The applicant tracking system, for all its shortcomings, revolutionized the way people found and applied for jobs when it first hit the market in the mid-1990s. Electronic applications quickly became the norm, resume or application review became more accessible for hiring teams and compliance was much more trackable and achievable, thanks to streamlined application processes. Today, tracking and compliance aren’t enough to power the complex world of recruitment. The Great Resignation has made it abundantly clear that candidates expect the same type of consumerized experience in the hiring process as they do when buying anything at all. To win or keep the best talent, organizations must make the hiring process personalized and enjoyable, and a traditional ATS simply cannot support that mandate.
Responding to market demands, technology providers have evolved offerings to the point where the right system underlying candidate-focused processes can be a competitive differentiator when it comes to recruiting. The very activities that define talent acquisition have grown beyond what used to be advertising, interviewing and extending an offer of employment. For example, Ventana Research asserts that by 2024, one-quarter of all organizations will be taking advantage of programmatic recruiting capabilities that ensure optimal sourcing channels are used for each open job, including effective cost management, powered directly from the recruiting platform. Personalized employment marketing campaigns, skill- and/or interest-based dynamic job presentation, interview self-scheduling and even onboarding (to some degree) now all fall under the heading of talent acquisition, and rightfully so. Further, organizations are looking at the talent pool more holistically than ever, considering external, internal and contractor talent equally, marketing opportunities directly to all, with messaging specifically curated to their individual needs. A traditional ATS does not have a robust enough feature set to meet all those needs, but an advanced talent acquisition suite does.
So, just what does all this mean? The chief human resources officer and chief financial officer need to critically evaluate growth targets to see if their existing workforce can get the organization where it strives to be. If not, the next step is to work directly with the chief technology officer and head of talent acquisition to understand if the existing technology stack has the features and functionality to operate at the level of sophistication required to attract the right talent for the roles of the future, which includes existing talent. If the core of an organization’s recruiting technology is a traditional ATS, it is probably time to begin the evaluation process both of new technology with more robust features and functionality, and the organization’s readiness to adopt it. The right talent suite can engage more candidates, more effectively and more quickly; it can lift administrative burden from recruiters, leaving them to more high-value activity like candidate and hiring manager relationship-building; it can help existing employees understand their future within an organization and help them identify and rectify skills gaps; and it can help new hires start to feel engaged and validated during that critical time period between offer acceptance and day one.
Equally important is the evaluation of an organization’s readiness for a large-scale technology implementation. When done properly, these types of implementations are not just a lift-and-shift of current processes to a new system. Rather, a deep assessment of the value and necessity of current practices is required to ensure the most effective implementation that balances the impact of new process and functionality with just how much change a team can manage at one time. A “boil the ocean” approach is not always best. Rather, it is often wisest to select a subset of features and process changes that will be most impactful on the recruiting organization and its ability to attract and engage candidates, leaving the rest to pull in over time. In this way, the new system is ushered in more gently, at a pace that is more likely to be successfully adopted.
At its peak, the ATS was the workhorse of the recruiting team. Now, the rise of the application of artificial intelligence, the evolution of cloud technology and the growing demands of more sophisticated job seekers have all but rendered the ATS obsolete. The good news is that a new breed of talent platform has taken its place and far exceeded the capabilities of the outdated ATS. More than ever, this type of advanced functionality should be considered table stakes as opposed to nice-to-haves in the evaluation of any talent acquisition software. Employers that truly understand the criticality of talent, and how job seekers’ needs have changed, will know that investment in the right talent platform will translate directly to bottom line performance and competitive advantage.