A crowdsourced approach can trump individual thinking.
By Yves Lermusi
Paradigms, taught Stephen Covey, are what make us perceive the world in a different light. One of the biggest challenges facing aspiring change agents these days—whether among companies, government agencies or RPO practitioners—is to transform their practice so dramatically that it shifts from a red tape process to a competitive differentiator.
But first, consider this personal example of what that transformation could look. When I moved to San Francisco from Canada, I only perceived one season: eternal spring, and it was great. But even in good weather, you still have to commute to work. Commuting is the least enjoyable day-to-day activity in life, according to happiness researchers, and I am no exception. So I asked myself, how can I transform that time into an enjoyable activity? “Drive a convertible” was the answer, and every day that commute time was transformed into a vacation time!
The paradigm of feeling stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge shifted from stressful to joyful. My time was dramatically better. Now a passenger could even share the trip to enjoy the fast commute lane, contribute to the gas expenses, and benefit from the faster, better and cheaper experience.
Ok you get the picture;now back to the world of managing talent. How can you transform a task often perceived as a necessary evil into a qualitatively better, faster, and cheaper process? And more importantly, what is the equivalent of my convertible in your world? What is the magic instrument that can make you change your perception around that process?
The magic instrument of talent management is called collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is generally defined as “any system that attempts to tap the expertise of a group, rather than an individual, to make a decision.” Today, this phenomenon of having more accuracy collectively than from any single individual is called collective intelligence, and the field is booming. Research has repeatedly shown that estimations coming from many people, in the right circumstances, lead to results closer to the truth. If you combine this with the ubiquity of the Internet and connectivity of social networks, something magical is cooking.
The Red Tape Process
Collective intelligence has been applied to many processes and industries. Let’s examine one very standard and typically tedious process: reference checking. Reference checking has been used for years, but lately with an increasing litigious atmosphere, it has become harder to extract any meaningful data. According to research done with 154 practitioners, only 1 percent said it was very easy and 6 percent said easy to get useful information about the candidate. And 93 perent said it is either hard, very hard (close to 60 percent) or ok.
The best test to determine if the process is meaningful is to ask: “When is the last time you didn’t hire a candidate because of a bad reference check?” I posed that question to a large retailer hiring thousands of people every year, and to their surprise, they replied maybe once or twice in the last two years. Avoiding even one bad hire for every 1,000 hires would justify the ROI of reference checking. Although the math is compelling, the reality is many organizations have already stopped relying on reference checks.
So what does the “commute in the convertible” look like for reference checking? And how does reference checking change when it uses collective intelligence?
Accolo, a leading RPO provider based in the San Francisco Bay Area, dissected every step of the recruiting process. In their quest for optimum service delivery excellence, Accolo identified 10 universal hiring best practices upon which everything they do is based. Two core principles were naturally at play: first was improving the traditional business metrics (make better hires faster); and second was to make sure the candidates were getting the high touch and respectful experience they deserved.
Accolo transformed the reference check process by using a collective intelligence tool from Checkster. Automating the process gave more visibility into the candidates, increased their satisfaction with the process and reduced the time and cost it took to gain insight from more than five references per candidate.
“Checkster’s collective intelligence process has transformed what was painful and time intensive into a delight for everyone involved,” says John Younger, founder and CEO of Accolo. “Checkster is a great partner and their optimized reference checking has provided us increased visibility as well as allowed us to optimize our services and reduce cost and time to hire for our clients.”
Fortune 50 Story
If the vacation feeling settles in quickly when you open the roof of a convertible and you need little convincing, the skepticism was greater when a Fortune 50 company decided to transform reference checking from a phone process to a digital automated one. Many concerns were expressed: Would candidates comply, would references respond, would it be done on time? One benefit that didn’t need much proof was the time gained. A traditional 75 minutes of calling three references, leaving messages, reaching two live, and writing a report—compared to the simple name, email, one click trigger in digital automated reference checking taking less than two minutes—was well understood. Full appreciation occurred when the reports came back within 31 hours with three references. Leaving the process open a bit longer eventually garnered 6.1 references on average whose ratings were delivered in reports that armed recruiters to have meaningful discussions with hiring managers.
The “convertible effect” can have a major impact. When you stop seeing reference checking merely as a compliance step and establish it as a value-add step, your recruiters become talent advisors. You can revisit the timing of the reference check step in your overall process and often move it up, so your hiring manager has a comprehensive report before the final interview. You can distinguish the clear value add that you bring, not just act as a resume source. You become a beneficiary of collective intelligence in order to make a better decision on the ultimate business call: the talent decision.
Yves Lermusi is CEO of Checkster.