A recent Fortune article by Josh Bersin reveals the cancer eating away at the talent acquisition technology ecosystem. Now, don’t get me wrong: what Bersin wrote was exactly on point. His words, however, depict an “HR-investor complex” that is totally out of whack.
“As I describe in the article ‘The HR Software Market Reinvents Itself,’ we have entered a new world in the $14 billion market for HR software and tools. While many large organizations have made the shift from licensed software to cloud-based HR systems (fueling growth by Oracle, SAP, Workday, ADP, Infor, Cornerstone and others) and smaller companies are now snatching up platforms like Gusto, Namely, Zenefits, and others, a new market has emerged: the market for tools focused on teams, feedback, continuous performance management, and data-driven recruiting.”
So, what’s wrong with that statement? Nothing … and everything. It underscores a truth that is as simple as it is painful: too many HR Departments continue to put the cart before the horse.
They spend billions on systems to help them process and administer employees – the implicit assumption being that they’ll have little or no trouble acquiring those workers – and pennies on the systems needed to find, engage, attract and recruit the best and brightest among them. And when they do invest these days, they spend their money on “data-driven” systems so they can figure out what they’re actually doing, and ignore almost altogether the systems that would actually increase the quantity of their quality yield.
The truth, of course, is exactly the opposite. As HR well knows – because it’s been covered in virtually every business and HR-related publication on the planet – there’s a serious skills shortfall in a wide swath of the U.S. workforce. No employer should assume there will be an infinite supply of talent, especially the talent most needed to ensure success in a technology-based and complex economy. And yet, HR continues to spend its money on huge systems for managing people AFTER they’re hired and “do more with less” when recruiting talented workers so they can be hired.
As LinkedIn recently found in one of its surveys, 56 percent of recruiters expect their recruiting assignments to increase this year, and 66 percent expect their recruiting teams to stay the same or decline in size. And, I’ll bet the same is true for their investment in recruiting technology.
That would be bad enough if the damage were limited to the customer base for talent acquisition products and services, but it’s not. Investors follow the money, so the vast majority of today’s investments are made in HR and not talent acquisition technology. If you have any doubt about that, go to any so-called HR technology show, and you’ll find talent acquisition technology startups and even vendors with proven products stuck back in the corner where the lights are dim.
So, What’s to Be Done?
To be fair, HR isn’t the sole or even the main source of this faulty prioritization. It comes right out of the 1950’s perspective resident in the C-suite of many employers. These guys have become masters at corporate doublespeak. They go on cable business shows and beat their chests about the importance of their workers and then head back to the office and starve the very unit responsible for acquiring them.
So, if we can’t control the clueless c-suite, what’s a job board with a new product or a company with a groundbreaking recruitment advertising technology to do? The options are only limited by our imagination, but here’s where you might begin.
There are hundreds of HR-related conferences each year. Historically, these conferences have been happy to take our exhibition and registration money, but reluctant to put us on the conference program.
Part of their rationale is the now debunked but still festering notion that job boards are dead. The other part, however, is due to the content of any presentations we do make – we tend to talk about best practices. We offer strategies and tactics to help recruiters do more with less. That’s misguided. We should be convincing them that their success is based on doing more with more and showing them how to accomplish that objective. We should be talking about the emerging capabilities resident in today’s and tomorrow’s talent acquisition technology. We should be making it “the next big thing.”
Similarly, we should mix up our blog posts and social media commentary so that, at least some of the time, we’re talking about new developments in talent acquisition technology. Despite the paucity of (current) customer interest and investments in such innovations, there’s a lot happening and at least some of it has the potential to change the very nature of recruiting.
Why should you bother if you’re not adding innovations to your product or service suite? Well first, you should be. As a very wise man recently wrote, “Get better or get worse.” There’s no standing pat in today’s marketplace. And second, talking about other talent acquisition technology developments has a halo effect. It positons you as a credible source of new ideas in talent acquisition which, in turn, casts any developments you do undertake in a more favorable light.
Food for thought,
The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.
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