by Doug Douglas – Managing Director / Partner at Providence Partners
As we consider our webcast title today, I started to imagine why people selected this one out of all of the other options that are available. There’s no doubt that all of us today are coming from diverse and unique situations and a “one size fits all” approach just doesn’t cut it when we consider the wide range of industries that are represented on this call. From past experience, I know that we have large, global companies represented today, we have cutting edge IT companies represented, retail and hospitality companies are here, and we also have people on this call that are handling HR for a small office of 3 or 4 employees and not sure if any of this will make sense to them or not. As a presenter, this is the toughest part of the gig – trying to provide something that is useful for every circumstance. Hopefully we can accomplish that today.
Specifically, each of us on this call are interested in Recruiting, but that function most often falls under the Human Resources banner. I find it ironic though that so many organizations have taken the “human” out of Human Resources and just replaced it with a significant number of extra cool, powerful, cutting resources – especially when it comes to recruiting. More and more today, we see companies set up recruiting processes that can allow a person to come to their corporate website, spend an hour or more applying for a job online – uploading a resume, then asking them to fill in the same information found on that resume, then asking them to complete some pre-screening questions, and divulge all sorts of personal information. Once they get all of this information entered and spent a good amount of time doing so, they hit “Apply” or “Submit” and within 3 seconds they have an email from that company thanking them for their time but letting them know that they were not a fit for that job. No human eyes ever once saw that applicant’s information. No attempt was made to see if there might be something unique or extraordinary about that applicant. Heck, we even sent the email from a “do not reply” email address so they couldn’t even ask a follow up question. I ask you, where is the human in human resources in that scenario?
Look, I get it. I understand why we have moved so far in that direction. We have seen large numbers of candidates for our open jobs and we needed to find quick, efficient, and effective ways to manage the tidal wave of candidates that come our way. But if you were the candidate, and you knew that you were qualified for that job, and you scored 1 or 2 points below the minimum score on the application screening questions and were automatically kicked out of consideration by a computer – would you be happy about it?
But I think we should be able to find a good balance of high tech and high touch in our recruitment efforts. And more importantly, I think issues like the generational shift that is taking place right now will demand it.
THE YOUNGER YEARS
Times change, and I believe they change more rapidly now than they used to because of technologies and the advances that we see. I wasn’t involved in Recruiting or HR 20-30 years ago, but those were the days where we walked into an office and handed over a paper resume or were handed a clipboard with an application on it and were asked to fill it out. Occasionally someone even reviewed it while we waited in the lobby. But technologies came along that changed everything.
Imagine with me how the world around us has changed in the past 20 years. Consider these innovations and how they have changed our lives:
• PCs / Laptops / Tablets
• Barcodes / QR codes
• Social networking
Just 10 years ago, the following job titles didn’t exist:
• App Developer
• Windfarm Engineer
• Social Media Manager
• Chief Listening Officer
• Cloud Computing
• Zumba Instructor
So many changes, and so many technological advances! It is easy to see why some people have responded like kids in a candy store…they see all of these technologies and these interfaces that make us say, “Wow!” We read white papers and status updates telling us that this tool or this product or this app is the latest and greatest and everyone needs to have it in order to succeed…and we fall for it. We have shifted heavily towards the technology side, that human engagement has been lost in the process, all in the name of efficiency (so we think).
Now, before I go any further – I want to clarify a couple of things:
1) I have been coming down pretty hard on the use of technology so far. I am not against the use of it and quite honestly, can’t even imagine trying to recruit these days without it! I use technologies heavily in my own recruitment strategies and processes to make our efforts more streamlined and efficient and scalable. I use Applicant Tracking Systems, and weighted and scored application questions, online calendar sharing for scheduling, etc. I believe the approach should be to benefit from those tools, but also maintain a solid human touch element with it.
2) The right balance will not be determined by you…but by the people you are trying to reach. Slashfood did a survey recently of American’s least favorite foods. Three of the top vote getters were:
• Brussels Sprouts
Now you could invite people into your home – you could even open a restaurant – and if you decided ON YOUR OWN that the best thing to do is offer up Spam, beets, and brussels sprouts – you might find a few people who are open to your menu options and be satisfied, but most people would likely pass you by and go somewhere else.
When it comes to recruiting, you can randomly select what you think the right balance is between high tech and high touch, but ultimately the people you are trying to reach will tell you if that balance is right or if further adjustments need to be made.
3) I’m not a bomb thrower and a proclaimer that the end of the world is coming. I usually roll my eyes and dismiss people who make those types of claims. But I 100% believe that the way we recruit – our strategies and our processes – will look dramatically different just 2-3 years from now. Because of two years of research, and because of my own intimate, first-hand knowledge of Gen Y – I believe that the way we recruit today will die in the next 2-3 years. Now let me explain.
• 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring each and every day (78 million Baby Boomers)
• 80 million Gen Y people are taking their place in the workforce
• Gen Y is the first generation to have the internet accessible to them every day of their lives
• It has transformed the way that they think, communicate, reason, research, and their expectations
• In addition to the internet, this is also the generation that grew up with everyone getting a trophy or ribbon and that we stopped keeping score
• Collaboration is emphasized greatly
• The need for quick feedback is engrained in them
• They have no concept of “chain or command”
• As they observe the current recruiting processes, they feel disrespected, humiliated, and frustrated
• Current methods and tools will not continue to be available as we know them today:
Job boards are changing the way they approach candidates and clients, I believe will move towards more of a social media feel
Linked In – I do not believe that they will continue as it is today. Too many people feel overwhelmed by the amount of recruiting efforts made on them each day. The smart move for Linked In is to side with employers, not with recruiters. Would it be surprising one day if you heard an announcement that Linked In is shutting off access to recruiters. At the same time, they approach major organizations like Google or Microsoft and say, “We have the largest database of candidates in the world, and the recruiters do not have access to them any longer. What would that be worth to you?”
It is not reasonable to expect that a 100% technology driven process will work long term.
As we experience a generational shift in our workforce, we will also experience a shift in our recruitment strategies to re-engage in the human element of our industry. There is no doubt that it will be a good mix of high tech and high touch, but the engagement of people will be paramount to a recruiter’s success. The days of letting technology do all of the recruiter’s work are coming to an end. Current day recruiting will die…may it R.I.P.
Recruiters may just consider dropping that title altogether and moving towards a title like “Influencer of People” or “Career Guidance Counselor” or “Chief Seduction Officer.” Recruiting will no longer be about screening candidates and short-listing the best. It will be about building a rapport, a trust, and relationship with the best candidates and helping to influence them to the companies that are your partners. It won’t be a “just in time” approach, but a “pipelining” approach that focuses on locating strong talent and cultivating a trust so that when a position becomes available, you have the people who are familiar with the company, familiar with the leadership, familiar with the culture, and they are then ready to fill the void.
Gen Y simply will not accept the disrespectful, insensitive, unresponsive, and insulting way that many recruiters go about their business today – agency recruiters or corporate recruiters. They are too smart. And they are too technically savvy to just fall into a blackhole of silence and disrespect – they will find ways to get to the decision makers and bypass recruiting. Candidates will remember the way that you made them feel…and it will impact their actions the next time.
The Birth of New Recruiting
Social media is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Many companies have strong social media interactions in place now. We can easily find 200 different social media sites available currently. It would be near impossible to have a presence on all of them, and to be able to use them all effectively. But I want to be clear on this: posting a link to your open jobs on your Facebook page or Linked In profile is not a social media strategy. The point of social media is to engage people, focused on the long term and not on immediately gratification.
The new “Influencer of People” will need to have a different set of skills than the old school recruiter:
• strong computer skills
• ability to drive a process but with grace
• world class influencer
• committed to the candidate experience
• long term vision instead of short term fixes
• transparency instead of secrecy
• relentless networker
• ability to build a personal brand in addition to the company brand – markets himself/herself to gain a solid reputation among potential candidates
The approach will focus on building a pre-qualified and exceptional pipeline of candidates who are ready to enter the game as soon as possible. This is done through identifying talent early – even before they are ready to accept a position. Maybe that means…
• building alliances with colleges/universities to identify the best and brightest and start to build that relationship early on
• offer internships so students can see what it would be like to work there full-time upon graduation
• working with military branches to partner with their exit programs – meeting with personnel months before they exit so they can feel confident as they make that transition
• communicate, communicate, communicate – the exact opposite of what most recruiters do today
• offer open houses so potential candidates can see the facility and meet potential managers
• build strong social media presences specifically for recruiting – day in the life videos, my job has meaning videos, cultural identification videos
• building your own recruitment pipeline app that focuses on long term engagement and communication
• getting out of the cubicle and getting face to face
• maybe more recruitment staff, but in part-time roles so they can be a student and influence classmates your direction
• changing the structure of your team to have roles that you haven’t done before – marketing person to help with messaging on descriptions and social media, a sourcing team to generate leads on potential candidates, on campus ambassadors who work for you but are also a student, military liaison, training leadership to give new workers job details and specific information and processes, etc.
John Porter once said, “People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.”
So, we have talked about a lot of things so far and hopefully you are starting to see that the need for changes is clear. But it’s one thing for me to say it, and even for you to believe me – but it’s quite a different matter to get your executive leadership to get out in front of this and start to invest time, resources, and money into this new model. They may not see a problem, or maybe they see it and just don’t want to bother with it at the moment.
A survey of 2013 college graduates indicates that 68% anticipate being at their first job for 3 years or more – this is up from 49% just a couple of years ago. They are optimistic and excited about their future, but what they receive when they try to enter the workforce can sometimes be deflating and cause pessimism. The candidate experience is so critical – from the very first time they encounter the name of your company, through the application process, the interview process, onboarding, that first day when they arrive and everyone is expecting them and prepared for them, to the training they receive, and so….it all matters. Unfortunately, we think once the offer has been extended and they have agreed to it that the job is done….far from it.
Leadership has this assumption of Gen Y that they are not committed and aren’t worth a heavy investment to recruit them. I’m not so sure that this is true. Think of the day and age where they have entered the workforce. These are not stable times. They see instability all around them – well known companies going under, start ups flourishing, massive mergers and buy-outs, and I just think the landscape is fast moving and ever changing…so they have adapted to it. They are playing by the rules that have been displayed for them.
They have grown up in an incentivized world where you get reward points, and frequent customer rewards, and so on. They desire this in their employment as well. Remember, this is the group where everyone got a trophy or ribbon on the athletic field. What are ways that you can reward solid performance and longevity? How can you still give them their trophy or ribbon?
When I speak on this topic, someone always asks a question about having a multi-generational work environment and how to make it work well. Let me go ahead and address it.
It can be a challenge. When you take a Baby Boomer and have them working alongside a Gen X’er and then you introduce a Gen Y’er into the mix, we have a very broad spectrum of things to consider. Look at it like this…
Elvis / Beatles / Rolling Stones
INXS, Nirvana, Madonna
Eminem, Britney Spears, Puff Daddy
Audio Cassette Tapes
Email / Texting / Smartphone
Round Table Style
Music / Multi-Modal
Command & Control
Coordination & Cooperation
Consensus & Collaborative
What do you think the chances are of everyone seeing things the same way the first time something is introduced? Everyone is coming from very different starting points so it is a challenge. I always suggest that you start with the end point and what is trying to be accomplished and then work your way back to process. Everyone can usually agree on the end result – they all want to be successful. At times, it may require multiple conversations to get everyone pointed in the same direction, but it can be done.
I would also say, there are many things that Gen Y require or seek that I can agree with them on because they benefit me as well:
• Work/life balance
• Variety in the work I do
• Pay for performance
• Access to senior management
• Knowing my co-workers at a deeper level
• Feeling valued and recognized
Previous generations wanted those things too, but we just weren’t as vocal about it.
Why does Gen Y Matter?
The U.S. Department of Labor forecasted that in 2012 the U.S. economy had the largest workforce in the nation’s history – more than 162 million people. Impressive as that figure may sound, it wasn’t enough to fill the more than 165 million jobs projected to be available. The shortage of 3 million workers was just part of the story, however. Millions of other jobs go unfilled because workers lack the specialized skills required to fill the vacancies. The government estimated a shortage of more than 10 million skilled workers in 2012.
One massive generation is on their way out of the door, and another bigger generation is coming in. We will have challenges to find the very best talent and add them to our teams. Competition will be fierce. There are many forward thinking organizations out there who are already focused on some of the things I’ve shared with you today. While they may be ahead of others in getting started, the way we recruit is going to change rapidly…and we all need to be prepared.
The easy thing for you to do is ignore what we have discussed today. Just leave things as they are and dismiss the urgency behind my message. Afterall, someone else can deal with it later – right? But as highly valued employees, leaders who have been tasked with focusing on people – our workforces – and making sure your organization has the best so the company can thrive for years to come…how you can you not at least seriously consider the data I’ve given you? How can you not have that conversation with your leadership team?
Reasons why to ignore…
• Don’t believe there is a problem / don’t believe the data
• Don’t want to risk the conversation with leadership
• It requires a new set of skills and new ways of thinking and that scares you or maybe you don’t have those new skills so you worry about losing your value
• Change is uncomfortable
• Don’t truly care
As we discussed at the beginning of this session, we are Human Resources. Human. We need to keep in mind that we aren’t just dealing with a name on a piece of paper, or an employee ID number – we deal with people. And when people are without a job, those are very stressful, anxious, and nervous times. Common courtesy should prevail in all situations, and not look for ways to avoid conversations and interactions. We get the chance – every day – to make a difference in people’s lives! How cool is that? We get to take them from some of the most stressful of times, to ones of relief and gratitude. What we do matters!
I have a good friend here in Austin. He is in his 50’s. Great guy. Very professional. Very talented. I have known him personally. I have worked with him professionally. He is one of those guys that a company should create a place for because of his ability to do so many things. He has run into some bad luck lately…and can’t seem to find a place to fit in. Austin is a unique place with so many young, hip, start-up, creative type places – and sometimes the older worker has an issue fitting in culturally, or even being considered in the first place. Our current manner of recruiting has failed this guy. He applies and jumps through all of the hoops that are asked of him, and he is repeatedly turned down immediately after hitting “submit” on the career page of a company’s site. He can’t get a conversation. He can’t explain the many things that he can do. He cannot get a human to pay attention to him.
I am the Managing Director and a Partner with a recruiting firm. I know recruiting. I started out entry level and I worked my way up and build a solid reputation with my clients and candidates. I have given companies multi-million dollar ROIs for the recruitment work that I’ve done for them. I have reduced turnover rates at incredible percentages. But as part of my own study on this topic, I have gone to the top 13 ranked RPO recruiting firms and applied at all of them….and none of them made me an offer. None of them interviewed me. None of them even called me to have a phone screen. More than half never contacted me in any manner whatsoever – even to send the generic email thanking me for applying.
Our current system is broken. This is not sustainable. Changes are coming and coming quickly. I am hearing more and more industry experts start to speak about these things…which I am grateful for. I have been saying it for a couple of years, and now others are starting to agree. This is the time to be bold, stand up, and address this issue.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein