Technology is Not the Answer to your COVID Hiring Problems

By Linda Brenner | August 25, 2020

The volume and variety of TA technologies on the market would lead even experienced HR professionals to believe that at least one of them must be the key to improving the speed and quality of hiring. After all, even during these difficult economic times, much of talent acquisition-chatter is technology-heavy. This time last year, the market for human capital related technology was approaching $30B, most of which related to hiring and retention. It makes sense. A majority of CEOs view 'talent' as a key lever to business success before COVID, and even more so now, according to research by KPMG, McKinsey and BCG.

In truth, hiring wasn't fast or good enough before the pandemic for many organizations. Hiring managers expressed frustration with the speed of finding interested and qualified candidates, recruiters’ ability to compel top talent to consider their opportunities, the quality of candidates presented, and so on . . . 

As economic pressures mount, as the hiring needs have been stripped down to the most critical roles, as the demand to attract qualified candidates of color increases, and as the number of applicants seeking work spikes (complicating the search process), the spotlight remains on talent acquisition to attract and select high-performing, diverse talent. Amidst all this, virtual advertising and white papers tout something for everyone on the recruiting technology front: applicant tracking, employee referral, job search, brand creation, job marketing, resume builders, job board distributors, social networks, job search, CRM, mobile apply, resume parsing, job matching, interview scheduling, video interview, skills and fit assessments, candidate referral, AI, predictive analytics, metrics management, VMS, temp labor management, and more.

Despite these options, finding high-performing, diverse talent isn't easier - even though the number of candidates actively searching for work has dramatically increased. Why? 

1. Missing technology is almost never the root cause of hiring problems.

If you were to conduct an audit of the current state of recruiting in your organization - and a root cause analysis of the most critical problems - a missing technology will almost never appear at the end of the problem tunnel. Let’s face it - the most important talent acquisition activities happen outside of any technology: understanding the spec of the role and the business it will serve, identifying the right prospects to target, crafting compelling, authentic messages, reaching out in a personal and customized way, talking to candidates, convincing them to consider the job and the company, screening, selection, influencing through the offer process, etc. Even technologies that claim to 'find' passive candidates won't help recruiters convince such talent that they should consider quitting their job and joining your company.

Without documenting exactly how these activities should work, and which steps are supported by technology, efforts quickly become haphazard. Plus, such recruiting demands skilled recruiters with business acumen, talent acquisition functional expertise, the ability to innovate and drive results, good judgment, excellent communication skills, ability to create rapport quickly, etc.

Technology will certainly help track, report on and continuously improve such activities - but will never take the place of these essential process-design requirements and recruiting capabilities.

2. Adding technology usually takes longer than anyone expects.

Making the decision to acquire technology is just one step in a very long process. Consider what’s involved: influencing key stakeholders, budgeting, a request for proposal process, vendor selection, contracting, configuration, testing, implementation, training, etc. - the timeframe is often measured in years vs. months. Talent Acquisition leaders often don't stay in the role long enough to show evidence that the technology is, in fact, adding value to the hiring process.

In turn, HR leaders understand that technology selection and implementation efforts are all consuming, understanding that it may take years until actual results can be captured and assessed. A cynical view of such efforts may lead one to believe that going for it is the perfect distraction: “We need to wait for the technology to be implemented for things to improve." 

3. Technology without process design may not even provide an incremental lift

If your technology isn’t configured to support a specific and detailed desired state process (which in turn supports a broader TA strategy) - it simply can’t work. The most advanced, perfect technology - laid on top of an unclear process in which roles and responsibilities aren’t defined or desired outcomes are unclear - will never add value. Plus, once implementation begins, HR leaders often find that their chosen technology may not integrate well with other systems, or there aren’t enough workflows or configuration options needed, or users begin to push back because it's "too difficult" to use and the upside is unclear.

4. It’s too good to be true.

As much as we want to believe it - it’s just not going to work as promised during even the most compelling demo. Companies - especially those powered by intellectual capital and dependent on quality hires - simply can’t avoid the hard work involved with attracting, selecting and retaining talent - no matter how many technologies it cobbles together. The war for scarce talent is getting harder in the midst of the pandemic and the solution is not as quick and easy as we wish it was.

Of course there are great talent acquisition technologies out there - and there is a time and place for them. The place is at an organization with a defined talent acquisition strategy and detailed process design, the road map that defines the work needed to win top talent. The role of technology is to support that vision and enable that work.

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You may also want to read Talent Acquisition Model: How to Organize Recruitment Around Talent or The Most Effective Recruitment Process in the Toughest Talent Marketplace: 5 Success FactorsLet's connect if you know you can get more from your talent acquisition technology - we can help!

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