By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech
More years ago than I care to mention, I ran a program for a defense contractor that now seems eerily prescient. The program’s goal was to create what we called an analytic methodology – what is known today as an algorithm – for predicting the human implications of new and increasingly sophisticated weapons systems. Why was it necessary? Because the engineers designing those high tech systems were unconsciously using themselves as a surrogate for the user, while the real users – the men and women in uniform – had a completely different set of skills and capabilities. As you might imagine that mismatch could have made for a lot of technology that didn’t perform as expected on the battlefield. It could also serve as a metaphor for the challenge of designing today’s talent technology.
Good product design is the output of effectively melding technological AND human capabilities in a way that yields optimized task performance. The trick, of course, is knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both. Engineers and systems analysts – whether they’re designing F-16s or CRM platforms – almost always have a deep and up-to-date knowledge of the technology. The same, unfortunately cannot be said of their expertise in the capabilities, expectations and behaviors of the humans who will use that technology on-the-job.
Now before you rise up in righteous indignation, there are obviously more than a few talent technology companies that carefully consider the user in their product designs. They survey potential customers, speak with current or past customers and hold meetings with advisory groups composed of HR and TA professionals. That’s all positive, but it’s no substitute for the one source of input that can ensure the human is fully considered in high tech design: a diverse development team.
Whether your company offers a job board or a CRM platform, an aggregator or a conversational AI solution, stepping outside your industry niche and connecting with other technology companies in the recruitment space is now essential to bottom-line success. And, there’s no better place to forge those inclusive connections than at TAtech Europe & The EMEA Job Board Forum, coming up in London on December 4-6. It is the only conference in Europe and the rest of the EMEA region that is designed for job board and talent technology company CEOs, their direct reports and rising stars and totally focused on advancing the bottom-line growth of their enterprises. So, don’t delay; register today to reserve your seat at this one-of-a-kind B2B conference.
In fairness, many talent technology companies have recognized the importance of diverse perspectives in product design. They’ve made a good faith effort to recruit a broad spectrum of engineering and design talent from traditional sources and been unable to move the needle in any significant way. There simply aren’t enough women and candidates of color in those fields and those who are, ironically, spend about fifteen minutes in the job market before they are scooped up by defense contractors that both want their skills and need them to meet federal contracting requirements.
So, what’s a job board or talent technology company to do?
Two environmental changes now offer a potential solution. First, over the past ten years, recruiting teams have become increasingly diverse. Women have been relatively well represented in the field for some time, and more recently, men and women of color have also experienced greater inclusion. And second, many of those recruiters have been laid off by their employers. In fact, according to Business Insider, recruiters have been the most over-represented profession in corporate downsizing over the past year and a half. Said another way, recruiters have never been more diverse or more available than they are right now.
And they also offer a bonus. Thanks to their participation on their employer’s product acquisition teams, many have more than a passing familiarity with the current capabilities (and shortcomings) of both the technology in those products and the various solution providers that offer them. In the language of recruitment, therefore, they’re not just a user, they’re a highly qualified user with invaluable insights for product design.
I understand that a sputtering economy can make recruiting new staff a difficult undertaking for solution providers. That said, there’s now what’s likely to be a short window of opportunity to recruit and hire individuals who bring a unique and potent perspective to product design. Their detailed knowledge of recruiting practices and culture as well as the habits, preferences and needs of recruiters make them an invaluable resource for product teams.
Food for Thought,
Peter Weddle has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.