As the year turns, resolve to fix up your HR technology. Image: Shutterstock

Thursday 18th December 2014

Screen resolutions

Gareth Jones on the tech basics everyone needs to sort out in 2015

Forget predictions. Here’s your 2015 must-do technology fix list.

A commentator’s year isn’t complete until they end it with a slew of ‘predictions’ for the coming one. However, this year I’m going to rein in the future stuff and leave you with a number of practical must-do fixes for next year. You see, it’s ok for me to shine a light on the future and try to convince you that something you have never heard of will become central to your daily life within months. But actually, what’s equally important is the need to get the basics right.

And boy, do some people need to get them right. I talk to a lot of HR/Talent/Resourcing pros from very large organisations, and it’s clear that despite such subjects as mobile being on the agenda for years, very little has been done to embrace the technology within these functions.

So, here’s my list of the things you should get sorted next year. The world is moving quickly and if you aren’t careful, you will get left behind.


Mobile has been on the New Year predictions lists for so long that it’s considered by many to be business as usual. But many organisations are still pretty awful at embracing mobile in people-facing solutions. This is especially notable in career sites and application processes, very few of which are mobile enabled. Worse, there are still some of you who consider a mobile optimised career site and application process merely a ‘nice to have’.

One large household name recently adopted online applicant screening, which would have been great if they’d picked a solution that was mobile compatible. Given that these guys are large, have high volumes of applicants (over 100,000 per annum) and the primary device of their target audience is the mobile, this is unforgivable.

And so was their answer to me when I questioned this strategy. I quote, “Well, mobile isn’t everything.” The icing on this cake of all mistakes? They are a tech business. Yes, I know. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

There really isn’t any excuse for any large organisation out there not to have a mobile enabled career site and application process. Period.

Career site

It’s your shop window. As a retailer, would you fill your store window full of crap? Would you hide your best and latest products under random bits of cardboard or present them on wonky shelves?

Merchandising products and services appropriately is essential to customer acquisition. Likewise, merchandising organisation and career opportunities appropriately is essential to talent acquisition. Not that you’d know it from looking at the average career site of the FTSE 100. Most are a hotchpotch of text-heavy pages and stock imagery, with the odd video from the CEO thrown in for good measure. These sites are where expectations go to die.

Web technology has matured. What cost a fortune yesterday can now cost a lot, lot less. Good functionality and a good (not even great) user experience are easy to achieve these days. So fielding something tiresome, outdated and unengaging says that as an employer you are lazy or you don’t care. Or both.

Application process

I recently talked to an organisation that had 26 steps in their application process. Yes, twenty-six. What are they thinking? Imagine if there were 26 steps between selecting a product and the checkout in your online store. You’d have a distinct shortage of customers. And it really is no different in resourcing: I hear people moaning all the time about the lack of quality in their talent pipeline and this is one of the key reasons why.

I grant you that as a large business you are at the mercy of your Applicant Tracking System ATS (see here) and there’s not a lot you can do about its woeful user experience – but you can control the length of the process.

If nothing else, do yourself a favour and take a machete to it. If you are going to subject your audience to a poor process then at least make it as short as possible. You really don’t need all those individual steps or to gather all those data points. No, you really don’t.

Applicant screening

Psychometric assessments have been used in recruitment, particularly for shortlisted candidates, for years. Screening at applicant stage is less common. There are a number of reasons for this, cost being one of them. The vast majority of applicant screening solutions are charged on a ‘per applicant’ basis which makes them very expensive for organisations with large applicant volumes.

Add to this the fact that many of these assessment solutions are ‘generic’ i.e. built around industry or functional norms ­– not specifically for your business or role – and it’s not a surprise to see that adoption and satisfaction levels are low.

But things have changed. A small but growing number of assessment providers are able to bespoke assessments specifically to the factors that matter to your organisation and roles. And they offer alternative, ‘all you can eat’ licence-based pricing models too.

The real bottom line, though, is that if you have high applicant volumes and no robust online applicant screening process in place, then you are most certainly both wasting money and missing talent. It is not possible to accurately screen 5,000 or 10,000 applications per month either manually or even using keyword search technology. Skills and experience are the least reliable predictor of performance so relying on this kind of technology won’t help.

You should make it a priority to embed tailored applicant screening into your resourcing process. And don’t worry about the cost – it’s an investment. Any good quality provider should be able to build a solid business case for you with an ROI of 12 months or less. If they can’t, find someone who can.

What great looks like

Yes I know, this isn’t about technology per se. But your people technology, whether resourcing or development focused, needs to be powered by more than someone’s subjective view about what an ideal person looks like.

I’m still constantly amazed by how many large organisations have no solid measure of what good looks like for a given role. This is the ultimate crime. And no, having a job description and a person spec littered with “Ideally 10+ years experience in xxxx role/function” does not count. Yet this is pretty much all that supports the talent acquisition framework in probably 8 out of 10 organisations.

To get an accurate picture of what success looks like, you need to profile the role properly. Use assessments that give you a rounded picture of someone from a behavioural, motivation, values and intellect perspective. Anything short of this and you dramatically increase the risk of making a bad hire.

About the author

Gareth Jones

Gareth is Partner and Chief Solutions Architect at The Chemistry Group. A corporate freedom fighter with low conformity issues, his passions are people, technology and the future of work. You can find more opinions from Gareth on corporate life in general at