Monday, March 26, 2007

Expo Bloggin

T-Minus 22 days until the next ER Expo. For the third straight year, I will be heading to San Diego for the best recruiting conference in the business. In 2005, I walked away with so many tactical ideas that I filled a whiteboard with them back in my office. Last year, the networking was sensational. This year, I'm hoping to see a good mix of recruiting knowledge acquisition and hard-core networking, and you can read about it both here and on the ER Expo Blog.

I was planning on blogging anyway, now I guess I'll 'cross-blog' between here and there. If you are planning on attending, please reach out so that we can meet-up. I have a list of several people I plan to reach out to myself to make sure we connect there. Can't wait to get to sunny SD. Hopefully I'll see you there. If not, hopefully I'll see you here :-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

NRT: March Madness Update - Ugh!

Ugh, what an ugly weekend. My Terps lost to a more disciplined, sharpshooting Butler squad. Good luck to Butler in the Sweet 16, they exposed the Terps weaknesses well.

Oh well, 7 months until practice starts for the 2007-08 Maryland Men's basketball team. They will be a very young team next year, but I'm optimistic that there are some very solid pieces (Vasquez, Hayes, Boom & Gist) in place. Until then, Go Lady Terps who battle Ole Miss tonight in the Women's Tournament as they continue their quest to defend their National Title.

In terms of my tournament bracket, it's a disaster. I actually did well in the first round, picking 28 out of 32 winners. The 2nd round was another story though, picking only 7 of the 16 winners. To make matters worse, my son is whipping me, and is darn proud of it too! He got 27 out of 32 in the first round, and 13 out of 16 in the 2nd round. I've been doing these brackets for 20 years now, this was his very first one. Kudos to him for doing so well, if he would just stop rubbing-it-in now, I'd be feeling a bit better about it at this point.

All I'm looking forward to now is more good games. This is a great time of year for college basketball fanatics like me. So from here on, the more 'buzzer-beaters', the better. Oh, and another thing to look forward to, Opening Day is less than two weeks away. Sweet! (also, click here to see progress on the new Nationals stadium!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

R.I.M.S. Part 2

I can't give enough kudos to our Project Team for the work that they have done so far in our selection process. The research and preparation to date has been outstanding. Numerous resources were used to do the initial research. Interestingly enough, in my initial discussions with the Team, they thought that a internally-hosted client-server solution (as opposed to an externally-hosted ASP solution) would be ideal. They soon discovered however that most vendors were trending more towards the ASP model, if they hadn't abandoned client-server models all together. Pre-demo research also included office visits where Team members were able to learn the 'As-Is' and the desired situations from the key stakeholders of this technology (i.e. our recruiters).

The research was completed, we were fortunate to have sufficient funds budgeted to consider top tier vendors, and four of the best were selected to present proof-of-concept demos last week. To prepare for the demos, the vendors were provided 8 carefully-crafted scenarios that best represented the use of this technology by recruiters, candidates and hiring managers. A note on the scenarios: As carefully crafted as the scenarios were, we still underestimated what this technology could accomplish for us in a couple areas. The vendors for the most part helped us understand how automating certain processes that have been manual or Microsoft Office driven would be to our advantage.

BTW, earlier this week, Sarah listed her ATS demo pet peeves, here's a couple more:
- When you are asked to skip the 'sales pitch', please comply. A couple of our vendors insisted on giving a brief pitch anyway, and all I could think of was, "When are we getting to the product!" It's nice that you are profitable, but honestly, I care more about the demo. We will be basing our selection on the quality of your product, not how happy Wall Street is with you.

- When you are given scenarios to follow, prepare in advance and make sure you hit each item. That is what we are basing our evaluation upon. A couple vendors did quite well with this last week, where as for others, it seemed like this was the first time they had seen these scenarios. Not good.

The evaluation team for the demos consisted of the main Project Team, two additional IT staff, and four Recruiters from the field. We all assembled at our HQ in Bloomington, MN for the demos last Thursday morning. Over two days, each vendor was given three hours to run through the scenarios (research had already been done on the vendors and the technology piece was handled separately with our relevant IT staff). As the scenarios were played out, the evaluation team used a simple scoring scale to evaluate each step in each scenario, and provide an overall score at the end of each scenario. At the end of each demo, we had time to complete our scoring and answer qualitative questions. And at the end of each day, we had time to discuss the demos as a group.

Although each vendor was able to demonstrate most of our scenarios in similar fashion, there were also some clear differentiators. One of the key differentiators (and a huge issue for me) was the recruiter dashboard interface. We need our recruiters to feel completely comfortable using any system we choose, so a user-friendly dashboard will be a major factor in how we make our selection.

At the end of the second day, as a group, we listed out the positive and negative features of each system. At that point, we were all pretty much fried after two full days of presentations, but we were able to share our opinions and set a path for moving forward. That path moving forward included follow up actions with the vendors this week. We are very close now to narrowing down to a short-list of two. More on that next week.

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NRT - March Madness!!!

One down, five to go...

Monday, March 12, 2007

R.I.M.S. Part 1

RIMS - Recruitment Information Management System

Last August, I wrote here about the challenges most companies face with their recruitment systems. Most organizations do indeed have a love-hate relationship with these systems, and much is written about them, including blog posts last week by Sarah and Dave. The general recognition is that all of these systems have their warts, but if implemented correctly, they should serve as powerful tools in the war for talent.

In my post last Fall, I discussed how we at my prior employer used the term RIMS to describe these systems, rather than the traditional ATS acronym. Words (and acronyms for that matter) can be powerful when used in certain situations and certain contexts. When acronym-master Gary Cluff coined the term RIMS, he did it with the view that using technology to 'track applicants' was not enough anymore for top performing recruiting organizations. RIMS represents something bigger, broader, and more useful than ATS. RIMS was an acronym that I brought to my new job, and to my surprise, was adopted almost immediately. When I got to my new firm, an RFP was underway to select a new system. The timing was perfect, and Gary should be proud, his acronym is gaining traction, if one company at a time.

In my first week on the job, I was able to meet with the recruitment system Project Team, and due to my decade-long experience as a power use with three different RIMS, they appointed me to the Project Team as an "expert" resource. I couldn’t be happier with our progress so far. The project plan has been well thought out and crafted, deep research was done, and the right people were put on the team. Experience to RIMS was a first for the IT members of the team (including a Project Manager, Business Analyst, User Experience Specialist, and QA Specialist). Selection of the right enterprise technology takes heavy due diligence, and I have been consistently amazed by the detailed, focused nature of the effort to date. The hard work of our Project Team culminated last Thursday with demos from four well known, top-tier vendors.

Part 2 will explore our process and the demos.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Travel Grumblings

I’ve probably done more business travel in the last four months in my new job than I have done in any job prior. For the most part, it’s been OK. Not too many delays, lots of friendly people, new places to visit, and good food (a little too much of that sometimes though unfortunately). It all was good until last Thursday.

By Thursday morning, we knew that our travel home from St. Charles, IL was going to be trouble. My colleagues from Minnesota and Iowa knew early on that they were going to be stuck there for another day. The rest of us were going to have to take our chances at O’Hare and Midway. The weather at both airports that afternoon wasn’t bad. It was a bit windy, but the weather there wasn’t the problem, the problem was the blizzard to the west and the nasty storms going through the east coast. Everything was delayed, and flights were being cancelled by the minute. I found out that my flight was cancelled sitting at the gate, not by a public announcement, but online, and then looking over to see that our flight wasn’t on the board anymore (Grumble #1).

So, after discovering that the last two flights back to DC were full, I made sure that I had a seat on a flight out the next morning and a hotel room for the night. Mission accomplished relatively quickly on both counts. One problem though became apparently quickly. I checked my bag, and wasn’t going to get it back (Grumble #2). OK, I understand that there are billions of bags moving through O’Hare at any one point in time, but I also know that I was not alone in my situation and needed by bag back that night for a change of clothes and for my personal items. No dice. There’s got to be easily track and recall bags on demand. If I could figure that out though, I’d be a rich man, right?

I get to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare soon after and discover at the front desk that there is no gift shop, nor any place to purchase anything that I might need for my stay overnight (Grumble #3). They had a toothbrush and shave kit for me, so that was something. But for a huge airport hotel, I expected more, and this one was apparently in a state of renovation and repair.

Seeing that it was still early, I headed to my room, then upstairs to the bar for a nightcap. Nice top-floor bar/restaurant with a view of O’Hare. One problem though, no TVs, so no games (Grumble #4). What bar (especially a hotel bar) doesn’t have TVs? If you are on your own, this hotel apparently would prefer for you to check in, go to your room, stay there, and leave. That was the sense I got anyway.

I did have some nice conversations with a few others at the bar in the same predicament as me. The most interesting one was with a flight attendant who was waiting for her Carry-Out meal. Flying as much as I have recently, I was curious what drew people into that profession. She said it was the travel first-and-foremost. Even though it took her away from her family, she had a lot of time at home as well. For some reason I thought there would be more to it than that, but then again, I was working off of a sample of one. Regardless, she had been in the industry for several years and truly appeared to enjoy it. You can tell the ones that do from the ones that don’t pretty easily.

As I type, I’m on a flight to Minnesota for a series of ATS demos tomorrow and Friday (more to come on this in my next post). I was originally scheduled to fly out tonight, but an Alberta Clipper heading to the Mid-Atlantic was going to cause problems with the timing of that flight. I wanted to move up to an earlier flight to get out ahead of the weather. I tried that through out corporate travel agency, but their arrangement with the airline required that they rebook both legs of the flight, creating the potential that I might lose my seat on the flight home (Grumble #5). It took two calls to the airline to get my flight changed, and as a result, I am up, up and away once again.

This will be my last multi-night trip until I head out to the ERExpo in San Diego next month (can’t wait!) Traveling this time of year sucks. Much of the reason why is in the hands of Mother Nature and out of my and the airlines’ control. I try not to let that bother me too much as a result. It’s those things that those in the travel industry do control however that cause me heartburn more often than not though. Thanks for hearing out my grumbles. Signing off from 35,000 feet…

Monday, March 05, 2007

Our First Recruiters Conference

Good thing last week was a bit crazy, it pulled me a bit out of my writing rut. As I mentioned in my last post, my firm had our first corporate recruiters conference last week at the Q Center in St. Charles, IL. The Q Center was Andersen's training center, and today operates in a similar mode, open to any organization (although Accenture apparently uses it the most). The rooms were nice, the food was very good (and very abundant), and the networking was outstanding.

I got in Tuesday afternoon, which was the day of the conference devoted to campus recruiting. That evening, we had a nice reception where everyone who was there, and everyone who was just coming in for days 2 and 3, had the opportunity to connect. I had met most of our recruiters so far, but was also able to finally connect with the rest. But even more important, most of our recruiters were meeting there colleagues from across the firm for the first time. This was priceless as building a stronger collaborative culture is a major objective firm-wide.

As usual, I didn't sleep well, but got a nice workout that morning, which gave me the energy for what was going to be a busy day. We led off with a 'State of Recruiting' presentation by my boss, which was followed by presentations by our Director of Work-life (on how to best sell our work-life initiatives), by our Central Plains leader (on how they built out THE model recruiting structure in the firm), and by a Business Development leader who presented with me the parallels of the sales and the recruiting process.

Then it was my turn. I led off with an interactive presentation on networking, which included a another pitch regarding LinkedIn. We followed that with presenting the goals of our Employee Referral Project team, and breakouts with everyone to help us build more ideas and momentum around what we want to deliver in regards to a new program. We got alot of great ideas, but at the same time got a better appreciation for just how much work we have ahead of us. After some announcements and Q&A, we broke for the evening.

My mission Wednesday evening was to find a good spot at the Clubhouse to catch the Terps-Duke game. I went over a bit early, telling my colleagues that they could find me there if they wanted to join me. I found a nice seat in-front of the big-screen TV they had there, and over the next 15-20 minutes more and more people started to fill in around me, not my colleagues, but actually Accenture new-hires who where there for there induction training. And not just any new hires, but recent Maryland grads! Some of my colleagues stopped by eventually, but decided to more to a quieter spot. That was fine as my Terrapin brethren and I were able to fully enjoy another huge Terp victory (followed by a dominating season finally on Saturday which I was in attendance for. What a finish to the regular season, big hopes now for a successful post-season).

Thursday was devoted to a day of AIRS training. I had received AIRS training several years ago, and had picked up various AIRS fundamentals over the years. I wasn't sure how much I would learn myself, but I really did learn quite a bit. Only one other recruiter I knew of there had received AIRS training herself, so this was really new for just about everyone, and was very well received. Also, if I didn't make my point about LinkedIn the day before, our instructors did this day. A great finish to our conference, except we all knew that the weather across the country that day wasn't going to make travel home easy.

Some of us knew that they weren't going to make it out at all and stayed an extra night at the Q Center. I headed back to O'Hare, where I found out after a couple hours that my flight was cancelled and my only option was a hotel that night and a flight home the next morning. That didn't bother me too much, except that I had checked a bag, so no clothes, no toiletries. no dice. I got home OK on Friday and my back had beat me there. Most of my colleagues got home OK too, although much later than anticipated. The joys of business travel...

The Conference ends my induction into the firm. I've met everyone now and have communicated my vision and strategy. It's time to really get down to work now. Lots of great initiatives to get started on. I still need to figure out how to blog appropriately moving forward, but have a few thoughts in mind now. Oh, and thanks to Carl and Heather for the support. More to come...