Sourcing: Beyond Cool Tools to Talent Acquisition Evolution

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I’m a big fan of cool tools. I have an iPad Mini and a Pebble watch. I’m typing this on a Chromebook (and I can’t wait to get the HP Chromebook 14). If there is a writing app out there, I’ve tried it. If there’s a note taking app, I’ve tried it as well. Both usually get relegated because of my love for Google Docs.

As we are wrapping up SourceCon though, what stuck out to me wasn’t so much the latest tips and tools to help those closest to the ground. The biggest takeaway was that sourcing — as a defined, widespread function across multiple industries — is beginning to drive some real, significant, and recognized strategic advantages.

Sourcing old-timers will dispute the notion that sourcing is just now beginning to drive strategic value. And you can go back to the earliest iterations of how sourcing really started and you’ll see many great examples of how sourcing has driven bottom-line results for decades. No joke. I’m not minimizing it one bit.

Between the audience growth here at SourceCon and the maturity of the topics and tools that enable sourcing though, what you’re seeing is an active evolution of how talent acquisition is understood and done on a very essential level. Sourcing is moving beyond the early-adoption phase. Just like it would be insane to manage any sort of requisition load without an ATS, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the essential nature of sourcing for talent acquisition.

Consider me a biased source. I was the SourceCon editor for over a year. But I have no dog in this fight anymore. But this has been festering for years and if it weren’t for a recession that gutted corporate recruiter budgets and decimated agencies, it would’ve happened years earlier.

Three trends that are pointing to this evolution to me:

  • The ranks are getting larger — It’s not just about SourceCon either. The money is getting better as Editor-in-chief Jeremy Roberts talked about in the opening keynote and there are more corporate roles for those who want it.
  • The conversation is changing — Beyond doing the job, we’re now talking about expansion, structure, and strategic initiatives that are critical parts of a larger corporate view.
  • More mature software platforms — The rise of mature sourcing tools is more than an isolated canary in a coal mine. It is an indicator of corporate spending and investor optimism.

As sourcing continues to move beyond early-adopter phase, I think you’ll see:

  • More leadership involvement — Not just increased sourcing leadership but talent acquisition and yes, even HR leaders are going to be taking more notice and be deeply involved in sourcing. The expansion of sourcing is going to have more stakeholders, not less and will require working more closely, not less with these key roles.
  • Talent shortage time — Talented sourcers are rarely without a job for very long. Sourcing expertise, especially at the strategic level, is going to be short for years. There are many educational opportunities for sourcers but look for more companies to build these teams internally.
  • The wide and fuzzy gray line — The line between sourcing and recruiting is going to become more clear, but not for awhile. As sourcers start act more like candidate marketers (focused on demand generation and branding), there will be a clear delineation between the two.

And of course, we’ll still have cool tools. In fact, if the last two years are any indication, the tools of the trade are getting cooler. But, I’m particularly excited about the growth and evolution of sourcing as a necessary functional component of talent acquisition teams everywhere.

Talent in the Cloud: Revolution or Devolution?

548px-Karl_MarxCarmen Hudson recently shared an article about the future of hiring, referencing Elance’s new private talent cloud:

The cloud cuts out waste and that’s why people love it. Companies and individuals call upon storage space in the magical ether as they need it, without spending a penny more than they use. Gone are the days of servers idling half empty in a building, barely used hard-drives cluttering up desks. Everything becomes more efficient, organizations get leaner, the fat is trimmed.

But what if the fat that the cloud cuts out isn’t machine fat at all? What if it’s human fat?

I’m not talking about Fitbit making you fitter or some freaky new plastic surgery in the cloud procedure. I’m talking about applying the principals of the cloud to managing the human workforce. Imagine, instead of just drawing on servers and processing power on an as-needed basis, companies also draw on people that way. A workforce that operates like the cloud, swelling and shrinking at a moment’s notice.

The way organizations are using people in their organization is changing, and it is diverging with two radically different paths and two different promises.

One ideological path takes us away from humans as resources into something of an organizational alignment. Finding people and teams with shared ambitions, moving toward a common goal. The other further entrenches people as resources, to be bought like any other good. Plug and play and if one resource burns out, replace it with another to meet your objectives.

Funny enough, both promise freedom and progress and play with the idea that business ambitions are simply a collection of human ambitions. They just try to go about solving for that reality in a different way.

I don’t have anything smart to add in here other than to acknowledge that this, more than many of the other articles I typically read on the subject, made me think about what work in the future might look like.

The 2013 HR Technology Conference Discount Code Post

HRT Letterhead

For the last few years, one occasion has marked every summer: an email from HR Technology Conference co-chair Bill Kutik asking me, almost too politely, to post something about the show and to give you a discount code. So if you came here for the $500 off discount code, go ahead and use REHAUL13 (all caps) when you register. I don’t get anything for it, unfortunately.

Now why should you attend the conference this year?

Well, if you have never been and you’re interested in HR technology, this is a conference you have to experience at least once. It’s a show, in every sense of the word, for those affected by HR technology.

That’s not to mention that Las Vegas should be the permanent location of the show and you can’t legitimately reason with me on this point. The fact that you don’t have to go to Chicago and pay a pretty penny a night for a hotel strangely isolated from one of America’s largest cities is the big selling point. If you want to stay at the conference hotel, great. But if you don’t, there are plenty of other great options close-by plus great nighttime entertainment of all stripes.

What I continue to enjoy about the conference are the collection of people I end up seeing again or meeting for the first time at this conference. That, along with the content at the conference, has noticeably improved every year for the last four.

If you have already gone, especially to these last few, you probably know what to expect and whether you’ll be coming. If so, I hope to see you there.

I would also be mistaken if I didn’t mention that this is Bill Kutik’s last run as co-chair of the conference and the first for Steve Boese, who will continue to take the conference to great heights.

Lastly, if that wasn’t enough, come a little early for HRevolution and get an up close, personal view of some of the movers and shakers in the space outside of the stuffy confines of the big show.

I can’t wait for Vegas and I hope to see many of you there. If you’ll be there, make sure to send me a note so we can high-five.

#Talent42 and the Value of Focused Conferences

logo“Some of my closest friends are technical recruiters.”

That was my response to someone who asked me why I showed up at Talent 42. And for a guy who doesn’t do conferences, who doesn’t report news, and who doesn’t interface with practitioners on a day to day basis, I can see why my attendance was perhaps a bit odd.

In reality, there was much more to why I showed up:

  1. It was in Seattle
  2. It was put on by two of my favorite people in Seattle
  3. A bunch of people I like were attending and speaking
  4. There was valuable content, even for a guy like me out of the trenches
  5. I’m always interested in trends

That last one really struck me about Talent 42. The idea of these focused, niche events is what I was interested in being a part of. Would it continue the tradition of last year’s great event? Would it fizzle, either by doing stuff that was already done or trying to expand beyond its original scope? Luckily, it did not disappoint.

And really, when you compare it to the last show I went to (SHRM), the difference is night and day. The sessions were smaller but the content was picked through with a fine-toothed comb. It was clear that when they picked content, they asked themselves one question: would this help technical recruiters bring more people into their organizations?

If the answer was no, it didn’t make the cut. That’s an important distinction.

At larger shows like SHRM, you can have anything. Anything. Like Dave Ramsey giving a clearly stock speech to a room of HR practitioners. I’m sure he is a good guy but he didn’t belong at any HR conference. But somebody made the argument for him to be there and since the subject matter was so broad, you could include him and most people wouldn’t blink an eye.

Talent 42 is miles different. It’s full of real advice from people who have done the work. Building in-house coding academy? Dude, I think I could figure this out myself now. Mark Tortorici teaching about the technology these guys and gals are recruiting for and Marc Hutto on how to do telephone research for people who don’t answer their phones.

I wish I could have made it to the second day because I heard the roundtable discussions were really a hit (alas, I was moving). I also missed Glen Cathey completely which made me a sad panda.

This is also why I’m looking forward to this fall’s SourceCon (in Seattle as well). Again, a niche conference that you can ask yourself a simple question when programming the agenda: does this help source new people into organizations?

If you are a technical recruiter who missed out on Talent 42, I’m sorry because you’re going to have to wait another year for the next one. If you want a conference that you’ll get some actionable items to take back to your office tomorrow, Talent 42 is the best one for those who recruit technical talent. If you want to network with a bunch of HR practitioners who have no idea what you even do and pick up some swag, well, I have a few conferences to recommend. Just don’t miss this one because I will see you there next year!

Owning My #SHRM13 Experience

I just got back from SHRM’s annual conference.

That’s what I wrote a week ago on my flight home before turning off my computer and getting some much needed rest. Thanks to a pending move (yeah, again) and some backlogged work, I’m just now getting back to thinking about the conference.

I spent very little time in sessions (only hitting a few), I spent a little more time in the social media lounge and press room (mainly to catch meetings), and I spent most of my time on the expo floor hall. I’ve been to SHRM annual as a practitioner, a speaker, and a member of the working press, but never someone deeply interested in the marketing side of the industry.

I’ll spare you the whole marketing fails that happen at every conference I’ve been to ever other than to say that this is the lowest hanging fruit in the whole world. If you can find the people in your organization who can work a booth and get a half-decent location in the hall, you’ll win.

Between swag grabs, ultra-aggressive dudes that scan your badge, and running into people who are stopped looking down at their phone, there was actually a lot of interesting things going on.

I know us bloggers like to get cynical about things like trade shows. Believe me, being to one like SHRM encapsulates and magnifies all of the bad shit that everyone in this industry complains about. And by everyone, I mean everyone: practitioners, vendors, organizers, and press alike.

But I had more than a dozen meaningful conversations with people I probably never would’ve met if not for SHRM. When you wear The Starr Conspiracy shirt, HR ladies (and some dudes) will approach you out of nowhere and ask you about it. Once I told them about what we do and my background, I ended up directing more than my fair share of people looking for particular solutions. I stuck around and listened to pitches by sales reps who were 60 days into their stint at a vendor. I wandered and criss-crossed the expo floor looking for something that stuck out.

Other than a few clever booth constructions, nothing really did though. That’s a view of a guy who has been to a lot of shows though and pays ultra-close attention to the leading edge of HCM. Take it with a mountain of salt.

What stuck out to me about this SHRM is that I made it my own. I set out with particular goals (to meet certain people, to meet new people I didn’t know, to talk to vendors I’d never spoken to, and to learn more about buyers and the people who influence them). I had a great time. And I told my colleague Emily that I want her to come with me next year. Not just because she’d be fun to go with but also because it would be great to experience SHRM through someone else’s fresher eyes. I got a taste of that with some new friends I met wandering the halls and that’s what I’ll take back with me.

The Uncomfortable Reality of HR Today

1024px-RGS_13I’ve been out of day-to-day HR for four years. It was one of the best decisions that was ever made for me. That’s not just because it set me on my current career path (whatever that may be), but it opened up a space for someone who liked doing HR.

I’ve obviously stayed close to the space in that time. This week though, I got a little closer than comfort to the function. HR software provider Silkroad invited me (and, for full disclosure, paid my way there) to their users conference in Florida.

Those who know me know I don’t go to most conferences for pure education. Usually it was either my conference (so I was working), I was speaking, or I was covering the conference as a journalist (so I was focused on reporting what I saw).

That wasn’t the case here. This time, I was at the conference like an attendee for the most part. Outside of a lunch with Silkroad executives, I was focused on experiencing the conference like a normal HR person would. So I listened to the keynote speaker on the first day (Dan Pink) and there were some parts where I saw some uncomfortable laughs from my pseudo-colleagues:

  • When he suggested that performance reviews were simply CYA’s
  • That to get the most out of white-collar, knowledge workers, you had to start first by paying them fairly and well

I won’t play armchair psychologist but I’ll tell you what I heard from attendees:

“I love the ideas, Dan. We’ve tried to convince our executive team for years on this. It is hopeless. We’ll drive engagement the best we can within our constraints.”

The theme transpired in other areas of the conference too. New social tools within Silkroad’s product are great but scary, as these HR pros imagine the worse case scenarios. They imagine how they sell this to an executive team that is probably thinking the same as they are.

And that’s fair. I’ve seen what a little bit of openness and social in an inappropriate and immature workplace looks like.

I’ll tell you what I saw: I saw a product that got out of its own way, allowed HR pros to do their job better, and to push employers toward a more progressive and engaged workforce. What I saw were HR pros driven by compliance, efficiency, old-school executive thinking, and squeezing value out of the product without making things uncomfortable at their job.

Let me be clear: I don’t think this is a problem with Silkroad, or with their HR customers. I’m sure the same story gets played out at other user conferences, regional SHRM meetings, and happy hour get togethers among HR pros.

When you follow the bleeding edge of HR like I do, you might assume that everyone is going the way of progressive HR. I love that part of HR. It keeps me fired up and it is something everyone can aspire to.

In that same vein though, we should also acknowledge the uncomfortable reality of HR as it largely exists today. Should we be happy with it? Should we think that’s all we can accomplish? No. The answer is clearly no. But let’s acknowledge that we need tools that not only help HR pros move forward but also tools that help them deal effectively with the present.

When it Comes to Recruiting Innovation, Candidate Experience is Top of Mind

I was asked to chair this week’s Recruiting Innovation Summit, put on by my former employer ERE Media. At it, we explored some of the leading edge ideas from people who are as passionate about making recruiting better as I am.

It was also the first time I ever emceed an event. That experience is probably another post altogether.

As part of my new position as part of The Candidate Experience Award council, I paid special attention to recruiting trends and technologies that will improve the candidate experience. The event did not disappoint on that front. There are some really cool ideas that are bubbling up from early adopters, entrepreneurs, and people that build products at some of the big boys. Here’s how it shook out from my perspective.

Making the application process better

A couple of the newer solutions we saw at the Recruiting Innovation Summit really tackled some ways companies could improve the application process for candidates.

iMomentous talked about their mobile apply. Talent Board Member Ed Newman really dove deep into the idea that a mobile apply approach isn’t going to be just a nice thing to have, it is going to be a must have. There are a lot of companies out there trying to crack this nut and it is going to become a reality (though it isn’t going to happen overnight).

Resunate had something really interesting: a way for candidates to optimize their resumes depending on the job description. Imagine if this was on the front-end of your application process? Helping candidates putting their best foot forward could be the ultimate candidate experience play.

Making the candidate experience fun?

Two different types games impressed people at the summit this year.

ConnectCubed created a couple dozen games that actually help employers determine if someone will be a good fit for a job. What they found is that people played the games and enjoyed them, even if they weren’t necessarily going for a job. It was one of the more fascinating ideas presented and I wished that they would’ve shared more of the games.

RMS embedded their employer brand into an actual game. They got a lot of eyeballs from a lot of people who might have not otherwise seen them. Best of all, it came to you in a fun environment of trying to prevent a world disaster (right up their alley, if you know what RMS does).

Monitoring the candidate experience

Last year’s startup competition winner Mystery Applicant came back to talk about what they have been working on since they won the award last year. It was fun to understand just how much data they are pulling in now about the candidate experience. The deeper we dive into the data, the more we know we need The Candidate Experience Awards.

There are many more companies (new and old alike) out there taking on the candidate experience either directly or indirectly. Whether that means a smoother apply process, better communication, or understanding and relieving the pain points in your process, the level of importance is only going to continue to grow.

Man, HR Exists in the Future?

I have a startling confession to make: I like Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know. You’re shocked. While I was a big fan of the Star Trek movies, I wasn’t a big fan of the original series. But The Next Generation? Yeah, that got me going.

3u77klSo they have the entire series up on Netflix and I’ve been going through it a few episodes at a time. All of the campy goodness is just great. I watched an episode last night that made it clear that HR obviously exists well into the 24th century.

First of all, some context for all of you who aren’t Trekkies. In the 24th century, within the Star Trek universe, Earth is part of a utopian alliance of alien worlds called the United Federation of Planets. The series takes part during a relatively peaceful period where everyone’s needs are taken care of. Nobody is hungry, there aren’t supply shortages, and nobody worries about getting paid. Basically, the people who work on these faster-than-light starships are there because they just want to be there and they are enriched by their work.

In an episode in the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge disobeys an order from Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Captain Picard takes La Forge into his office and reprimands him, telling him (and I’m not joking), “This incident will have to be filed in your permanent record.”

Here was my response to my wife while we’re watching this:

Me: @#$%&!# HR?

Her: What?

Me: HR! There’s HR in a utopian 24th century!

Her: (laughs)

Look, I love HR, but if Earth does turn into a utopian, peaceful society, I hope nobody has to be working in the HR office at the United Federation of Planets.

Reducing Turnover is Not the Goal

Athletics_tracks_finish_line“Our goal is to reduce turnover by 25%.”

No it isn’t. I hope not, at least.

Having reduced turnover as a goal leads to all kinds of strange, short-term thinking that lead to deranged organizations. A counter-offer when your 325th best salesperson decides to take another job? Lengthening the corrective action review process? Pushing beyond the budget on labor costs because your team is too expensive? Ploys and programs designed to cater to middle and low performers who may be a flight risk? Yep, yep, yep and yep.

You may even have an executive who is looking at some dashboard in a system and she is instructing you that you have to get control of turnover. She may want to build some goals around reducing that number. Nod your head and then walk out of her office and ignore that.

Reducing turnover may be an okay outcome but it is never a goal. And even if it is an outcome, it is a lousy, broad measuring stick. 2% turnover sounds great until you realize that your organization is bleeding only high performers and high potentials.

So can we agree that reducing turnover is a stupid measuring stick and that it shouldn’t be used as a goal or outcome?

Maybe? I’ll take it. If you are using it for an outcome, make sure what you’re measuring is meaningful.

If someone in your organization is complaining about high turnover and reducing it isn’t a goal or outcome, what’s the proper response? The proper response is finding out what the real issue actually is:

  1. Our labor costs are too high. How are we investing labor dollars? Why can’t we do a better job of doing that?
  2. Our recruiters are spending too much time on replacements. Is there a resource allocation issue or are we short on recruiters?
  3. We’re losing people after 6/12/18 mos. What are we doing in our hiring process that sucks so bad?
  4. A top performer left. Yeah, his boss was an asshole. Maybe we should get rid of him?
  5. Our culture needs to be changed. Guess what? Culture change will cause massive turnover too.
  6. We aren’t performing well as a company. And you found a metric that may or may not have to do with that? Really?
  7. The company isn’t well managed. Trying to blame general management issues on turnover is like blaming In-N-Out for your gut.

Turnover is a symptom like body aches. Body aches can be really bad when you’re sick because it can indicate the flu but body aches can be fine if you’re getting back in shape. Should you keep track of turnover? Sure, and if you can, get as granular as you can (who is leaving and why?). Does reducing turnover take precedent over increasing profit, value, and company performance or reducing costs, administrative burden and culture issues? No, never. And don’t forget that.