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Making Recruiting and Retention Work

Special Advertisement: How can HR find the best job candidates despite an uncertain economy? How can it keep the best employees? Workforce asked industry leaders to discuss powerful strategies you can use right now.

October 17, 2001
Related Topics: Retention
How can HR find and hire the best people despite an uncertain economy? How can HR keep a company's best human assets?Workforce asked industry leaders, and here they discuss powerful strategies you can use -- right now.

ThomasJ. Ferrara
CareerEngine, Inc.
Ferrarahas been responsible for business development, strategic partnerships, andthe over-all growth of CareerEngine, Inc. Prior to joining CareerEngine,Ferrara served as executive vice president at Remote Lojix, New York, aninformation technology company.
Founder,president and CEO -
Bernard Hodes Group
Hodesfounded Bernard Hodes Group in 1970, and continues to lead the agency asits president and CEO. He began his career as an account executive, andhas more than 40 years of industry experience. He is the author of Principlesand Practices of Recruitment Advertising (Lifetime Books/1982)
Co-founderand chief executive officer -
RecruitUSA, Inc.
Rameris a 27-year veteran of the recruitment industry and a pioneer in onlinerecruiting. RecruitUSA, Inc. is a Minneapolis-based Web RecruitingGateway™.
 LewisH. Stanton
President,CEO and Chairman -
Personic, Inc.
Headquarteredin Brisbane, California, Personic, Inc. is the leading global provider ofrecruiting software and services. Personic has more than 650 customers and50,000 users worldwide, and recently entered into a global marketingalliance with Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting).
Presidentand CEO -
Warrenspent more than 22 years in recruiting and human resource management withRockwell International and General Foods Corporation before founding thefirst Internet employment site, Online Career Center (OCC).
VP,Human Resources and Administration -
AsVice President of Human Resources and Administration, Jeff Yehle isresponsible for the Administration and Human Resources functions on a global basis. Prior to joining in 1998, Yehlewas the Director of Administration at Fisher Scientific International.
Given the roller-coaster economic climate of the past year, how willHR need to change its approach in the way it recruits and retains employeesin the coming months?

Jeff Yehle: Staffing needs to move through the interview-and-offerprocess quickly and thoroughly. Corporations no longer have the luxury ofcomparing and contrasting numerous candidates ad infinitum only to concludethat the first candidate they saw was the best hire. Staffing also needsto be pro-active in seeking the passive job seeker by identifying creativeways to source candidates. Regarding retention, corporations must striveto be the employer of choice by creating a positive environment, offeringchallenging assignments that foster continued personal growth.

Thomas J. Ferrara: The volatile job market demands that HR executivesbe more aggressive in finding and retaining employees. The lure of stockoptions has dwindled dramatically with the wave of failed dot-com ventures.Today, effective strategies for recruiting and retention include large referralbonuses and milestone bonuses, which are given out every few years of continuousemployment. Recruiters should also store résumés in a searchabledatabase for the long haul, rather than toss résumés afterthe standard three to six months.

What methods should HR employ to evaluate return on investment of recruitmentproducts and services?

Don Ramer: The obvious answer is the number of leads that can turninto hires, but you also should consider various "hidden costs"that a good recruitment tool can eliminate. Considering it can cost up to$10,000 to locate, hire, and train an employee, determine how efficientyour tool is. Do you have to spend hours completing administrative tasks?How much sweat equity do you have to invest in the system to get what youneed?

Jeff Yehle: Simple cost-per-hire analysis fails to incorporate thevarious contributions different employees make to the overall success ofthe organization. Employee effectiveness must be factored into any truecost-per-hire analysis. Further consideration must be paid to both the residualeffects of recruitment campaigns and the cost of marketing in building companybranding.

Bill Warren: The old days of establishing success based on tick-markson a white board or even on gut feeling are gone. There are numerous resourcesthat make up the recruiting process, and the right human-capital managementsystem will allow you to measure both your internal and external resources.The ability to report metrics on the number of hires you make from variousmedia, along with how efficient your recruiters are, will allow you to makebetter use of your resources.

Thomas J. Ferrara: The return-on-investment evaluation should beflexible. HR managers should seek the following benefits to help gauge results:

  • Efficiency and effectiveness

  • Time saved to identify, recruit, and manage candidate flow

  • Screening: selectively reducing the crops before you bring them tothe warehouse

  • Branding: leveraging your recruitment products to further market yourcompany as an ideal place to work

The Internet has radically changed the way in which employers attractviable candidates. What should HR keep in mind as it utilizes this excitingmedium?

Bernard Hodes: The important thing to keep in mind is that the Internetis a tool, and while it's a tool that good recruiters should have in theirtoolboxes, it should complement and support traditional recruiting methods.A smart career site is important, but without a well-thought-out, integratedmedia plan coupled with compelling employer-branded communications drivingpotential candidates to the site, its value will go unrealized.

Jeff Yehle: The Internet is an important tool and has greatly expandedthe applicant pool. However, the Internet has also made the employment picturemore competitive. All recruiters now have access to the same résumédatabases. This intensifies the competition for those candidates. The truelesson HR needs to learn about the Internet is that although recruitersnow have access to millions of résumés, the candidates inturn have access to thousands of opportunities-which is why the Internettruly empowers the employee, not the employer.

Don Ramer: The key is finding the right combination of nationalsites, career hubs, and local services to post and search. For example,many companies put all their online recruiting eggs into IT job-site baskets,and leave their accounting and finance openings to the local classifieds.However, you'd have a greater chance of finding qualified candidates onfinance sites, because fewer of your competitors are using the finance careersites available to them.

Bill Warren: What companies need now is a solution that will providerecruiters and hiring managers with Internet-based desktop tools that allowcorporate-wide and inter-organizational collaboration, process automation,and data mining and analysis. This includes moving Internet recruiting fromits current "media" model, into a "career" network model,which provides a complete solution for attracting, recruiting, and hiringcandidates; automating, managing, and monitoring the process; and also providinga link to external service providers.

Thomas J. Ferrara: HR can leverage the Web to provide consistentand long-term employer branding, to highlight the desirable attributes ofworking for one's firm. Executives should also use technology to warehousequality résumés of candidates who expressed interest in workingfor the company. The goal is to let your corporate career site do as muchwork for you as possible. For instance, have your site ask candidates questionsthat a recruiter would ask a candidate on an initial phone call. Such measureswill reduce the time spent by your in-house recruiters.

Lewis H. Stanton: Properly utilized, the Internet offers a powerfulcompetitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent. Start with yourown Web site. Does it make the right first impression on candidates? Doyou establish a dialogue with them? Next, how will you manage the delugeof information the Internet produces? How fast can you process and evaluaterésumés? At Internet speed and volume, an automated work flowand real-time communication among all parties to the hiring process arenecessary for your business to maximize use of the Internet.

How, and to what extent, can the integration of a "recruitment-managementsystem" address HR's fundamental needs in today's competitive hiringenvironment?

Bill Warren: The convergence of the talent shortage, the changingattitude of the American worker, and the highly competitive and knowledge-intensivenature of the global business environment has recast the traditional employer-employeepower structure and forced corporations of all sizes to realize that, ifthey want to remain competitive, they must focus on attracting, cateringto, and making the most of top-notch talent. In essence, they must makehuman- capital management a top-tier strategic priority.

Bernard Hodes: A recruitment-management system can bring candidatestogether with companies in an environment where skills and experience canbe quickly assessed and job offers can be extended and accepted more efficientlythan ever before. A superior system can also provide a series of reportsto help define needs and measure productivity. However, a recruitment-managementsystem addresses just a fraction of an HR professional's daily activitiesand should complement and enforce best practices currently used by the companyand those recognized widely in the HR industry.

Lewis H. Stanton: A fast, powerful system will help you cast a widernet and reach the best candidates more quickly. It also needs to improveyour department's overall business processes and interaction with otherdepartments. It should integrate smoothly with your other enterprise systemsat both ends, from creating job requisitions to processing new hires. Ifyou offer self-service interfaces where candidates and employees can createand update profiles and apply for new positions, you've taken an importantfirst step toward improving retention.

What are some of the potential pitfalls or dangers to avoid when implementinga recruitment-management system?

Bill Warren: Flexibility of your HRMS provider is essential. Donot settle for a provider that will not allow you to customize the softwareto meet your unique needs. You also do not want to partner with a companythat cannot offer scalability, reliability, integration, and customer support,24/7.

Lewis H. Stanton: Migrating to automated systems represents a changein your business processes. How will you manage that change? Users havedifferent comfort and skill levels with any browser-based product, and usersdetermine your success. Be sure to allocate ample time for installation,training, and implementation, particularly data and systems integration.You're not just buying software, you're buying a business solution. Vendorexperience is critical. Ask hard questions about vendor implementation andsupport, and if the answers leave you uncomfortable, move on.

Bernard Hodes: One pitfall is not focusing enough time on its easeof use. Ask yourself, "Will my recruiters use this? How much time willit take them to accomplish what they need to do? Does this system make iteasier for candidates to enter our hiring process? Will this system encourageour hiring managers to work within our defined processes? Will lack of integrationor a cumbersome process frustrate recruiters?" A recruitment-managementsystem will fail if it is not used.

Don Ramer: Avoid buying a system that doesn't provide ROI. Companiesmust look under the hood before they purchase the system or else they couldfind themselves with a tool that doesn't provide deep services or get themin front of enough qualified candidates to justify the cost. Also, avoidbuying a system you can't use. Ask yourself (not your vendor): "Isit simply too complicated for our team to manage? Will it integrate withour current résumé-management system?"

What specific questions should HR ask of online recruitment vendors duringits research and evaluation process?

Don Ramer: "Can you guarantee me that once we close this deal,you'll help train me and maximize the services you offer? Prove to me thesoftware services are viable. Demonstrate how the ones you offer are morevaluable than the ones I currently use. Will you make my life easier? Idon't have time to talk on the phone with eight job boards everyday. Willyou manage this process for me and do it effectively?"

Bernard Hodes: One of the best questions to ask vendors is how longthey have been around and what kind of backing they have to support futureoperations and growth. An investment in a recruitment management systemis one that should serve the company for years. That service includes technologyimprovements and feature enhancements as the Internet recruiting marketmatures. More important, how committed is this vendor to customer service?

Thomas J. Ferrara: It is good to ask for a current customer listand look for companies that achieved a solution similar to the one you areseeking. Make an effort to research the history of the vendor and determineits future prospects. Avoid a pro-vider that has had a troubled past orhas limited growth potential. Also request information on contingency planning,i.e., a back-up plan if the potential vendor goes out of business, or ifit is an ASP, will you get a copy of the code?

Lewis H. Stanton: Start with HR-XML compliance. Can the vendorshandle all required B2B transactions? Are they compatible with your existingand future HRMS systems? Are they a true end-to-end solution or a pointsolution? Are they powerful enough to handle future demand? Can hiring managers,recruiters, candidates, and staffing partners communicate in real time?What's the vendor plan for implementation and integration? How good aretheir training and tech support? Above all, do your own due diligence withtheir customers, not just the references they provide.

How can contingent staffing solutions be utilized to alleviate some pressurescaused by the immediacy of personnel needs or a consistently high demand ina tight labor market?

Jeff Yehle: If life is like a box of chocolates, hiring is likea puzzle. Without all the pieces, the puzzle is never completed. Contingencysearch is a part of that puzzle; it should be the smallest piece, but allpieces are essential to complete the picture.

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