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Can HR Cope with an Upturn?

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The move away for large bespoke technology towards cloud-based solutions could be the answer says Paul Finch, managing director, Konetic.

Over half of UK employers expect their workforce to be larger by the end of 2014 than it was the start of the year, according to a CBI/Accenture employment trends survey. At the same time, 88% of the senior executives polled said that their company website was becoming a major avenue for recruitment. Put these two statistics together and what do you get? My guess is, some very overstretched HR teams.

Why? Because, during the downturn, many teams took their recruitment processes in-house, advertising only on their corporate website as a cost-cutting exercise. When there were fewer jobs to advertise, post, track and offer, the task was manageable. However, if there are now more vacancies to fill, this could become difficult to maintain.  Yet many will have got used to the cost benefits of doing it themselves.

Many are turning to technology and particularly applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help them enjoy these advantages of keeping their recruitment in-house. But older systems don’t necessarily have the flexibility needed. Often there are different patterns of recruitment within one organisation and sometimes a mix of various software and procedures is needed.

For example, large corporates that recruit graduate trainees for large annual campaigns may receive thousands of applications, but they will only accept a very small percentage – often less than 1%. They usually need bespoke systems to handle these huge numbers.

However, these are often not suitable for vacancy-centric recruitment – and besides modern systems need to have the flexibility to keep evolving as new developments emerge.

This was often a problem in the past; HR was never seen as a core part of the business as, say, finance or marketing. So, its needs were often ignored by the IT team who, in some cases, didn’t really understand the specialist requirements. However, now that cloud technology and software as a service (SaaS) have taken hold, HR teams can more easily get sign-off for what is needed, because of the lower costs. Also, these solutions are often downloaded on demand and paid for on subscription, so HR teams can easily be more proactive about ensuring they have the right tools in place to manage the increased workload.

Vacancy-centric software enables HR to manage all stages of the recruitment process themselves and, at the same time, enables candidates to track the progress of their individual application. Self- service configuration enables a quick and easy tailoring of application forms and workflows so campaigns can be quickly launched and managed.

Keeping recruitment in-house also has a further advantage. It means that valuable corporate information about staff – where they mainly come from, their career track, profiles of high performers and so on – is kept within the organisation and can be used downstream for better informed decision making. The ‘big data’ phenomenon, where large volumes of data are analysed to predict trends and help future planning, is increasingly being used across many areas of business and there is no reason why it won’t be required to help resourcing, talent management and other HR-related tasks in the future.

HR is currently regarded as one of the hottest areas in business by technology developers. If the economic recovery is sustained, then increased job application traffic means that this trend is bound to continue, as more companies look to renew outdated systems.

However, although signs of a recovery are encouraging, businesses will remain cautious and will only want to employ more staff if their investment looks set to yield a good return. While there’s little doubt that there will still be a place for recruitment agencies in future – the rise in cloud-based solutions gives HR a chance to ‘do it themselves’ while automating time-consuming processes and management.

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