Stockholm’s Syndrome and Recruitment Technology

Increasingly I keep getting the feeling that organizations feel they are being held captive by the existing systems and technologies that they are using for recruiting.  Whether it’s silence that follows whenever a presenter asks if conference goers “like their ATS” or the increased questions we get from organizations on the technology they should be using, I feel like many organizations are not all together thrilled with their existing recruitment technology.

This discontent can be for a number of reasons.  It may be that their system doesn’t support features they want or integrating other solutions with it is a huge pain or the system itself is overly complicated or the price seems to keep going up with little to no extra benefit.  Every user of any technology will have some grumbles along the way and things that they would like to improve but there is a fine dividing line between a list of nice to haves and key complaints that are hindering your process.

But why do technology customers live with all this helplessness and abuse?  Why don’t they try and find technology that better fits their current organization and process and where they want to go?  Here are some of the common ones:

  • Implementation:  It was a pain with your current vendor and they don’t want to be bothered with it from another vendor.  Whenever you get a new technology, implementation can suck a number of resources and time out of your organization.  Depending on the size, this process can last months and even years to complete.
  • Training: All your current employees know how to use the system.  Even if it doesn’t work exactly how you like, your employees have spent hours in training on how to use the system and you don’t want to have to bring in another system that they need to get re-trained on.
  • Integration: The existing technology has an integration with other technologies you use.  This could be a formal integration or an integration that you worked to put together all on your own.  The big thing here is whether other technologies would be able to have this integration.
  • Check Box Mentality: As an organization, you’ve checked that box for this particular technology.  It works OK for what you do and so you let it run while you focus on other things.  Every year it’s easy to re-up and go about business as usual.
  • Lack of Knowledge: You don’t know what the alternatives are to your existing technology, how they work and what the differentiators are.  You are focused on the day to day and don’t have the time to research and understand what’s available.

All these reasons are valid and understandable.  You are in the business of finding qualified talent and focusing on those interactions with candidates is integral to filling your company’s needs.  But the big miss here is that the strategic use of technology can help you better meet these goals and improve these interactions.

Avoiding Stockholm’s Syndrome

If you are not familiar with the condition, Stockholm’s Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where a hostage develops positive feelings toward their captors despite the abuse received (think the TV show Homeland.)  In this way, I think that HR technology users experience a similar phenomenon with their technologies (albeit to a much lesser degree).  They get to a point where they just accept the fact that their technology doesn’t truly fit but a resigned that it is and will be their solution in the future.  In many cases, when pried to why they are still using the solution (after hearing the many failings of the technology), it usually results in them defending the decision.

So how can we go about avoiding this acceptance and ensure that organizations continue to look for and find solutions that fit their process and overall needs.  How can you avoid this stasis and ensure that organizations continue to leverage the best technology to improve your strategy?  Here are some potential ways:

  • Keep Educated: Within your organization, I would keep a product expert that helps you determine what you need out of your technologies.  This person should also be on the lookout for solutions that may be alternatives to what you have in house.  Identify the areas you need help in from a technology perspective and keep a running list of solutions that might be good fits if you ever do decide to make a change.
  • Understand Future needs:  No matter your organization, your needs will change from time to time.  It’s important to understand the types of capabilities you will need in the near future in order to be successful.  Make sure to communicate with your current vendors to see how their road-map covers these needs for your organization.  If you think you’ve outgrown the technology you are using, it may be time to look for alternatives.
  • Dismiss Sunk Costs: As an organization, getting a technology up and running can be a cumbersome and involved process.  Even once you have it implemented, you still may do custom integration (hopefully you won’t have to) on top of this to make it work the way you would like it to.  Many times it’s hard to to include the time and energy spent on this in the equation when deciding if you should switch solutions but in the end it’s a sunk cost (cost already accrued.)  In these cases you really need to figure out how what you have today compares to your alternatives.  While the blood, sweat and tears of implementing may be on your mind it really shouldn’t factor in your decision making at all.  If a new technology offers more promise and would be better for your current and future strategy, you should be able to understand and make a decision to move forward.
  • Existing Integration: This is something we need to do better at as technology vendors.  Making sure that we provide easy ways to integrate with other existing technologies and that out of the box you have ways to expand your use of the product.  But when you are looking at new technologies make sure to ask about and have them show you how they integrate with existing systems and how you can expand your scope.  If you do this at the start, you can usually mitigate the need to do the custom integrations that can hamper your decision making in the future.

No Need to Apologize

Always remember there is no need to apologize for using a limited or frustrating technology (no matter if it’s an ATS, job distribution, CRM, etc.).  In these situations, you just need to be flexible enough to understand when the negatives outweigh the positives of the technology you are using and look to make a change that can help your overall strategy.

The good technology companies partner with their customers to ensure that their users have the functionality they need to be successful in their recruitment marketing strategy.  If your current technology does not demonstrate that commitment it may be time to stop empathizing with them and start find a company that will honor this commitment.

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