March 31, 2010

Quick & Dirty: When KM Takes Over HR

Today was a good day.

I slept in late, made a little headway in catching up on my backlog of General Hospital episodes, cooked up a tasty pot of frijoles negros (even though they were a little bootleg since I didn't feel like running to the Farmers Market to buy some recao and ajies dulces peppers), enjoyed a good long phone call with my brother Reed and even spent time with my mother's cat Silky (aka Evil The Cat) that didn't result in me getting clawed or hissed at. And then I took a nap.

Yes, today was a good day. So, of course, my blog post is a bitch fest. Wah-waaaaaah.

When I haven't been playing tennis, planning the development of my indie KM consultancy, or dating in the ATL (which is like old school Freddy Krueger flicks; funny and bloody), I've been hunting down the next great KM opportunity. Although I manage to learn a lot about the KM activities and needs of various companies and industries during job searches, pounding the pavement is never a pleasure, mostly because so many company's recruitment process are the equivalent of using a dull guillotine in death penalty cases - medieval and unnecessarily messy.

In the interest of full disclosure, I've never been particularly fond of how HR carries out its function (my undergraduate minor is in Human Resources) and I am a big advocate of absorbing HR into KM (not the other way around) for all of the reasons that Keith Hammonds wrote about in his 2005 Fast Company article, "Why We Hate HR". However, until that day comes, I'd love to share some KM wisdom with those shiny, happy, people persons.
  1. Quit overusing online application systems
  2. I get that these systems are meant to assist in streamlining the application process, but using them to do your job is just plain lazy. Plus, can someone direct me to the memo stating that identity fraud is no longer a global crisis, 'cause I'm pretty sure I missed it. All of these online systems (many of which are completely unsecure...check the top of your browser the next time you are asked to fill one out) requiring you to fill out a full profile containing all kinds of personal deets are not only irresponsible, but pointless. Irresponsible because exactly how many companies are maintaining and cleansing this data? I created a profile in Deloitte's system my 2nd year of grad school (2002) and up until a few months ago my exact same resume was just sitting out there. Even then, I couldn't delete the resume, I had to upload a new version using the same file name. And, I say pointless because I actually did a stint learning the tricks of the recruiting trade and a good majority of the primo spots are filled via recruiters and/or networking, not the system you just spent an hour and a half cutting-and-pasting your resume into ('cause it couldn't even be as simple as uploading your resume into a database). Overuse of these systems creates a potential identity theft nightmare for companies who now have to be responsible for securing personal information they really don’t need, I mean, when’s the last time you had a call for a job based on a resume you submitted three to six months prior? Okay, I actually did get my last job based on an interview from nearly two years before so that might be bad example, but I like to think that’s the exception, not the rule. I know that most companies state they keep information on file for six months, but how many are actually deleting that information?
  3. Stop getting all up in my business until you're ready to make an offer
  4. I remember when I was in high school filling out paper applications for fast food jobs and even then I didn't give out my Social until I had the job. Nowadays companies request/demand your Social, previous employer contact info, references and salary histories as part of the initial application process. Are you fucking kidding me? I’m supposed to send all of this information to either a generic email address or post it in your online HR-garbage dump in order for my resume to even be considered. Really? That’s like a blind date asking for a credit report, criminal background check, and medical history before the date. Do I even have to explain how ridiculous these requests are? I hope no one is ever desperate enough for a job to comply with these requests, but I'm sure in this economy people cave in daily. A well written resume is sufficient to garner interest and kick-off the formal interview process. Even if you don’t mind giving up the goodies, these things should wait until an offer is on the table. Believe it or not the credit check puts a “ding” on your credit report (something to consider if you’re filing several resumes that “require” this info), your salary history will be used to shape any offer they might make and handing over contact info like candy makes other people’s information just as susceptible to identity theft as your own (also, sidenote, some recruiters will even try to recruit your contacts in similar roles for the job you’ve applied for – another tactic I learned during recruiter training). Think of it this way – hiring folks should at least have to court you before they get all up in your business. Treat me like a lady, if you want me to be a slut.
  5. Enough with the pre-interview questionnaires already
  6. Usually, I don't mind the pre-interview questionnaires because they tend to make me think more critically about my background and motivations, but the last few I've been asked to complete took a day and a half to finish and seemed to cover most of the questions one would expect in a regular interview. Again, this is pure laziness. Part of the recruiting function of an HR department is that you establish a certain rapport with candidates in order to determine if they are a good fit for the position, the team with which they'll be working most closely, and the overall organization. You can't get a true sense of this from words on a paper, especially if candidates (like me) have a personality or sense of humor that doesn't come across well in writing (although I think I do just well in conveying my sense of humor). Just as with KM, IT is a facilitator, not the answer. Too much automation of the process doesn't mean you're nailing down the best candidates, just the candidates who are willing to endure the humiliation of jumping through your hoops and are also proficient at manipulating the system. And you can tell yourself that this is what happens when you have so much on your plate and tons of candidates to consider, but at the end of the day not identifying the best candidates simply reflects your incompetence and your failure to serve the larger needs of the organization.
  7. Please let me know when you're done with me
  8. I get that HR can often be overwhelmed with the number of resumes and submissions to job openings and it isn't always feasible to provide a status update to everyone, but I strongly urge you all to show some class and try. I don't know about other candidates in the market but I am "interviewing" the company/organization during the recruiting process as much as they are interviewing me and I'm extremely critical of how they court me. When I'm asked to put the details of my life out there, set aside time to speak with HR and hiring managers, and then it takes weeks or even months to get "next steps" information - if at all - it says a lot to me about the company, none of it good. It doesn't matter how many candidates you have to deal with, your job is to represent the integrity and character of the company with potential new hires and eventual employees. You wouldn't want a candidate who acted with such indifference in response to your interest, now would you?
All right, enough bitching. I could go on, but I'm all about the teachable moment. When the day does come that KM takes over the HR function, these are some of the the programs I plan to implement:
  • Right use of online application systems
  • Collecting all of that data at the start of the application process may be retarded, but once an offer has been extended it's a perfectly acceptable way to go (in lieu of asking someone with a perfectly good resume to fill out a paper application like they're at Burger King). For rejected applicants, keep the demographic data (age, race, gender, positions applied for, average length of experience, degrees, University's attended, etc.) and purge the resumes. Demographic information is valuable to create a picture of the types of applicants you're getting for general statistics and annual reports. New hire data should be migrated to an internal Employee Skills/Profile database. Every company I've worked for in the last five years has been eager to get one of these but building it from scratch is a pain in the ass. Using all of that HR data is a fantastic way to kick one off!
  • Owning the recruitment process
  • Even when dealing with HR has been a pleasure, I have been utterly turned off by hiring managers who have no skill at interviewing and put the onus on me to sell myself. It's kinda hard to sell yourself when you have no clue what they are looking for and if it's like that in an interview, imagine working for that person. Ay ay ay! Hiring managers should be trained on how to interview and HR should provide the training, help hiring managers flesh out job descriptions, and better understand the needs of each role that they are filling so that they can truly identify the best candidates. Of course, as part of the KM function, HR would also have insight (from lessons learned and best practice documents and KM assessments) into the knowledge needs of the organization and individual departments to make this job easier.
  • Integrating KM to improve knowledge stewardship
  • In most organizations HR is concerned with the acquisition and retention of employees, training and development, and all relevant policy and process management. KM is most effective when there is an ingrained sense of knowledge stewardship, something HR is perfectly poised to promote and institutionalize at all levels of the organization through policies, new hire orientation, annual reviews, and regular workshops.
  • Fashionable Fridays
  • Because being business-minded and professional shouldn't come at the expense of being cute and fashionable. Ever.