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(Published July 19, 2001) We’ve been at this for just over seven years. In that time, lots of things have come and gone. Looking back through our Industry Analyses, we remember when the entry of CareerPath (the newspaper companies’ first play in the space) looked like a 10,000 pound gorilla.
It came and went. Bang, long pause, whimper.
It looked, for a while, like Restrac (now known as Webhire) had the momentum to really change things. Bang, long pause, whimper.
Remember CareerMosaic? The Online Career Center? Intellimatch? IHRIM? Datamain? Heart? kforce.com? AIRS in its heyday? The discovery of cabs as advertising vehicles? Dice when Lloyd ran it out of his bedroom? Monster, when it sold for $1M? HRXML? The first superbowl ad?
Each year we spend exploring this market brings a new “fair haired boy”. This year’s award goes to Recruitsoft. We wonder if they’ve looked back at history as they spend their energy arcing faster than anyone could support. One very predictable thing about their rise is that it will have an associated fall. As a customer considering a purchase, timing is everything.
As the fall moves closer, we’re expecting stable and interesting offerings from really big players. Microsoft is coming. Oracle is coming, Peoplesoft is trying to come. SAP is coming. With any luck, they’ll fare better than last year’s incursion of traditional assessment companies who got into the game a day late and a dollar short.
You’d think that, by now, we’d be seeing something more interesting than automated versions of old ways of doing things. The notion that spidered resumes, ranked, sorted, sifted, assessed or appended is somehow a technical discriminator belies the fact that the 3rd party recruiters (thanks to the AIRs training) had their way with that pile years ago.
We’ve been telling people for months now that the air is pregnant with opportunity. Everything that we used to do is automated. The result is faster systems that take the panic associated with reactive recruiting and escalate it to new highs.
Today, you can tell the hiring manager why you’re late with his new hires faster than you could yesterday. Launches like CacheMirror give us some hope. At least they seem to understand the role of marketing in product development. Monster is another ray. Somewhere, in all of the pieces, is a fully featured system that allows a recruiter to become proactive. Salary.com is the likely surprise winner of the fall season. Access to people who aren’t looking for a new job is one of the missing pieces. Salary.com is the only player who really provides that sort of service, so far.
We’ll lose a couple of Applicant Tracking Systems houses in the near future (probably PeopleClick and Webhire). There are plenty of interesting providers to take their places. So far, no one seems to understand that the very metaphor behind those offerings is the problem. Until they convert their services to inventory management systems, they’ll come and go.
So, at the beginning of year eight, it looks pretty much the way that it did early on. Lots of movement, little progress, lots of new interesting players, new chairs for the veterans. We remain on the verge of greatness.
Heather Bussing is a returning contributor to our HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years. She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. While the courtroom is a place she’s very familiar with, her preferred approach to employment law is to prevent problems through early intervention and good policies and agreements. Full bio…
I am not a fan of extensive or granular employment policies. I believe they end up being more noose than protection—for both employers and employees. Often the policy completely defeats the purpose as the employer and employee are forced to suffer through the analysis, compliance with procedures and multiple reviews, when everyone would be better off to just end the relationship and move on. Having flexibility to deal with each situation based on the circumstances allows the problem to be solved or resolved quickly and with the widest array of options.
But lawyers and HR managers are very concerned with risk management, treating people fairly and consistently, and letting people know what to expect. So having written policies is a way to try to solve those issues in advance of the problems. Besides, they look official and important.
Anyone who has actually received a policy manual usually has no idea what it means and just signs the acknowledgement with a prayer that they never have to look at it again.
But when a problem arises, the lawyer’s and HR manager’s first question will always be, “What’s the policy on that?” So now that employees are blogging and tweeting and developing company Facebook pages, there must be policies.
There are two reasons to have social media policies: 1) to protect trade secrets and other legally confidential information; and 2) to control brand and marketing messages.
If you have a confidentiality, trade secret or non-disclosure agreement/policy, then see if social media communications would be covered. They probably are because the language in those things is usually so broad you can’t leave the building with a copy of the policy without violating the policy. I once was taking photographs in downtown San Jose. The guards for one of the software companies there came outside and across a public street to let me know that photographing the exterior of the building– outside in the world for everyone to see– was a security breach. Makes me wonder how they feel about Google Earth.
In any event, your nondisclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement probably covers social media disclosures. If it doesn’t, that’s not hard to fix. So you probably don’t need a separate social media policy to protect trade secrets.
The real issue is whether and how much you want to control what gets said about your company. This is a function of your brand, culture and marketing strategy. It’s not really an HR or legal function.
Do you have control issues and what are they?
One company I know has a policy of allowing the good, the bad and the ugly, but not the mean. They value the immediacy, spontaneity and perceived credibility of social media. They also want to promote a culture of transparency and openness. So they watch what’s being said, but rarely intervene. They draw the line at personal attacks and antagonistic horse manure. (That’s a term of art—if you use it in your policy, I bet it’s clearer that what’s there.)
Other companies have an entire litany of individual policies for each social media venue, complete with explicit instructions on when and how to use it, as well as specific parameters for what may be contained in each post. A recent article in Inc. Magazine suggested such an approach.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to social media policies. But there are three general approaches.
1. Review and Approve Everything
2. Monitor and Only Pull Posts That Are Mean or Wrong
3. Ignore the Whole Thing
The approach that is right for each company depends on its culture and comfort level, as well as its interest in and resources for reviewing and approving.
Besides disclosure of trade secrets, the legal issues are essentially:
- Defamation/Libel—someone says something damaging and untrue about someone else and the company gets sued
- Protected Activity—The NLRB recently held that a company who fired a union employee for a Facebook rant against management had violated federal labor laws because being able to criticize management is “protected concerted activity.” Censorship may also violate your “open door” and other general policies on employee communications and free speech rights could also be implicated if government action or other state laws are implicated.
The way to protect against problems is to give employees broad discretion on what to say, as long as it is true. Then reserve the right to require that they delete or retract it upon request and at the company’s discretion.
The other thing to understand is the more a company monitors, approves and controls what its employees say in social media, the more likely it will be legally responsible for what is said. Other factors include whether the statement is made from a company page/account or by a personal user, whether creating social media content is part of the employee’s job duties, and the complete context of the post. But the more closely controlled and connected the post is to the company itself, the more likely it will be held responsible for its employee’s posts.
If you decide you need a social media policy, there are many good resources online for examples of specific language and approaches to developing a social media policy. Social Media Governance and 123 Social Media have collected many actual workplace polices you can use in developing your own.
But the real issue with social media policies is branding. So while it is fine to have HR and the legal department involved in developing a social media policy— make sure it is consistent with your company’s brand and culture. Call marketing first.
Continuing our series this week in looking back we turn to the systems and tools of recruiting. What progress have we made in our industry since 2002 when this post on ATS vs. recruiting software was first published? ATS systems still abound and new web-based tools have emerged. But have we progressed? Perhaps adaptations like social media applicant development and tracking count? Are we still driving into the future with our eyes firmly fixed in the rearview mirror (quote: Marshall McLuhan)? Read on and please let us know if you think we’ve gotten to anything new.
People Not Candidates
(originally published January 24, 2002)
“I once wooed an exec to Dell…stock, excitement yes…but the decision maker was an interview with the coach of the girl’s basketball team at one of the local high schools. She was a sophomore star looking for a big time high school program that would lead to playoffs and a scholarship….”
That was Hank Stringer’s way of gently reminding us that meaningful work negotiation in times of scarcity is nothing new. Hank, you’ll remember, is the founder of Hire.com.
One of the most interesting conclusions we reached during the development of the 2002 Electronic Recruiting Index was that Hire.com is the only company in the world that is currently producing Recruiting Software.
We can almost hear the groans from critics who’d suggest that sitting on Hire.com’s advisory board has clouded our view of the world.
Here’s what we mean by “Hire.com is the only company in the world that is currently producing Recruiting Software”.
The Applicant Tracking Systems industry was invented by Lars Perkins and Paul Costello almost exactly 20 years ago (give or take a couple of days). It was a profound move forward. Applicant Tracking Systems automate the administrative (workflow) parts of the hiring process, provide resume search capability and allow for the documentation of regulatory requirements. Webhire, the company formed by the two visionaries, remains the largest single supplier of ATS (based on customer headcounts). It’s an amazing accomplishment and, if you have a moment, send the company a piece of email congratulating them on 20 years of solid contributions. No company has experimented more vigorously and productively.
Applicant Tracking Systems are great for some things: standardizing awkward processes, measuring administrative cycles, ensuring conformity, organizing files and other administrative tasks. Unfortunately, Recruiting is not an administrative process. The original idea behind the ATS concept was to free the Recruiter from the Administrative burden so that more Recruiting could get done. Unfortunately, software is unforgiving and the promised freedom turned out to be more rigorous boundaries. As a result, many ATS installations go unused. In fact, the critical discriminator in many ATS procurements is the ‘promise’ of tight configuration control that makes the constraints imposed by the software even tougher.
That’s why we make the distinction between and ATS and Recruiting software. Recruiting software is about relationships, decision making and collaboration. It focuses the recruiter on the decisions at hand, offering support and information. It’s no accident that Hank Stringer is the only Recruiter to found a company in the space. He understands how to recruit. The ATS suppliers all collect customer requirements (whether or not the customers know how to recruit) for administrative purposes.
It’s the generational difference between Wang and Microsoft Word. Surely, you’ll remember (or know a kindly elderly person who remembers) the incredible impact Wang had on the office. By placing word processing machines on secretarial desktops, Wang made the first moves into office automation. 15 Years later, however, Microsoft Word was the dominant tool. The reason was simple. Wang’s approach assumed that there would always be a secretary, it was secretarial software. The Microsoft product was more visionary and assumed that secretaries were only one of the kinds of users. It was not secretarial software. It was word processing software.
Managing the administrative stuff is important. Assuming that that is the limit for Recruiting Software is a generational mistake. As we’ve been pointing out this week, the emerging new social contract is a profound challenge to existing administrative structures. Acquiring the talent is far more important than ensuring that all of the administrative processes run smoothly. In fact, rigid administrative automation will prevent good recruiting.
A new generation of tools is becoming available. Hire.com is the first company to produce real recruiting software.
Learn how Talent Pulse Benchmarks can help your business take a strategic view of recruitment initiatives and prepare you to deliver a better candidate experience. Read More…
What’s the state of innovation in HR and Talent Management today?
In May 2001 John wrote the article below Light Bulb Not Candle and made the observation that HR was seemingly stuck in an innovation bubble, constantly reinventing the wheel. Can our industry claim better today? I’d argue that you find three primary innovation paths in HR right now: social media, social media, and social media. Yet many conversations taking place about social media in HR are still remedial. Why do we accept this?
Of the likely innovators in 2001 John highlighted this opportunity: “Increasingly, we see a broad market opportunity from someone who comes in from left field. Large scale, data mining, direct marketing companies are, in some ways, closer to the solution than anyone in our space.”
In other words, import innovation from outside the space. Bring in specialists in technology or marketing and teach them what they need to know about HR so your end solution works. Indeed this has happened. Jobvite for example has arguably built upon what the original Jobster did by taking best practice web and social media tactics and bringing them to HR.
So what’s still missing in the innovation loop? I’d argue that today’s HR leaders should have enough web, social media and technology (fill in the blank) experience under their belts to propel them towards truly novel industry solutions. Can you name any that you feel meet that criteria? We’d love to hear about them. Drop us a comment on the post below or use our contact form to send us an email.
~ Julian, contributing editor
Light Bulb Not Candle
(originally published May 30, 2001)
Where do great ideas come from? Given the way that our industry is currently trying to move itself forward, you’d have to guess that everyone believes that innovation comes from reinventing the wheel. We see hundreds of entrepreneurial units trying to figure out how to add just one little corner to the round thing. At its worst, we see teams who claim to be able to get to round if they can add just enough corners.
There appear to be two broad streams: profiling and text search databases. Slowly emerging is a class of analytical tool that act as a strategic overlay on the profiling/resume management tools. Unfortunately, profiles, analytics and resume databases are just enough to tell you how bad the problem is. We can’t find anyone who is working on the next generation of the problem.
With deeply committed technical groups working furiously in the dark airconditioned development rooms, it’s surprising that there’s no intra industry collaborative forum. After all, the distinctions between ‘platforms’ are nearly inconsequential. Once the ‘perfect’ profiling, analytics, and database management tools are complete, we’ll have just enough tooling to understand that we’re in trouble. We ought to hurry up and get there (and, no, this doesn’t mean that HRXML is a good idea).
At its roots, the problem isn’t technical. And, that’s the rub. All of the current development efforts are so profoundly rooted in history that the possibility of real innovation is slim. No matter how hard you try to improve on the classified advertising model, it requires candidates who are in the market for jobs. No matter how much data you extract from benefits systems and payroll, it’s still all about traditional definitions of the firewall.
No matter how hard you try to reshape a candle, it will never become a light bulb.
Increasingly, we see a broad market opportunity from someone who comes in from left field. Large scale, data mining, direct marketing companies are, in some ways, closer to the solution than anyone in our space. Attracting and maintaining ready pools of potential talent involves touching lots of people who are not in our current systems. It means delivering real value to that group and building their loyalty in the way that traditional (non-internet) networks are built. It means knowing each individual in the network well enough to anticipate their moves. It requires experiments that take longer than a job board transaction.
Recruiting has become a strategic differentiator. As long as our industry only offers reactive tools, we will be guilty of dragging our customers to their extinction. What’s required is intense Research and Development in areas that currently get no investment.
We expect to see the rapid emergence of R&D project arms of key innovative companies. The projects will involve rigorous testing of alternatives and planned positioning of the customers. They will combine facets of marketing research and technical improvement. Along with the movement of supply chain management thinking and total quality principles, the legitimization of Recruiting Research and Development will shape the next five years of our industry.
HRDemo puts me in mind of a local event taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area next Tuesday – it’s called iTalent. It reminds me of the Techcrunch50 show but for HR and talent related startups. The inaugural event next week is already sold out so I want to introduce you to both the iTalent event format, and the organization responsible for it (HR & Tech SF) so you don’t miss future events.
Here’s how iTalent works:
Eight startups with talent-related products pitch to a crowded room. After each 5 minute pitch a panel of industry experts will weigh in with their opinions and feedback. I’ll be on the panel next week along with some great folks, including:
Jeff Hunter, VP, HR Solutions, Dolby Labs
Andy Mowat Sr Director, Sales and Business Development, Elance
William Uranga Sr Director, Talent Acquisition, TiVo, Inc.
The winning company will walk away with a prize package, including:
- a $500 Elance certificate
- a hearty supply of Hansen’s Soda
- a strategy session with John Sumser and
- the latest Premiere TiVo with a Qwerty slider remote and life-time subscription
For those of you going, iTalent promises to be an interesting get together, one without risk and full of upside. For those of you unable to attend, you’ll be hearing about these organizations through the HR & Tech SF website.
More about HR & Tech SF
HR & Tech SF is about startup demos for the talent market. They bill themselves as a hub for HR startups, entrepreneurs, recruiters, HR professionals and industry experts. They will be hosting events like iTalent for organizations looking for new solutions to attract, retain and develop talent. An important part of their charter is to uncover how candidates will look for work in the near future.
I’ll post an update after next week’s event to let you know about the winner of iTalent.