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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

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Lower Common Denominator
(January 26, 2001) We keep harping on Sumser's Law: For every doubling of Internet population, the experience level of the average user is halved. This is no small phenomenon. As we watch new users join the Online Recruiting frenzy, we see some troubling things.

Recently, we watched a focus group of new Recruiters tackle a series of online job boards. (Focus groups are all the rage in front end design these days even though they don't seem to add all that much to the process.) There were about a dozen Recruiters who had been brought together to test various aspects of a new Recruiting interface. The company tried to balance the group by providing 6 Recruiters of varying ages who had no web experience with another 6 who had varying degrees of web experience. The results were comical.

One of the options in the new interface asked Recruiters to hold down the "CTRL" key while clicking a mouse. Two of the dozen (one in the "experienced" group) held down the C, T, R, and L keys (instead of the "control" key). Besides the silly hand contortions (try to hold all 4 and click your mouse), a more serious point emerged.

As we get more sophisticated in our web usage, we tend to take a lot of the little things for granted. Many new users have not climbed the learning curve along with us. The other side of Sumser's law is "As the median experience of a new user declines, your relative level of experience grows exponentially." It is critical that you learn to account for the fact that each day you gain additional experience that increasingly distances you from the average user.

- John Sumser, © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Cool Tools 2

(January 25, 2001) As fast as you can figure it out, the game changes. As we moved through the process of completing the 2001 Electronic Recruiting Index, we stumbled on a huge number of web resources that are useful for recruiters. Here are the second ten in our series

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Cool Tools 1

(January 24, 2001) As fast as you can figure it out, the game changes. As we moved through the process of completing the 2001 Electronic Recruiting Index, we stumbled on a huge number of web resources that are useful for recruiters. While we just might return to some of these offerings for a deeper look, we thought you'd be interested in the tools we're uncovering.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

The Fun Police

(January 23, 2001) Retention is what you call it when you recruit the people who already work for you. In these fitful times, a wide array of approaches to the question, all assuming that attrition is a very bad thing, are grabbing the headlines. We wonder about most of the solutions we hear about and laugh heartily at a lot of them.

As far as we can tell, the search for the perfect, ready made employee who is both eternally loyal and passionately committed is as at least as old as the discipline of management. The problem may have biblical roots. We imagine Adam muttering to Eve, "Why can't all of the workers be like Abel?".

The problem, restated, might be that all managers have been frustrated by the ins and outs of staffing for as long as there have been managers. For the most part, we see responses to those frustrations and little in the way of hard thinking about the problem. It is not clear that attrition is a bad thing. It is not clear that the "best and brightest" are the right people to use as the foundation of an enterprise. Certainly, it feels like life would be easier if we had "more people like him". Unfortunately, like many frustrations, this fundamental instinct may be wrong.

It turns out that there is an inverse correlation between tenure and Grade Point Average. That means that the higher the GPA, the shorter the tenure and vice versa. In other words, over time all organizations tend to be staffed by the middle ground players. The "best and brightest" move quickly, "more people like her" can only be had if you are willing to tolerate an increasing attrition rate. Low attrition rates imply higher, not lower, levels of frustration with "people quality".

The whole arena is counterintuitive. Aggressive competition for the best and brightest creates a market with faster shifts at the top level while the enduring players are cheated of respect, opportunity and training. But, who wants to be the sponsor of initiatives to retain and improve the average workers? It is simply not as sexy as playing to the frustrations and selling the cream of the crop. Managing the median worker requires corporate responsibility for training and education. Building an enduring organization is an investment equation with long terms results.

. With this backdrop in mind, we turn our attention to DWL, Inc., a privately held Toronto based customer-relationship management company that is wrestling with the retention problem. Since its founding in 1996, the company has offered each employee $1,000 per year to do "something fun". A committee is convened to determine who had the most fun. A $5,000 prize is awarded to the employee who had the most fun.

The process is managed through email by the "Director of Fun" who rejects about 10% of initial applications because they are not "fun enough". The project has nearly 100% participation and the company claims a retention rate of 98%.

We wonder if 98% retention is healthy, if being subject to the "Fun Police" isn't counterproductive in the long haul and whether or not this approach really builds an organization.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Gateways II
(January 22, 2001) The job posting and distribution business is bigger than we described in last week's article. A variety of other firms, most notably Vault.com and the Recruiter's Online Network offer an array of supplemental services that distribute jobs around the web. The difference between the various "gateways" appears in two dimensions:
  1. The degree to which choice (targeting) is available, and
  2. The degree to which the Gateway company wants to act as an advertising agency
The carpet bombing approach (number 1) distributes jobs around the web in order to supplement the results provided by a service. Refined to a science by Net-Temps, the approach capitalizes on the fact that there are a huge number of "free posting" sites around the web that can contribute some results. The more targeted version, practiced by IIRC, eQuest, DBK and RON (to name a few) make some attempt to match the "right" job board with the right posting, theoretically improving results. The others take hybrid approaches.

Many of the major job boards (Headhunter, CareerBuilder, CareerEngine, Monster, Vault.com) can funnel postings through internal networks. These networks allow targeting to specific properties. In some cases, the job board directly owns the properties (Monster); in many cases, the networks consist of licensed users of the core technology (Career Builder, Career Engine); and in others, the Job Board provides access.

The inherent flaw in this approach is the degree to which choice (and effectiveness) is limited by the parent company being in the business. As we've mentioned elsewhere, objectivity is singularly important in the media planning and acquisition component of a Recruitment advertising campaign.

The bewildered customer is left with an amazing array of choice and little in the way of guidance.

We suggest the following approach:

Use of a gateway should be governed, ultimately, by the results it produces. All of the fancy talk aside, the simple question is "do my results improve as a result of using one company's services instead of another's?" With the number of competitors rapidly growing towards 50, the customer's ability to comparison shop is virtually non-existent. So, the first line of defense is to rely on Customer Service as an analog for effectiveness:

Does the company listen when you have a problem? Is there a single point of contact for support and issue resolution? Does the damn thing work?

All customers don't have to choose this way, however. Some are just hunting for someone to help spend their budget and, some of the gateways are good at this (we suggest you stay away, but that's another story). Some are in rich formative phases and being an early customer will pay handsome dividends.

It's a complex arena and the ability to generate results is already in decline. Anecdotal evidence suggests that job postings, in general, are only 20% as effective as they were two years ago. So, our most important suggestion is that you stick with a company who is committed to your success, not their internal process. It's very clear that the gateway companies will be the generators of results over time. To the extent that they don't push their own publications and focus on customer satisfaction, they're building a winning culture.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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