Organizational Competitive Advantage from the HR & IT Partnership

Carolyn Thomas, VP Enterprise Human Resources, American Cancer Society
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Carolyn Thomas, VP Enterprise Human Resources, American Cancer Society

When you think about recruiting or how people get jobs, most of us think about our own experience when we applied and were hired for our current jobs. Our assumption is that you see a job posted somewhere, you send in your resume, you’re contacted and the process begins and ultimately ends with you being hired for the job. It seems pretty simple and straightforward. For the most part it is. However, recruiting is evolving from a world where Employers (Buyer) were calling the shots to today’s environment where Candidates (Seller) have much more influence over the process. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the U.S. is at historic lows of 5 percent or less in most parts of the U.S. This means, that there’s a fierce competition for employment, since anybody who wants a job either has or can get a job.

"Organizations have to focus their recruitment efforts not on “where the fish are biting, but where the fish will be biting”

According to the 2015 Recruiter Sentiment Study conducted by MRINetwork, this environment provides candidates with the confidence to reject undesirable job offers resulting in a rejection rate of 47 percent. Because of this, the recruitment process had to evolve and adapt to meet the current realities of what we call the “Candidate Driven” labor market.

Hiring candidates is a challenge facing all organizations today. Without the right people in place, the entire organization can suffer. Given that, it’s critical that organizations ensure their internal departments are collaborating and working together to ensure cross-functional success and achievement. One particular collaboration is between IT and HR – two departments that seem to have disparate goals and objectives but are actually quite similar in how they impact organizational success.

The point where IT and HR converge is with the Applicant Tracking System (“ATS”) most medium and large organizations use to manage their recruitment function. ATS is a software system that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs: Jobs are advertised and candidates come to the portal to review and apply for a job opportunity. Their application status, communications, and decision making are handled electronically by the recruiter and hiring manager while keeping the candidate informed about their status. ATS can also be used to perform a variety of recruitment analytics and record keeping. Since ATS is a software system, its implementation and maintenance are dependent on IT with HR being the primary user. 

A common challenge we see in today’s economy is the competition for scarce resources within an organization that can sometimes put the needs of HR behind income generating or market facing functions of the organizations. Unfortunately, that philosophy can be to the detriment of the organization. How would an organization implement a strategic plan without the people to see it through? The need for collaboration and teamwork to assess, select, install and maintain an ATS is critical not only to the success of the recruitment function, but to the success of the organization as well. An ATS may not have the allure or glamour of other systems, but it’s important for IT to really look at and understand the value an ATS represents.

An ATS isn’t just about hiring people via an administrative software system – (it can be) but it can also be much more than that. You can use it to market your culture, your brand; you can use it to show how your organization will help people fulfill their intrinsic and extrinsic needs. An ATS is an amazingly powerful tool that can provide benefits to your organization way beyond administrative solution. 

Old ways of searching and hiring candidates are gone. Organizations have to focus their recruitment efforts not on “where the fish are biting, but where the fish will be biting”. This requires the ability to use every resource available including an ATS. Technology is the operative word. An ATS gives you the ability to be fast, nimble and adaptable to changing demands of the labor market.  

Finally, majority of workforce is increasingly being made up by Millennials or the generation that grew up with technology and uses it as a natural extension of themselves.  Not having an ATS puts an organization at a disadvantage as candidates will assess a potential employer on what they’ll gain or have available. Today’s workers expect technology and will steer away from an organization that doesn’t have up-to-date technology. 

IT and HR partnering around an ATS and balancing demands/needs of their respective departments can be a challenge that can severely limit progress. Rather than reach a stalemate, it’s vital that IT and HR work together and form a partnership, organization gains a competitive advantage by being able to compete for talent using latest technology. Candidates are attracted and influenced by technology. 

Forming new and improved partnerships between IT and HR can be a critical factor in determining an organizations success. Attracting, recruiting and retaining staff is a way that this can happen. It might not seem like an immediate match, but long term, it’s the right match for these two departments. 

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