcomes and optimal efficiency and efficacy when it comes to hiring.
There are also a plethora of tools for telling recruiters what’s working, what’s not, where opportunities exist and where improvements must be made.
Similarly, technology can help us identify when we need talent, what kind of talent it is that we need, where we can proactively engage those candidates and how we can personalize and optimize our interactions with them.
While we have the means to make a big difference, when it comes to how we approach recruiting, we’ve got to make a radical shift in our thinking if we’re really going to maximize the impact and realize the full potential these new tools and emerging technologies represent. When it comes to recruiting, business as usual is anything but.
That’s why doing the same thing as always and expecting different results is not only the definition of insanity, but a pretty good description of why so many recruiters out there are struggling so badly to compete – and win – when it comes to engaging, attracting and hiring top talent today.
As an industry, we need to revolutionize our approach to recruiting and tip conventional wisdom and established best practices on their head; what’s worked before is not as important as making the world of work work better.
We need to lean less on process and policies and learn that in the business of people, the ability to create a real connection with a real candidate is the only real competitive advantage recruiters have, really.
Perfect: Three Big Questions Every Recruiter Needs To Ask.
That’s why when we think about process, we need to stop putting ourselves at the center and focusing on adopting a candidate centric approach that emphasizes the needs of the person filling the requisition, not simply those of the recruiter or employer responsible for filling it.
Here are some critical questions every employer must answer – and address – before change is possible.
1. Is my career site showing why candidates should consider my company, or does it just list job postings?
Remember, what works for recruiting, say, engineers versus sales professionals versus interns is going to be different, and career sites should reflect this reality through adaptive content and differentiated candidate journeys.
One size fits all never fits anyone.
2. How does my content connect with these audiences? Whether that’s an EVP on a careers site, a proactive email to a passive candidate or even a careers based Twitter or Facebook account, you’ve got to speak in a voice, tone and style that not only tells candidates what they need to know about your company, but is also compelling enough to get them to apply.
Content has to speak the candidate’s language if you want them to actually listen.
3. How am I providing value for my candidates? As opposed to one of those, “just wanted to touch base” networking emails or “I came across your profile and thought you’d be a fit” outreach messages, consider that if you’re asking for value, you’ve got to provide it, too. That has to be the question recruiters continually ask themselves during each step of the process, and the answer must inform the way we communicate and interact with our candidates.
Remember: ask not what a candidate can do for you, but what you can do for a candidate.
All of this, ultimately, boils down to what has to be recognized as a persistent, pervasive problem confronting not just most companies, but our entire industry.
With no agreed upon set of global standards, no universal best practices nor widely accepted standard operating procedures or standardized metrics and measurements, it’s up to us to do what’s right for our candidates and our companies.
That means that we’ve not only got to champion change, we’ve got to create it, too: and that starts by changing how we think about recruiting. You don’t need an Enlightenment to be enlightened to the fact that candidates are our ultimate clients, and ultimately control the relative success (or failure) of any hiring process.
You don’t need an Industrial Revolution to know that when it comes to technology, progress is defined by the people using it; without the right people, there is no progress, period. For recruiters, that means no tech in the world can possibly prevent from becoming absolutely obsolete if they can’t get the fundamentals down, first.
Hiring is hard. It shouldn’t have to be. Let’s change, and finally make our recruiting problems history.
We’ve got to, if we want a future.
About the Author:
Jeff Mills is currently Director, Solution Management, Talent Acquisition for SAP SuccessFactors.
A marketing executive with 15 years of digital and product marketing experience, Jeff began his career in a variety of marketing leadership roles at companies such as JanRain, EthicsPoint and Gartner.
A graduate of Oregon State University, Jeff currently resides in Portland, Oregon.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffMills or connect with him on LinkedIn.
By Jeff Mills
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