#recruitment #agencies – #CRM and #Knowledge #Management #SYNSPEC

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[published as https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141114101130-1331147–recruitment-agencies-crm-and-knowledge-management-synspec ]

Few minutes ago, I was called by an agency to do a QoS (quality of service cross-check); as it is my standard since 2008, whatever is delivered for free eventually goes online.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the usual “checklist interview”, and beside few routine questions (feed-back on service, etc.), there are three points that I shared and the caller jotted down.

The first one is that I see still few agencies doing the old-fashioned act that I did when I interviewed somebody for recruitment purposes (i.e. for my partners, customers, or employers): when you are asked to send something (I even once signed a contract with a top-notch agency for a specific project)- and then no light escape that black hole where you sent something (I know, time is limited, still…).

To be specific: I know that it is an old military-style etc. approach, but I used to keep communication on the level- whenever possible, if I met somebody, I tried to at least call (in some cases even met again) somebody to say “why not”; I did so not just in Italy, but also in other countries around Europe.

I understand the time-consuming activities, as I too when, in the early 1990s, looked for potential project managers, was flooded with people with a degree in direct marketing from a reputable and expensive university; still, in Italy or France, I made a point of at least call those that I met, and write to those that I exchanged messages with, with a level appropriate to the level of previous exchanges.

Yes, it is similar to the “escalation” process: if you involve A, it is inappropriate to scale down to C while answering; it applies also in negotiations and project management, when customers routinely complained that they were presented rocket-scientists while the project was pitched, but then rookies where sent to deliver it.

Simple “pro forma” messages stating “we found others whose profile is a closer match”, or the next step “while we were impressed, <insert the previous phrase” or other varying degrees up and down, up to the nuclear option “we wish you success in your search” are probably something that, thanks to email systems (any CRM should have some capability to associate “pipeline stage” with structured communication) could be easy to implement anywhere- and cost nothing.

As most agencies use a database, I then added a second point that was jotted down.

Often, I am requested to provide up-to-date information, but I think that, considering how often thereafter I receive requests to apply for positions for, say, Mainframe COBOL programmer (something that I did for a short while in the 1980s), it would be useful to both the agency and the potential candidate (over the phone I said “both of us”) if, once the database has been updated, a cross-checking message containing the “metadata” (e.g. the “keywords” used to classify the profile) were to be send to the source.

I think that this point is self-explanatory: if you bother to build and invest on a knowledgebase management system or even a full-fledged CRM, use it properly, not just as an electronic version of that messy but short-term useful system for knowledge management a.k.a. Post-It.

Coming from a “data warehousing” and “DSS” background on the technological side (and change/project management on the business side), I would say something more: you need a “staging area” to clean up and process information, and “normalize it” before it is entered within the system that is used for retrieval, to avoid polluting it with irrelevant information, and to enable potential future automatic “cleansing and reclassification”.

Imagine that tomorrow your agency sees an interest to refocus on specific levels and specific sectors, or to redistribute the pool of candidates according to new criteria, and then have industry- or role-specific classifications (e.g. I want Programme/Portfolio/Project Managers associated to a different set of potential skills than those requires to either work for them, or oversee them): if you store only “processed information” and remove details, you have to get through all the sources to reclassify; if you separate information from its reclassification, you can reclassify it again (it applies also in accounting: if you reclassify your source data and then store only the reclassified data without keeping track of the mapping, any further reclassification would assume something that isn’t in the data per se, but is conveyed by reclassification).

In my view and experience on knowledge management (have a look at the “#BFM2013 Knowledge-based Organizational Change”, “Business Social Networking part 1 – cultural and historical perspective”, and “#SynSpec – XXI Century Expert Team Building and Management” books on my Linkedin profile, or directly go to http://www.slideshare.net/robertolofaro), the optimum would be to ask the source of the knowledge to do her/his own classification, but it is obvious the need (also in other business contexts) to “filter pollution” (e.g. people who managed end-to-end one server for a 5 people company classifying themselves as “Technology Manager”, and applying for 100,000 GBP/years roles) by letting agents to classify candidates’ profile according to policies and standard set by the agency they work for.

Incidentally: whatever you classify according to current needs, has to be routinely refreshed and reclassified: I did so as a kid for my own and my parents’ library while both (as well as my understanding, eventually moving to a simplified variant of the UDC-Dewey) expanded, then in politics to classify the piles of documentation that I received, and eventually when shuttled to work in an office at my Army outfit (Artillery Specialists), where a mere reclassification according to operational needs led to the discovery of some interesting left-overs from previous holders of my positions- including some who classified everything into what amounted to be a “black hole” (i.e. “file and never retrieve”).

Then, of course, I had plenty of business cases where I could apply those experiences to reclassification, taxonomies, and creating charts of (control) accounts.

Nonetheless, whatever process or tool(s) you use to store information within the system that you use to manage your pool of candidates, sending back a request for confirmation will help you to further clean your data- and maybe even prune you list.

If the above mentioned candidate insists in calling himself a “Technology Manager” (as in my experience men are most often those “scaling up” their experience, maybe even applying for positions that actually require somebody who managed budgets, multi-site technology management with delegation to vendors and local managers, staff management, etc… do you really need to keep in your candidates’ pool somebody who is so blatantly out of touch with what you see as your needs and understanding of their abilities?

Of course, sometimes your customer would require somebody “able to bring in new ideas and not just more of the same”- meaning: classified under A, but, as you understand what A implies in terms of relational or analytical abilities, you might actually search for candidates having A so that you can maybe shortlist them for B; still you will need to be able to see that they have A (along with associated attributes: level of expertise, level of complexity within it, “freshness”, etc.)

Sometimes the difference is more subtle, but any classification is a selection- and, therefore, it is up to those who classify to decide what is or isn’t relevant.

And that’s why, in other business contexts, I have always been skeptical of “knowledge management staff” going around to collect documents and interview people, staff that then takes over the exclusive role of “feeder of the beast”, i.e. those who process knowledge so that it can be stored and retrieved by others.

The purpose of any knowledge management system, including a CRM, should be to enable leveraging on knowledge within the organization, not just to act as a personal Post-It system.

If A knows the knowledge domain X, B should be able to identify A as a source on that by looking for X; if an intermediary who knows zilch about A’s and B’s business takes over “knowledge processing”, probably what will be stored within the system would be nice and well structured- but totally useless, as only the “mediator” would be able to access it (defying the reason to invest on a knowledge management or CRM system).

And this brought about the third point that was jotted down.

Since last summer, I routinely ask agents who sent me requests relevant to my current search, or who progressed with feed-back on contracts I applied for, to send me, if they like, an invitation on Linkedin, so that I can keep them posted on availability and CV updates, and they can update their database and avoid wasting time to vet a profile that is not relevant anymore (and I can reduce the amount of irrelevant requests that I receive).

This is a general rule, that I used also when scouting for resources to staff projects or activities, while keeping a “live” network to get in touch with when I needed somebody with a specific skill (or just somebody able to tell me which questions would help me in “testing the mental patterns”, to discern real experts who did something from those who read a book or passed a certification).

Obviously, it is a two-way road: when I was working until 2007 in my old way, I was always available to do the same, e.g. by answering to questions requiring experience or expertise on a specific subject or issue, so that they remembered me as a potential source should they need somebody to cover a specific role- I worked across Europe exclusively through word-of-mouth 1990-2007.

Risk: somebody will turn that into a “free qualification service”- but, if the wheel turns (i.e. turnover grows or is steady), it is a risk worth taking; if it becomes parasitical, it has to be managed.

And that’s why I did my own experiments with “skills” on Linkedin.

While I routinely keep getting endorsements for skills that I still retain (and few for skills that I had in the past), I see a varying degree of coherence between skills and profile (I would like Linkedin to add a color code), so I left only those that I consider “active” or “macro-skills”, to avoid either having obsolete information or a clutter or minutiae shadowing few keywords; I know that this defies automated systems, but I still use my Linkedin profile as a tool catering for an audience composed by humans, not software “bots” piling up profiles and targeting spam.

In shorter terms: what is relevant today, can be not relevant anymore tomorrow.

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