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Alternatives to Bigness
(May 9, 1997): A couple of readers have written asking for a "not quite so radical" solution to the troubles with bigness. (Earlier this week, we suggested that branch offices be required to implement their own web strategies). Unfortunately, most of the possible alternatives are every bit as expensive as deploying a full court press through your subsidiary organizations.
The web is about decentralization and breadth. It requires a focus which leaves generalist companies gasping for a gimmick. It requires a clear identification of target customers and candidates. It's a fantastic training ground for the future of recruiting.
Although today's environment produces a surplus of resumes / candidates for any individual recruiter who puts in a little bit of effort, the times are changing. Current unemployment figures don't include forecasts, the demographics have shifted. We're five years into a generation of labor shortages. For the next 20 or so years, the business of finding qualified candidates will become increasingly difficult and expensive. In contingency firms, the workday is already increasing. In non-contingent operations, margins are tightening.
Even more than making your site easy to navigate, proactive searching, using the web as a tool, is going to become the norm. It may well be that the real reason behind forcing the branches to develop a website is to hurry them up the learning curve. Once a candidate is identified in even the most cursory ways, you want to pull them back to your supple and friendly website.
To the extent that these skills are centralized at headquarters, the ultimate recruiting learning curve will become a turf battle. The web is not something you can finesse to one side of the organization. The verdict is in and the web will be a part of every recruiter's desktop.
For our readers who asked for a alternative, we'd suggest that it begins with a question. What is the fastest way to get each of the recruiters in your organization up the learning curve? There's a major competitive advantage to b had by firms who build their web policies around this question.
(May 8, 1997): A database is like a black hole. Black holes are those stars that have become so massive that their own light can't get out. Black holes suck matter from the universe around them into their cores.
It's easy to get lots of information into a database. But, just like a black hole, it's very difficult to get things out.
In the short run, this means that the importance of designing your database for usability increases in proportion to the size of the database itself. As the number of users and customers increases, the simpler and broader your interface needs to be. You want to keep the information in the database accessible. We'd suggest that the standard is that any piece of data be easily and intuitively available within two intuitive "clicks" from the start point.
Websites share this characteristic with databases. Take our archives for instance. While we struggle with the time and money required to make our archives more easily read, the quantity of interesting material increases every business day. There's a user saturation point beyond which data simply goes in to the archives without ever coming out. It's not that each piece of material isn't interesting, it's that it's hard to get to.
Similarly, customer bases for online employment services seem to have a saturation point beyond which usability is an issue. As you go through the process of choosing and evaluating the various available services, you must ask the question.."Is this service too big?"
(May 7, 1997): Bigness works against you on the web. The sorts of chest puffing and macho posturing that characterize corporate collateral material simply falls flat. Think about it. The web is a tool for communication between individuals and small groups. The same dynamics that make it a great recruiting tool make it a miserable environment for large companies.
After our (admittedly fun) review of CDI's website in yesterday's article, we faced a tough question. How would you do it differently? While there are plenty of reasonable answers, let us offer a revolutionary notion.
The reason that the CDI site is such a mess is a basic big company mindset. Headquarters is responsible for consolidating and representing. Policy, a nearly useless tool on the net, is set and managed in the center. When it comes time to move to the Net, the headquarters function operates like it always does. Think Dilbert.
What if a company of CDI's stature began with the premise that the branches could be trusted? Radical. Dictate this policy....all branches will have a web presence within the next calendar year. Branch managers will be measured on their effectiveness as net recruiters. Headquarters supplies resources but the decisions will be local. Performance is the only thing that will be managed.
Imagine the scene...a policy meeting, off site, to decide whether or not to implement this policy. "It will be chaos" says the CFO, "How can we manage it?"
This is the dilemma facing corporate America in industries well beyond staffing. Results that can be generated at the bottom are stifled by the top's desire to be in charge. We say, "Let a thousand websites bloom." There's little question that hundreds of corporate site, reflecting the needs and ambitions of the branches, would generate more results and significantly more traffic. Let headquarters provide the back room stuff, but free the recruiters and help them do their jobs.
Get Yer Fresh Piping Hot Sarcasm
(May 6, 1997): Graphics should only be used when they add value. Otherwise, your company's message will be incomprehensible. Take CDI for instance.
After a finger tapping wait for 130K of graphic material, the user is presented with the following images:
In the interest of fairness, we tried to evaluate the company's job search tools. The area is organized by offices and territories. So, if you know where a CDI office is, it's reasonably easy to scroll through their list of cities to find jobs that might be interesting. Unfortunately, we've never met anyone outside of CDI who can decipher their arcane regional clumping strategy. So, if a candidate waits for the strange graphics and then visits the job areas, he is sure to never return. That's sort of the opposite of what you want a company website to accomplish.
Acquisitions are the way of the world these days and CDI is the owner of Management Recruiters International. Funny thing is that even though they talk about MRI as a part of the company, no MRI jobs or offices appear to be listed. It's a telling detail, we think.
Bottom line, the site probably cost a pretty penny and is a public relations nightmare (we didn't mention the fact that a press release describing the new CEO is linked on the front page. Everyone is interested in that story.) We're certain that there's rebellion in the branches as CDI regionals are forced to post jobs to a site that scares job hunters away. We wonder how much of a revenue hit is required before the company recognizes its folly.
Take a very close look at the CDI website and then do the opposite. You'll be closer to effective recruiting.
(May 5, 1997): The numbers are bizarre. Very conservatively estimated, the number of available jobs that have no available candidates will be in the 20 Million range by the year 2010. Already today, there are widespread shortages in Information Technology arenas. The upcoming "Year 2000" problem (Y2K) requires 15 billion dollars in labor hours just to repair the critical components over the next 30 months. The candidates are simply not to be found.
Given the Web's propensity for individual transactions and its intense market orientation, we expect to see the visible use of labor auctions in the very immediate future. As a method for rapidly moving the labor force to critical priorities, auctions are, in theory, the most efficient way to optimize the needs of both sides of the equation and get projects moving. Don't be surprised if you're following the "skills futures market" in the not too distant future. It's already easy to implement from a technical perspective.
Make no mistake about it, the Y2K problem is so significant that it will drive a broad range of new approaches into the market. With checkbooks wide open, the large companies who hold the largest liability risk are going to do "whatever it takes" to get their hands on qualified help. We've already heard of a number of contract candidates who were placed on Monday at $125/hr and could have been placed on Tuesday for $135/hr. As pricing and competition escalates, the only way to make the placements work will be to ensure that each placed candidate has gained the maximum wage available at the time of the market. The first company to effectively execute auction placements will gain a major competitive advantage in this rapidly blooming market
Advanced Internet Recruiting Seminars
(March 28, 1997): We're delivering Seminars around the country in April and May. The schedule is:
Click here to learn more about the seminars and register online. Class size is limited to 25 per seminar. The seminars run from 9:00AM to 4:30PM. Clicking on the city will take you to information and directions to the hotel.
1997 Electronic Recruiting Index
(February 23, 1997): The 1997 Electronic Recruiting Index is a combination industry analysis, directory and hands-on guide for Navigating the transition into maturity as an Internet Recruiter. It includes:
The past 16 months of the Electronic Recruiting News
The past 16 months of the Electronic Recruiting News
Besides our industry analyses and newsletters, we help recruiters integrate this new technology into their operations. We've added a detailed description of IBN to the website. We'd love to help you.
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