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Structure: The Perpetually Elusive Target and Social CRM in Recruiting

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In case you missed it, this week was Oracle OpenWorld 2009 (#oow2009 on twitter). According to a blog post on ZDNet by Paul Greenberg titled Oracle OpenWorld 2009 – Social CRM Technology Rears an Actual Head, social CRM was set to dominate the conversation. Turns out it was Governator Ahnold’s appearance that got the tweets flying but nonetheless, Mr. Greenberg’s blog post got me thinking. As we often times do, when it comes to CRM in recruiting, we look to our sales and marketing brethren for ideas, concepts, and innovations. In a nutshell, Greenberg’s blog post defined social CRM as micro-targeting potential customers based on their relationships to others, to products, to competitors, etc.
So how does this apply to recruiting?
There are obviously some key differences around the transactions between candidates vs. customers that make social CRM in recruiting even more challenging. In recruiting we’re trying to match people to jobs and on both sides of that transaction are complex things called people with opinions, cultures, egos, compensation, geography, friends, co-workers, families…the number of influences is endless. In sales, generally speaking, you are OK selling to anyone who wants to buy so the process and data can be far more structured – i.e. we want to know the following things about this buyer and then match those same sets of data to similar buyers to micro-target them. In recruiting you don’t have that luxury. The data is incredibly complex – it’s matching people with people – and therefore by nature very unstructured. That makes micro-targeting far more complex.

So how might we accomplish this?

Let’s take a close look at the concept of tags and how that comes into play in recruiting software. With tags on candidate records, put there by recruiters over time, you have lots of meta-data – call it your corporate user generated content or the wisdom of your crowds. And if you extend that to the candidate, and allow them to tag themselves, you now have a potentially large and valuable set of keywords to work with that could provide some very interesting guidance in micro-targeting. You can analyze the tag cloud of each record and try to pool candidates with similar clouds and market similar job opportunities to them. Alas, unstructured data matching to unstructured data. If you try to do that with fielded candidate data like many do today – location, job title, employer, salary, experience, etc. – you aren’t leveraging social aspects and are missing the target. But when I combine fielded data (after all, location still matters) with a tag cloud you can argue that I’m a hell of a lot closer to social CRM in recruiting.
The un-comfort of un-structure.

We see many recruiting organizations still stuck in this world of structure – as if recruiting were a supply chain that pumps out widgets. They want the “well-oiled machine” as if getting to some state of equilibrium is the end goal. How many times have you heard “bad data in is bad data out”? History will tell us that the problem with messy data isn’t going away anytime soon (unless we all become robots) and when you try to control it, productivity of the individual is constrained and you start seeing lots of out of system workarounds (Excel, Outlook, MS Sharepoint, ACT!, etc.) to get the job done. Or better yet, you buy new software every 3-5 years and start over because it’s all gotten so messy no one can make sense of it (and your vendor wants to just sell you the next version as if that’s going to fix all your problems). Sound familiar?
Companies of the future will embrace churn and perpetual imbalance and simply have systems like their CRM or ATS or HRMS that can adapt with it. In many ways, therein lies the value proposition of Enterprise 2.0: Systems that adapt to change in almost real-time, system changes aren’t a technical exercise and can be done by the business people, systems that embrace and deal well with un-structured data and can let structure happen organically based on user behavior, systems that allow groups of participants/users to make better decisions based on their collective knowledge of the data stored in the system.

I’ll close by saying that in the coming years, companies – and perhaps recruiting functions – will continue to move to the Hollywood model of business where the organizational view is seen as many individual projects and people (think of movies where a team is put together to make a film and then disbanded to go on to make another film). Each project is unique and has it’s own processes based around the culture, experience, and style of the team. Trying to run each project the same way would certainly kill the creativity and innovation that is essential to it’s success. In that model, we really don’t have much of choice except to let go of our top down structure, embrace a little chaos, and watch innovation flourish.

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