Growing up as a stubborn little boy, my mom used to tell me: “Only the crazies keep doing the same thing expecting different results.”

Or as they say in the fitness industry: if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

I’m not a personal trainer, but I’m assuming that this applies to the men and women who do the same workouts and eat the same things day in and day out, but have reached and maintained a plateau. Sure, they’re not gaining weight or losing muscle, but they’re also not making progress or gaining any more physical fitness.

It’s these sorts of people who show up at the gym each day to do their usual 20 crunches, while wondering why they don’t leave with 6-pack abs.

What does this have to do with Human Resources (and outplacement in particular)? Well, not to suggest that our industry is getting a little flabby, but it seems like the traditional outplacement providers that dominate the industry have hit a plateau.

At a time and in an industry where careers and even companies are made or broken by speed, connectivity, efficiency, transparency, and social hyper connectedness, why is there still such hesitancy in HR toward embracing new technologies?

I’ve noticed that, after several years developing products specifically leveraging the latest technologies (which I’ll abstain mentioning for fear of losing you) to enhance talent management, the word “tech” has remained an unspeakable taboo. Oh, sure, there are the Twitter-happy early-adopters (I’m among them) who get excited when we’re presented with new gadgets, apps, and widgets to click, like, and share, but for the vast majority of the grand human resources machine, adding one more cog (or changing the machine entirely) is often a futile effort, stemming from the painful question: “Is it really worth it?”

And I understand: changing processes, adding in new tools, and up-ending the system can seem daunting—at least at the beginning. Just as ditching the 20 crunches in favor of med ball side throws at the gym requires a little bit of personal training and reassurance at the outset, so too does ditching the old services in favor of new technology requires explanation, training, and a little bit of faith.

Let’s get out of the gym and look at outplacement, since that’s a topic near and dear to my heart right now. Traditionally, outplacement has been a low tech industry. Impacted workers have to get in their cars and drive to their co-working spaces or workshops. Job searches are done manually, even when they’re performed using online job aggregators like Indeed or SimplyHired. Social networking is on the job seeker’s head, and if the job seeker doesn’t already have an established social presence, then networking can easily come to an analog halt.

Doing outplacement the traditional way (and leveraging the same old online job search tools) produces the same results over and over again: job landing times are prolonged, which means employers spend more unemployment taxes in addition to paying their outplacement service providers. And that’s not even considering the potential impact to employer brand that your laid-off employees will effect while looking for a job.

Sure, people will eventually land new jobs—but if there were a better, faster, more cost-effective way…then why wouldn’t you give it a try?

That better, faster, more cost-effective way is here, but it does involve some scary-sounding technology that HR leaders need to understand and embrace.

Semantic matching, machine learning applied to the job search, real time outplacement analytics and even human expert filtering can deliver a much efficient and effective outplacement experience to a laid-off employee trying to make sense of the myriad of job search tools out there. Taking the heavy lifting off of the job seeker by giving them an online portal, customized job leads through a personalized skills-and-experience matching technology, access to virtual coaches, webinars, and materials can help you trim the fat out of your current outplacement strategy and slim down the HR budget (while finding your impacted employees new jobs in the process).

It’s time to flex our technology muscles and start a healthy new outplacement habit. We have to embrace the fact that tech isn’t about disrupting your processes to make your job harder; it’s about disrupting an industry that has never made your job easier.

Yes, changing your HR tech may be a workout initially, but it’s a workout that will work out for bettering your job—and your impacted employees’ lives—in the long run.

(Speaking of running…anyone else ready to hit the treadmill?)


05 May 2014

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