HR’s struggle with Web 2.0
published by , on 12/10/2008

They’re born at a seemingly nonstop pace: Web start-ups offering new ways for businesses to connect with people. Facebook, YouTube and StumbleUpon are just some of the most recognizable. Blogs like Techcrunch offer ongoing insight into the Next Big Thing. Companies large and small are furiously developing MySpace pages and Facebook applications, and hoping that the masses will beat paths straight to their doors.

Some companies have leveraged the parade of Internet hot shots to their advantage, and many are still trying to find a way. They understand the value of connecting with people as customers, even if their marketing efforts often miss the mark. But when it comes to using the Internet to connect with people as potential recruits, it’s a different story. Why are recruiting departments at corporations missing the boat when it comes to realizing the potential of the Internet to find the best people?

On the surface, there don’t seem to be any obstacles. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article entitled “Recruiting 3.0: Web Advances Change the Landscape“. In it, employers who leverage everything from podcasting to video to social networking are highlighted:

“Recruiters for Electronic Arts Inc. began perusing and a little over a year ago to learn more about and engage with prospective hires, says Matthew Jeffery, head of global talent brand for the gaming company. ‘We want people who are passionate gamers, and often on these sites, people talk about their hobbies,’ he says.”

An outsider is led to believe such cutting-edge tactics in the employment space are the rule. In reality, it’s the exception. The percentage of companies publishing blogs full of embedded YouTube videos, Flickr photos, a roll call of MyBlogLog users and links to Facebook fan sites is probably in the single digits. Fortune 500 companies taking this approach are easier to find than Bigfoot.

Take Electronic Arts, the video game maker quoted in the Wall Street Journal story. It should be a great example, right? Headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley, the company has some incredible assets including a laid-back atmosphere, a beautiful campus, video game terminals, soccer games at lunch, a casual dress code, and almost everything else you’d expect from a company located at the nexus of the technology and entertainment industries.

Unfortunately, EA’s Internet recruiting efforts don’t compliment this vision.

A trip to their online career center at reveals a company stuck in the ’80s. The experience leaves you feeling more like you’ve checked out a paper brochure instead of surfing the pages of a hip employer. The destination for careers is text-heavy and has none of the progressive elements of today’s Web. Video? Nope. Pics? Hardly any. Employee profiles? Didn’t see ’em.

There’s really no excuse. This is a technology company that needs to engage and attract young, fresh talent to maintain its position of leadership. So how does EA get it so wrong when it comes to online recruitment? A few possibilities:

1. HR is at the bottom of the heap. A disconnect between recruiting and marketing is quite common in corporations. While creative brainpower focuses on selling products and services, getting candidates through the door takes a backseat.

2. The IT department, like marketing, pushes the online needs of HR to the backburner. By relying on excuses like “we’re just too busy right now,” or “here’s why that won’t work,” IT easily pushes aside initiatives from the department that doesn’t understand technology, and doesn’t know how to push back.

3. Legal says no. Just the idea of a lawyer getting involved can kill an initiative before it’s even born. It’s easier to just go on with business as usual instead of try something new and innovative. Additionally, even if blogging, video and social networking efforts are approved, they are viewed as potential legal land mines and headaches if site visitors get out of line.

4. Turnover. HR departments tend to see a lot of turnover. Many employees spend
limited time in the recruiting profession, hoping to land a less stressful generalist position or move on to higher-paying jobs in management or other departments. This leads to HR departments that prefer to play it safe and not stray from traditional recruiting tactics. People like to stay in their comfort zones, and recruiting is no different. Playing it safe means staying employed at most organizations.

So, while there are a handful of employers who effectively leverage Web 2.0 to their advantage in terms of driving top talent to their companies, most do not. It’s a trend that will continue to hurt businesses and their ability to find success through one of their most valuable assets — people.

Reactions (1)
  • Colleen Aylward says:

    Thanks, Joel, for telling it like it is one more time. CHANGE is never easy, and technologists and entrepreneurs with great ideas just have to keep pushing that rock up the hill to the tipping point… Thanks for pushing technology OUT LOUD.

    All 4 of your reasons are logical. One more: changing how a recruiter does his/her job is most often met with resistance (I’ve been one for 18 years) because recruiters are rewarded for the wrong things.

    1. internal corporate recruiting has become one big iterative slow-moving series of processes done by junior people who like the busy work just fine, thank you. They are 9 to 5ers and feel a sense of accomplishment when the pile goes down a bit.

    2. metrics of how many resumes were read and how many phone screens were done is still the yardstick in many operations. Keywords on resumes are still king. Sadly, making sure that company branding is infused in the mix and that quality of due diligence, and critical vetting is done is often a luxury that is left for “when they have time” or is left out completely since there is no metric for it on the weekly chart.

    Yes you’re right. Comfort zone and playing it safe are still in vogue. I’m hoping that pigs learn to fly soon.

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