The Economist magazine recently contained a survey of current trends in the Human Resources (HR) field. One article, "Everybody's doing it", examined how companies organise and manage "talent". The authors explained that "[c]ompanies are also trying to give their people-managers better tools" and that "the market [for talent-management technology] will nearly double by 2009." They make it explicit that companies of all sizes are focusing more resources on attracting, retaining and managing "talent".
Why is this interesting? Well, for the past twelve months I have been contracted to produce bespoke vacancy / applicant management systems. My impression of this market (as a technologist on the inside) is that the products on offer are overly complex, difficult to use, expensive and cumbersome. Informal conversations with various HR professionals confirm this opinion.
So an opportunity presents itself: there exists a relatively large yet growing market, serviced by immature or inappropriate applications that users don't feel meet their needs.
As a result I'm going to develop a web-based candidate management system that is:
- Simple and elegant in form and function
- Easy to use and learn
- Competitively priced
- Agile and adaptable to user's requirements
The desire for simplicity and elegance should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with my development philosophy. However, it is important to understand that simplicity does not mean lacking in features. Rather, that the most useful features are easy to use and do exactly what the user expects in a well presented manner.
Simplicity also brings about ease of use and the need for little (if any) training. There is nothing worse than an unintuitive application that requires an incomprehensible manual and various training days (when users should be getting on with ‘real' work).
That companies won't have to pay for training will save money. That the application will be web-based means there won't be distribution costs. That updates and patches will be applied instantly means there won't be expensive re-deployments. That the software will be delivered as a service means customers will only pay for it when it is required.
Simplicity also leads to agility and adaptability. Most companies have very different recruitment processes – yet these all derive from two simple generic processes; the standard funnel and reverse funnel. Implementing only these processes in a flexible way means that customers build upon the application's features rather than battle against them. In other words, the system is designed so users can extend and define their own requirements for the recruitment process.
So without further ado, let me introduce…
TalentTool.com is a tool for managing talent (where "talent" represents potential candidates and the ".com" identifies it as a web-based application). The name is also the project's customer facing web-site.
TalentTool.com will organise and manage the various important pieces of information required for recruiting candidates by utilising the two most common processes for recruitment: the afore mentioned standard funnel and reverse funnel.
A specific need is identified and a vacancy is created with matching requirements. The cohort of applicants is reduced in size by a series of generic filtering processes until a final candidate is chosen. The need is considered fulfilled when the final candidate is placed in role.
The filtering processes are usually of the following three types falling in the following order:
- Shortlisting – involves filtering the raw application forms / CVs against the vacancy's requirements.
- Assessment – in the form of tests and other means of measuring performance against the vacancy's requirements.
- Interview – where candidates are invited for face-to-face assessment and possible trial work activities matching the vacancy's requirements.
HR professionals pro-actively recruit candidates with in-demand skill-sets that are required to meet an anticipated need or match general roles or specific current positions. Candidates are:
- Profiled – usually by examining experience, qualifications, career interests and availability.
- Interviewed – often using a structured format or general behavioural model.
- Assessed – in the form of tests and other means of measuring performance against their profiled skills.
If successful, a list of roles that the candidate is interested in and qualified to fulfil is drawn up.
If they are interested in immediate work then they are matched to current vacancies. If they show an interest in career development then further analysis is undertaken and a training curriculum devised to meet the mutual needs and goals of the company and candidate.
The two most important types of information that a candidate management system is concerned with relate to vacancies and candidates.
In addition to the job-title, description of duties, location and salary/benefits package a vacancy will have the following details associated with it:
- Requirements – A list of the specific skills, qualifications, attributes and experience needed to fulfil the role on offer.
- Adverts – The means by which potential candidates are made aware of the vacancy.
- Events – Deadlines, appointments, activities and meetings that make up the roadmap for the life of a vacancy.
- Administrators – Who, within the hiring company, is allowed to administer this vacancy. Other roles with "view only" privileges may also be available.
- Reports – Statistics, facts and figures concerning the vacancy and the candidates.
Candidates obviously have personal and contact information. In addition, the following details provide a fuller picture of their capabilites:
- Skill-set – A list of specific skills, usually with an indication of level of achievement that a candidate can offer.
- Education – The qualifications and training that a candidate has achieved.
- CV – Also known as a resumé. The document that the candidate produced to support their application.
- References – Persons who are qualified to comment on the candidate's suitability for the role based upon previous experience.
- Experience – A list containing the candidate's employment history and other activities related to the requirements of the vacancy.
The essence of TalentTool.com is to match candidates and vacancies by utilising one of the two "tunnel" processes in the simplest and most elegant way possible.
What measure do I use to know that I am developing a tool that will be a success? Well, the root of the application's success depends on how easy and useful the end users find it.
As a result, the primary concerns during the development process are the needs of the user and their interaction with the application. To them the user interface (UI) is the application. It enables how the user usefully uses the capabilities of the system. It is also the part of the system that projects elegance and simplicity. With this in mind, the roadmap for developing this application involves the following steps:
- Initial requirements analysis – complete and summarised above.
- Application mock-up and testing – the creation of easily modifiable screen-shots organised as a "story board" of the application. Feedback sought from target users and a focus group of interested parties.
- Development / Testing cycle – using the final version of the Application mock-ups as the basis of the technical specification. Throughout this stage development will be shared with the focus group so feed back and changes can be implemented.
- Beta-testing – feedback sought from target users after "real-world" usage. No new features to be added at this stage (project to be branched into development and release versions).
- Release and maintenance cycle of version one.
- Development of version two to integrate most popular requested features.
In addition to the above steps, a business plan that encompasses the marketing strategy, costs and pricing structure will need writing. I'll deal with that aspect of the project in a future article.