Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: The Daft Punk of HR Tech

In his immaculately researched, incredibly detailed corporate biography “Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove Built the World’s Most Important Company,” author Michael Malone writes of Moore’s Law,

“The equation proved so precise that it captured the entire Zeitgeist … And even after the integrated circuit itself is obsolete, it is possible that Moore’s Law will still dominate human existence as what it has always been: not really a law but a commitment to perpetual progress.”

Just as integrated circuits and microprocessing replaced mainframe computers and led to one of the most explosive, sustained periods of innovation in human history, the rise of SaaS – that cloud cover that’s ubiquitous in the recruiting industry these days – is finally enabling HR and recruiting technology to progress at the same bell curve of innovation (albeit slightly stunted) as the rest of the consumer electronics and software industries.

642px-Moores_law_1970-2011The HR Tech axiom of Moore’s Law, while proving Gordon Moore was right back when he first postulated his theorem back when Eisenhower was president and we were called “personnel,” however, is evolving a bit differently.

Where Intel, and subsequently companies from AMD to Motorola to Facebook (who developed their popular photo feature in a single hackathon) innovated to meet market need and demand – such as the need for the Defense Industry to have superior technology to their Cold War counterparts.

Edward Starr might have wondered what good war’s for (good God, y’all), but in the tech world, the answer ain’t “absolutely nothing.” The arms race against the Soviets, the same race that made landing on the moon a possibility within a decade, kick started that law which, ore than any, defines the current pace of human progress.

In the War for Talent, likewise, the growing realization that the current models are obsolete, broken or otherwise ineffective at addressing the most critical battle for business supremacy.

That race for competitive advantage through technology (coupled with a seemingly insatiable industry demand) is why, in just the past decade, we’ve moved from faxed resumes, time clocks and file rooms full of dusty paperwork to a fully interconnected, automated and paperless function.

Say what you will about social, mobile and other HR tech trends, but the fact of the matter is, this is a different world of work than the one we knew even in those not-so-distant days when Boolean and HotJobs! were en vogue in our industry. And that’s a good thing not only for our function, but the candidates, clients and employees we work with every day.

The proliferation of copycat vendors and creative category creation for new suites and systems might be a little overkill. But much like the Fairchildren, disgruntled Fairchild Semiconductor employees who ultimately went their own entrepreneurial paths, including Intel, the competition within a fairly niche and highly competitive space is akin to the explosion of entrepreneurship and innovation that transformed tech from mainframe to mainstream.

While the LinkedIn Recruiters of the world still charge beaucoup bucks for access to their platform, and big players like Oracle still has enough HCM revenue to build old Larry another yacht, the influx of innovation has not only exploded exponentially on the product front, but the cost of those advanced capabilities continues to drop.

That corollary drop in price that’s the vertical access in the log graph that is Moore’s Law suggests that in this area, at least, recruiting and HR tech are ahead of the curve. You still have to pay for circuits and storage space – but not so some enterprise-grade HR tech products or point solutions.

Consider that so many solutions in this space utilize a freemium model, and LinkedIn and Glassdoor, for example, have gained market share so quickly by inverting the job board model and opening up candidate profiles for free. This is a gateway to upselling, to be sure, but still a way better value prop than getting locked into an on premise implementation for 3 years only to discover it’s obsolete within 3 months.

It also means that lower cost of entry enables startups and small businesses to attract, hire, develop and retain top talent without the same technological handicap they formerly faced in the Peoplesoft and SAP R3 days. That’s good for HR. Things like employee self service, paperless performance reviews and mobile enabled applications are good for the employees we touch.

The problem is, it’s got to end sometime – and all signs suggest that it’s going to be soon. The thing is, in a world where everyone has access to every candidate, it doesn’t come down to sourcing tools and CRM – it comes down to interpersonal communication and high-touch engagement.

In a world where every HCM or HRIS system has some sort of social sharing feature, but what matters is getting that share in front of the right set of eyes – like your candidates or colleagues. Ultimately, mobile involves picking up the phone, just like back in the day, and culture is still defined at the company break room, not a WYSIWYG careers page with some stock photos.

What does the other side of the Moore’s Law look like? HR Tech may actually be an early adopter, because while that curve will, barring some major disruption or anomaly, continue its almost vertical growth until at least the middle of next century. But in HR, we’re already going old school to win – and it’s working.

Which is pretty good news, since our business relies on people, not platforms.

Originally published on HRExaminer (albeit with a bunch of editing that actually makes this rant readable).

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