It's a matter of whether we're talking about IT enhancing productivity or competition. The telephone has made us able to get more done in a day. Has the phone continued to radically affect the competitive balance among companies? No. That's Nick's point. Some kinds of IT fall into that category. For example, e-mail. We all have it; we all use it. But it's not competition-changing, so overinvesting in it is not a great idea. The bases of competition revolve around other things.
[But] there are industries where technologies are fundamentally important. Dell has an IT business-process automation infrastructure that really works. If you don't have one of those, do you have a hope of competing in that industry? And even if you want to put one of those in place, there will be a really big difference in how successful you are vs. another company, because it's tough organizational change in a technology wrapper. We're not equally good at doing it. If we find ourselves competing in an industry where these kinds of systems are important, then IT matters like crazy.
Just as true for HR.
Especially true for staffing.
Everyone in your industry has automated the pernacky out of hiring workflow. The huge, strategic, promotion-worthy, sustainable competitive advantages will come from:
Better planning. An ounce of prevention. Alignment is everything. Early alignment is cheaper than fixing alignment. All poised to hire five warm and fuzzy relationship sales guys when you really need 500 ruthless telemarketers? Do you have a living, trustworthy workforce demand forecast? In small companies, five minutes with a quick and dirty spreadsheet each month can be plenty. In bigger outfits, you may need more formal updates, access to harder data, and a seat at the operations and strategy tables.
Better branding. The right messages to the right people in the right forms at the right times. If your brand messages are off just a hair, you are leaving budget on the table and polluting your candidate pipeline with misfits. How well do you know the psychological needs of your customer? Is your employment marketing communication program precision targeted? Are responses to each message measured and compared?
Better user experience. Inform, persuade, entertain, create value. What would a 10% boost in average candidate quality mean to you? How about 25%?
Your employment web site can do much better. Your career site is the first point of rich and meaningful contact. It is the proxy for your personal attention, standing in for you. Does your first impression further attract the people you need? Do job seekers feel like you're helping? Or do they perceive you and your site as a bureaucrat with a clipboard of job listings and a stack of application forms? (How would you know?) Do designs persuade people to participate at just the right level for your mutual interest? Are you getting a buzz just from meeting informed and enthusiastic interviewees? Are you measuring how well you meet your customer's needs? Do they know you care about them?
A few terms defined:
Better doesn't just mean improved. Better means Better Than Your Competition!
Job seeker, candidate, applicant. "Customer" puts you and everyone in staffing in a marketing frame of mind. Do you understand the customers you're fighting for better than others in your labor market? Are you communicating and serving those customers better than other choices?
The feelings, behavior and memories created by interacting with your web site. People have good and bad experiences. Bad experiences mean they leave, even if they are your perfect candidate. Are you creating not just good experiences, but experiences mind blowingly better than other employers?
Where should you put next HR dollar? Make your case for strategic corporate advantage. Plan and brand your career site. Make a Better Customer Experience. Every candidate touches it. Every future employee's expectations are shaped by it. You will get the best ROI by improving and aligning job seeker experience.Please write and tell me if I'm on the right track here. Thanks.