Recruiting stupidity

Sometimes we get an unexpected lens on the profession. Too often we look from our own position of knowledge and insight and not often enough do we put ourselves in the shoes of a user, whether as an employee or candidate. We talk about “candidate experience” and the role of technology in providing this and  we applaud ourselves on the implementation of systems that improve our speed to hire.

And then we have the chance to look at it from the position of the candidate.

I had this opportunity to do this recently as my daughter applied for Christmas temporary roles with some of the biggest brands on the high street. And I’m here to tell you that your approach well and truly sucks.

Hold in your mind that we are talking about temporary roles here. Maybe four or five weeks. We are talking part time, low paid, customer service roles. We are generally talking about roles that get little training or direction and that are insecure and  disposable.

Which of course is why you need to have an application process that takes on average an hour per role, that includes psychometric testing and situational judgment tests and that results in a standard email telling you that someone will contact you. Which they never do.

Could it be that she just has bad luck? Maybe. But when I talk to her friends they all have experienced the same treatment. And two years ago I had the same experience with my son, resulting in this brilliant message exchange (it was January).

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So of course, your brand just looks a bit stupid and a bit out of touch. When you’re 16, 17, 18 you don’t understand why companies use such laborious and clunky approaches and particularly not as part of an exchange that doesn’t feel fair. You want me to complete all these hoops and hurdles for a minimum wage job with a life expectancy of weeks? No thank you very much.

So yes, it might make life easier for your resourcing teams, but frankly it makes you look stupid. Many years ago I was responsible for recruiting 20,000 Christmas temps for a UK wide high street brand. We put posters up in store asking candidates to speak to the manager inside – ridiculously old school, but funnily, that always seemed to work. And the candidate ALWAYS got to speak to a human being.

Now that’s candidate experience.

 

 

 

 

What do we do?

If you listened to a lot of the stuff and nonsense that is written and spoken about HR you’d think we were all engaged in hand to hand ninja fighting with machines, whilst repeating the mantra, “the future of work is human” and promising a tomorrow characterised by self actualised, engagement and bliss.

I don’t know about you, but that is far from the existence I see in most organisations. Far from the work that I see most people do.

First and foremost, before anything else, we make sure the trains run on time. We get people paid, we make sure laws aren’t broken. We handle the enrolment in to benefits that you never know you need – until you really need them.

We make work places safe, ensuring people have a place to go if they feel that they’re being badly treated, informing and educating towards a workplace that has dignity and respect at its heart.

We handle things when the go wrong. Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it is a manager’s or an employee’s fault. Sometimes, it is just one of those things. We are there to resolve, rectify and recover from situations that no-one would wish for in the first place.

We find and grow the skills that are necessary to move our organisations forward. Whether that’s hiring, developing or nurturing – making sure that we are able to be successful today and tomorrow. Running programmes, schemes, campaigns to develop the skill base of the organisation.

We support people at their best and at their worst. We deal with the extremes of workplace experience, from the promotions, job offers, bonuses or pay rises to the redundancies, dismissals, deaths and emotional crises. We own messages which most would find difficult and own them well.

We guide, advise, counsel and coach. We help others to find the solutions, identify the outcomes and develop the conclusions that make their work better. We stand shoulder to shoulder with leaders as they go through organisational transitions and changes.

We take the blame. Someone has to and we are more than used to handling it. Not everything will go right at work, not everyone can always be happy. Sometimes people just need someone to point a finger at. And that’s ok.

Sure, we do a whole lot more as well. But funnily enough, not a single robot slain.

Our technology is making us dumb

Stand on any street corner and watch people going about their business and you’ll see a curious sight, so many people looking down. Locked in to their personal experience with technology. There was a time when it used to frustrate and annoy me as I made my way to work; the people stopping, walking aimlessly, unaware of their surroundings.

But now, more than ever, it not only annoys, it fundamentally scares me.

Technology was supposed to be the great emancipator, the leveller, it was supposed to open the doors to new horizons and new opportunities. But the reality is not one of bright new dawns, but closing doors. We are narrowing our experiences and polarising our attitudes at a time when we need to be more thoughtful, more explorative, more inclusive than ever.

Our social networks through their definition are based on people “like us”, we share news and comment that we agree with, with people that agree with us. Anyone who wants anything to the contrary can be muted, unfollowed, exiled in from our social existence. The opinions reinforcing our views and the assurance that “we” are “right”.

We “choose” our media, the things that we watch, listen to, read from an increasingly reduced selection of “things we might like”. Losing the ability to have the serendipitous discovery, the accidental opportunity. Instead allowing algorithms to serve up our future, based on what we once consumed, reducing our experience to predictable similarity.

And we close ourselves off from the world, plugging our ears with preselected sound, looking down to view limited content, basing our existence on the screen, not the world. We eschew the chance conversation, the momentary eye contact and smile, the haphazard interaction. We close off the sounds of life, anaesthetising ourselves from reality.

In a world that feels increasingly polarised, where the signs of social isolation and abandonment are becoming central drivers of our political and economic existence. In a world where we talk about the need to be more inclusive, more open, more tolerant and understanding. We are instead shutting ourselves away in closed systems of ignorance.

It would be asking too much to change, to reverse and renew. But perhaps if we were all a little more aware of our choice to have no choice, of our willingness to give away freedom, then we could recognise the limitations of our existence and challenge ourselves to step outside more. To break out of our circles of similarity, to experience difference and to venture more in to the unknown.

The HR Tech bubble is ready to burst

I’ve just come back from the HR Technology Conference and Expo in Chicago. It was a brilliantly organised and put together conference, pulling a range of suppliers and practitioners from all over the globe, the big, the small and the start-up. I was particularly keen to go as a long-standing champion of good HR technology. We’ve been lucky to partner with people like HireVue, Crowdoscope and Thompsons to deliver exciting solutions and I wanted to figure out what was next.

Everywhere I went there was talking of the disruptive influence of technology in HR, with people writing and commenting on the power that this is having on the profession. I was curious to understand exactly what this might be. Sadly, after spending three days looking for it, I came away empty-handed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of good technology platforms out there (I particularly like CareerBuilder, HROnboard & CultureAmp amongst others), but I struggled to find anything I’d call disruptive. The vast majority are in the talent acquisition space where, as far as I can see, the aim has always been to find, select and hire a person. They help, support, systemise and facilitate this process, but I’m not entirely sure that falls into disruption.

Then there are the HRIS suppliers and we know disrupting paying people is only going to end in a world of pain. A group of platforms which term themselves “engagement” – which means anything from recognition, through communication to wellbeing. And finally analytics solutions – the new holy grail.

That’s all well and good. But disruptive? No.

The biggest disconnect I saw was between the problems practitioners need help with and the solutions being offered by the tech providers. One offering particularly stuck out for me, a service called InvestiPro, helping standardise and systemise the HR investigation process – something that would have been amazing during my time in retail, but also answered a real challenge that practitioners face.

Far too often, however, I was being told about a problem I needed to solve that I never realised I had. Maybe I’m just dumb and haven’t realised the multiple challenges yet to face me – or maybe they just don’t exist. In the same way we are constantly told we need to be fitter, healthier and more beautiful, the HR tech industry is trying to tell us that buying their own special serum will help solve all our HR woes.

There seems to be a huge amount of money and investment washing around the HR tech market, probably too much. The result is an over-supply of similar products, relying on brand to differentiate and a dearth of creative, innovative solutions that genuinely add value to employees, line managers or practitioners. Investors aren’t stupid, or known for their patience or sentimentality. On that basis, it can only be a matter of time before this particular bubble bursts.

And THAT will probably be the most disruptive thing to happen in HR Tech.