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Years ago, when dot jobs was introduced as a Top Level internet domain (.jobs), I had a hard time taking the idea seriously. HR is no more separate from the operation than marketing or sales. You don’t and won’t see proposals for a dot sales, dot marketing, dot engineering or dot operations as Top Level Domains. Why? Because it’s a nonsense idea.
In those earlier days, I was repeatedly approached for support of the concept. I laughed and got on to the pressing things in my business and family life. I have, for those exact same reasons, stayed out of the current conversation about Direct Employers, SHRM and ICANN.
If you haven’t followed the story, here’s a synopsis. The dot jobs initiative, shepherded by SHRM and a firm known as Employ Media, more or less failed. After five years, 15,000 domain names had been issued. Basically, no one used dot jobs for much of anything.
In stepped Direct Employers, about a year ago. Direct Employers is a weird sort of anti-job board coalition of large US Employers who operate as a job board cooperative. Founded by Bill Warren (who famously sold his non-profit company, the Online Career Center, to monster for a fraction of its value), Direct Employers is a quasi job board that offers membership rather than subscriptions or job postings. The company delivers a variety of services from job scraping to job post distribution to its ‘members’.
Direct Employers proposes to upstage the existing market for jobs (job boards and other services) by creating a ‘single platform for jobs’ in the dot jobs domain. Essentially, this means that any of a kajillion domains (like stupid.jobs, boring.jobs, callcenter.jobs, eastlansingwastemanagement.jobs and so on) will point into a single technical platform, a huge data base of jobs scraped and maintained by Direct Employers.
It’s a great big giant SEO scam whose success is dependent on the capabilities of the Direct Employers’ marketing and sales teams. In other words, from a ‘should you take this seriously’ perspective, you probably shouldn’t. More likely than not, this is a tempest in a tea pot. There is nothing about the history of Direct Employers that suggests they’d actually be able to turn the dot jobs domain into something damaging. If they were that effective, they’d be a lot bigger.
For sure, the moment that Direct Employers gets their hands on the domain, there will be more confusion in the job market. Job hunters, who might have to flip between company job boards and the company web page will have diminished capabilities to find a job. Job boards and other job distribution channels will be forced to spend more money on advertising and traffic development (which might be good for the HRExaminer). The job market is already confusing and the move won’t help anything.
Today, my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from people who want me to weigh in on the question. I’ve listened closely to the various concerns and questions raised by the folks who called. I’ve decided that the issue is more than a little thing.
The question isn’t whether or not Direct Employers will make a mess of things, after all. There is a more important and fundamental question at stake.
When the dot jobs Top Level Domain (TLD) was authorized, ICANN made it clear that the domain was for the use of individual employers using individual employer names (like Boeing.jobs, HRExmainer.jobs and so on). The TLD could only be used by an employer to publicize its jobs on their domain. In that agreement, Employ Media could sell domains under SHRM’s watchful eye.
The new proposal subverts the original idea in order to create an SEO behemoth and creates a charter for a monopoly. The Direct Employers notion of a TLD that is a single database would be unlike any of the other TLDs. A TLD is supposed to be agnostic about the platforms that run using its names. TLDs are for naming, not operations.
Additionally, SHRM has been demonstrating some pretty bad behavior recently. In this case, it abandons its users and customers again with little in the way of public comment or oversight. SHRM’s support of the Direct Employers juggernaut is evidence that they are out of tough with technical reality. More and more, it’s starting to look like the problem with HR is SHRM.
I have been an independent analyst of the online employment industry since its inception in 1994. I have authored nearly one hundred reports on the subject for public and private consumption. I understand the detailed technical issues associated with this case.
I want to offer my support for Gerry Crispin’s position, as outlined in his letter to ICANN. As he says,
““I strongly oppose Employ Media’s history of dissembling, lack of transparency and willingness to enter into backroom deals and, am even more strongly concerned with SHRM’s inability to choose to act as a trusted referee…..due to misinformation, lack of interest etc. etc. it goes without saying that the community of legitimate job boards feels threatened by the proposed expansion of the .jobs top level domain.”
Further, I note that this is the wrong time, economically, to disrupt the job hunting process. Adding friction to job discovery, as this initiative obviously will, couldn’t be more ill timed. The last thing that global job hunters need today is more confusion in the online employment marketplace.
Here are several links to the necessary background if you want to understand the issues more completely:
- Gerry Crispin’s letter to ICANN against the proposal
- A summary article on ERE about the debate
- An article on CollegeRecruiter opposing it
- The Dot Jobs Universe website
- The About Us page of Second Generation
- The Direct Employer’s letter about the SHRM survey
- Harry Joiner’s strong objection to the expansion
- The formal .Jobs Policy documents and amendments
Please welcome Chris Howard as the newest member of the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Chris is a vice president and co-founder of Bersin & Associates. He leads the company’s research and product strategy as well as many internal corporate initiatives. Howard has an extensive background in learning and enterprise systems technology. Over the past decade, he has contributed numerous articles and has been quoted in learning and technology publications and has served as speaker at leading industry events. Full Bio
We’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Periodically, Bersin & Associates surveys senior business executives about key talent trends, including those related to workforce planning, HR and learning investments, and priorities. The latest survey drew responses from 225 corporations in a wide variety of industries, including a good representation from smaller companies (44% with fewer than 5,000 employees) and companies outside the United States (about 25%). We put a lot of stock in the findings; over the course of more than a year, we’ve established a strong baseline for results.
The trends are encouraging, despite recent reports of terribly slow job growth. The big take-away: From a talent standpoint, business and HR attitudes have shifted. For the first time in the last 18 months, the need to accelerate innovation has jumped up as the second highest business priority (with number one being “reducing costs”). This increased focus on innovation (34 percent of all respondents versus 30 percent last fall), coupled with a major increase in focus on market expansion (26 percent of all respondents versus 16 percent a year ago), shows that leaders are now planning for future growth.
So what does this mean for HR? Here are some things to consider:
- Get ready to assist business managers with their plans. As HR budgets increase, you may need to improve recruiting processes, select and purchase new HR systems, and quickly align onboarding and new employee development programs.
- Prepare to move people into product, service and customer-facing roles again. We’ve seen strong evidence that people succeed in these roles when the environment includes knowledge-sharing, informal learning, broader spans of control and strong onboarding programs.
- Make engagement and retention of key employees a top priority. After nearly two years of recession, many managers tell us that their employees are “burned out” and, as the market heats back up, top talent is beginning to move. Almost a quarter of respondents indicated they are focusing on improving employee retention and engagement – nearly double the number from the prior period. Build performance planning processes that create clearly visible and aligned goals throughout the organization and include career development, coaching, compensation reviews and skills development in your talent programs.
- Don’t lose sight of the inevitable retirement of baby boomers. Include in your planning efforts skills transfer, mentoring and emerging leadership development to meet these impending talent gaps.
- Revamp your talent acquisition process and employment brand so that you are prepared to attract the highest-quality candidates as your business needs grow. Know that talent acquisition today is far different than it was during the last business cycle. To compete, you’ll need to get highly interactive through social media and a savvy employee branding strategy.
In short: we’re hopeful. Now is the time to try and get out ahead of the curve, and change your talent mindset from one of cost-cutting and restructuring to one of growth. Click here if you’d like to read the full findings of the TalentWatch survey.
That’s quite a name. Jobscience. At first, you’d have to guess that it was some sort of mad industrial psychology scientific laboratory where they tweak jobs into better alignment with something or other. Then you hear that they have a great legacy business in the health care field. Ah yes, Jobscience. What began as jobs in science is becoming the science of jobs.
At the helm of JobScience is an amazing guy, Ted Elliot. In the sea of conflicting advice about social media usage and policies, Elliot is a trained lawyer who is organizing his company to deliver effective and legal social processes. Ted is an interesting combination of early adopter, process innovator and conservative business decision maker.
JobScience is the first Recruiting as CRM tool to be built on a major CRM platform. The company, which has legacy ATS products in the health-care niche, is spreading its wings. Their toolset is the second largest application in the Salesforce.com ecosystem and a pioneering design effort to keep the wheels greased while Salesforce.com. does its thing.
That matters for a couple of reasons
- Salesforce.com has a level of service delivery that is hard to duplicate in the HR niches. Reliability, configuration control, and scalability are the places where customers face big risk in SaaS deployments. The Salesforce.com platform is a kind of guarantee that can’t be easily duplicated.
- JobScience is virtually collocated with the Salesforce.com corporate headquarters. This gives the company access to a huge store of CRM related experience. The difference between theory and reality is an important variable in CRM based HR applications.
- JobScience easily leverages the huge Salesforce.com R&D budget giving Recruiters light years of competitive advantage.
Given the company’s deep history, the fielded application has all of the bells and whistles you’d expect in a mature Applicant Tracking system. Workflows, smart search technology, alerts and compliance management tools are ready to go.
The team itself is an unusual kind of ‘family company’. On first blush, the idea that this is a ‘family centric’ operation is pooh-poohed. Jobscience has a couple of family members at the top of the hierarchy. They have worked hard to leave family at home while developing a professional work environment. It’s not that kind of family company.
Rather, each and every one of the folks I met at JobScience had a family story to tell. These were ‘family people’ with big stories. The company is great about making sure that people get to work in their own family environments preferring to have distributed operations. The team was stronger for operating from their lifetime homes.
And then, there’s Ted. As the role of Recruiters and their home organization, HR, is transformed by economics, demographics and social software tools, having a lawyer at the helm is a competitive advantage. Rather than shoveling risk into the legal department, Elliot’s shop sees the legal risk and uses it as a foundation for design and innovation.
The world of platforms is in flux. So is the archetype CEO for HR Tech companies. JobScience is going to be changing the way the market understands itself.
No matter what they say, the job board is far from dead or dying. There is simply no other effective vehicle for communicating employment opportunities to people you don’t know. Job Boards have become an essential channel of the employment market.
They never were and never will be a panacea. No information distribution channel is a ‘one-size-fits-all-tool’ for very long. While newspaper classified ads had a long run as the reigning monopoly, the replacement technologies are all simply elements of an ecosystem.
It may sound overly esoteric but there is no real definition of the term ‘job board’. Businesses provide a large number of services under that banner. Employment branding, resume databases, traffic wholesaling, banner advertising, search placement, candidate management, niche-specific news, alternate media for communications, matching services,job wrapping, targeted Email, company profiles, micro sites and newsletter sponsorships all compete for attention in the Employment Website sales force.
Some of the most interesting business models keep a really low profile. Aaron Matos’ Jobing is highly visible in local markets but unseen in the majors. The same is true of JobDig which has a similar model. The low to the ground, somewhat distributed operation that delivers job info is increasingly common. It makes sense. Recruiting is local and nichey. It works differently (as does all of HR) depending on industry and region.
Last we, we talked with the folks at Beyond.com. On the surface, the operation looks surprisingly like the DirectEmployer’s vision for the future. The Beyond.com system features thousands of domain names operating on a single technical platform. Beyond.com hosts over 2,000 job boards (of the obvious search for jobs type) and has distribution in another 15,000.
A big technical challenge, for sure, but that’s not what makes this operation sing.
I spoke at length about Beyond.com with Mark Anderson. Anderson is a long term industry player who has spent time at Trustar, Hodes, Appendant and now calls Beyond.com home. A recent addition to the team, Mark is responsible for ‘growing and managing a team of experienced business development professionals across various territories to expand the company’s brand, market share and overall recruitment advertising portfolio across major markets”
“We get to know candidates at the aggregate level and then build ever deepening relationships,” Anderson told me. “Once they’ve come and registered, we try to move the relationship to email. The various portals help us segment the traffic in a very refined way. For us, each piece of email we send a potential candidate helps us get a clearer and clearer picture of who they are and what they want.”
It’s an argument against too much focus on direct web experience and for a deepening reliance on data about specific candidates.
Beyond.com is sort of the opposite of the great job aggregators. They take all of the data they develop and use it to deploy clearer and clearer understandings of the market. Rather than starting with the goal of making a great big pile of stuff, beyond.com begins with a huge pile of job boards and uses traffic patters to clarify. Their very design produces meaning and anticipates the data structures of the semantic web.
It’s also great SEO. Beyond.com has the leading career page in a significant number of its 2,000 direct and 15,000 indirect niches. Because the company drives content to so many discrete niches, they end up serving lots of very fresh content, ‘:just the way the search engines like it.” The net result is that their jobs get extremely high search engine visibility. The try to harness the traffic, not as repeat visitors like most of the competition, but as tightly defined segments of job hunters by industry and niche.
Anderson says, “We’re the tool that you use even when you don’t know it.” By that, he means that no one knows the Beyond.com brand. Instead, they interact with the trench level implementations. Hundreds of sites like EEJobs, PhillyJobs, SalesHead, and TechCareers are the daily face of the company.
“We want to be a part of every company’s recruiting strategy,” says Anderson. “No one tool fits all circumstances. We are a smart and cost effective answer for a strategy that includes a portfolio of communications tools.”
As media continues to fracture and communications opportunities continue to multiply, there will be increasing value associated with narrow reach. While the rest of the players try to figure out how to add targeting precision, Beyond.com delivers it by design.