The Neverending Story: The 2017 State of the Recruiting Internet.

If you’ve never been to Terranea just south of Los Angeles, it’s hard to describe one of the most picturesque, and privileged, places in the world.

To get there, you have to go through the industrial cities of Torrance and San Pedro, past decaying factories and dilapidated houses, blue collar turned barrio, like so much of South Bay surrounding it.

You climb up a hill, and turn onto a two way, winding road, and suddenly, you’re coasting along the Pacific Ocean; if you’re lucky, you’ll see humpback whales or the occasional school of dolphins somewhere out in there in the azure waters.

The post-industrial wasteland and prominent stacks of the largest power plant in the Southland fade behind the hill, replaced with a pastoral postcard of a place that’s seemingly removed from the rest of the world.

The run-down duplexes give way to opulent estates worth millions of dollars; this is horse country, so it’s not unusual to see the strange site of thoroughbreds cantering somewhere between the cliffs and the ocean.

This is where the 1% live. Where they play lies just down the road, past a bucolic lighthouse and around a sweeping curve, at Terranea (or, a mile or so further down, at the Trump National, for heaven’s sake). It’s easy to miss, despite the subtle signage – a hideaway a world away from the real world.

Welcome to Fantasia.

This setting, it seems, was apropos for the recent Code Conference, an annual gathering of the Technorati and Dionysian, self-congratulatory celebration of the excesses of Venture Capitalism.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who has to ride public transportation to work, or is more concerned with paying for cell phone data than consuming data about cell phones, it probably wasn’t on your radar.

unicornsBut if you’re the kind of person who pays more attention to Sand Hill Road than the Street (probably youngish, predominantly white, overwhelmingly male), the kind of person who slavishly follow TechCrunch, Mashable and The Information as closely as studio execs do Variety or THR, and the kind of person whose sense of self lies more in relative valuations than personal values, then you are aware that the Code Conference was also the setting for one of Silicon Valley’s seminal events: the debut of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report.

Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (known to most simply as “Kleiner Perkins” or “KPCB”), helps manage the investment decisions of one of the biggest players in the venture capital space.

You might not have heard of KPCB, but inevitably, your life has been touched by one of their big time investments in blue chip tech startups; Google, AirBNB, Uber, Spotify and Twitter are among the companies whose growth was largely financed with venture from this fund.

It’s this unique view from the top of the tech industry that gives Meeker’s annual report, which, let’s face it, is nothing more than a humongous PowerPoint deck (355 slides, to be exact), that makes Meeker’s report so anticipated among the head honchoes in hoodies every year.

In typical tech hyperbole, industry journal of record TechCrunch began their lead for their coverage of Meeker’s report by asserting that,

“this is the best way to get up to speed on everything going on in tech … essentially the state of the union for the technology industry … the most informative research report on what’s getting funded, how internet adoption is progressing, which interfaces are resonating, and what will be big next.”

If you’re a recruiter or talent practitioner, however (or you don’t speak douche), there’s a chance that you probably haven’t had a chance to peruse the hundreds of slides full of statistics and speculation on stuff like “tech wealth creation in China” or the booming viewership and ad dollars pouring into “eSports” (which, let’s face it, is something of a contradiction).

Nope. You just want your ATS to f-ing work.

I get this. Which is why I’ve identified three major trends in Meeker’s massive missive that really matter to HR and recruiting professionals – and are the most likely to impact your efforts and efficacy sooner rather than later.

A lot of what follows is my personal speculation and secondary, somewhat subjective analysis, but then again, so too is all forward-looking forecasting and futurism.

  1. Enterprise Software = Customer Expectations » Mirroring Those of Consumer Apps.
  2. There’s a New HR Echo Chamber.
  3. Your Greatest Asset Isn’t Your People. It’s the Data About Your People.

If you’re a talent pro, here are the tech trends of tomorrow you need to know in the trenches today:

Enterprise Software: Facing Your True Self in The Magic Mirror Gate.

meeker 1

The disparity between HR Technology and consumer technology has largely eroded; while Oracle and its patent attorneys still cling to the dot com paradigm of on premise, “top-down” and “perpetual license” pricing models – their once dominant market share is quickly being eroded by the fact that, simply, the end users of HCM and ATS products are first and foremost consumers of technology.

This means that there’s no longer necessarily the expectation, or the patience, for Tier One providers to slowly roll out costly implementations instead of instantaneous configurations, to rely on crappy call centers instead of simple self-service, or to navigate through counterintuitive, confusing interfaces.

HR Technology has long been a bit solipsistic, an island that seemed insulated from the forces of the modern world, which is why so few legacy systems are mobile-enabled or user friendly, and why “decision makers” are still determined by title instead of functional responsibility and professional need.

The focus has been, as Meeker points out, on sales and renewals instead of product R&D and competitive differentiation, which ends up largely screwing the HR and talent professionals who are stuck with an analog anachronism instead of a system that’s even close to the consumer adoption curve.

These databases are largely unsearchable; the structured data requirements are onerous (it’s why candidates have to spend hours filling out fields and forms simply to apply for a job) and the UI/UX looks like a relic of the DOS and .Net era, evidenced by the fact most are largely usable only in a desktop environment, when the overwhelming majority of online traffic is now coming from smartphones.

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Of course, companies like Oracle tout their “cloud” even as they cast long shadows; companies like Workday have great design but hide something of a PaaS Potemkin village, and companies like Ceridian tout their “integrations environment,” even when those require custom API development and onerous proprietary development. HR Technology vendors have adopted the lingua franca of consumer tech today, but it’s misappropriated malapropisms at best.

The good news is with major tech players like Microsoft, now the parent company for LinkedIn and MS Office (after the Apocalypse, there will be nothing left but cockroaches, Toyota trucks and Powerpoint), Google (both with G Suite and their much ballyhooed Jobs API), Facebook (most sophisticated integrations environment for PII on the planet), Adobe, and even Amazon (more on them in a minute) getting into the game, business as usual should be anything but.

HR Technology has long been a darling of the VC scene, but may well be the victim of its own success, subsumed into the broader enterprise technology suite where HCM and ATS are no longer independent categories, but rather an integrated feature set or end user functionality for broader consumer-facing software and systems.

For candidates and end users, the consumer technology convergence will be good news. Of course, legacy vendors won’t go down without a fight, which likely means continuing to drive renewals off of the myth that somehow they’re offering some sort of specialization and expertise in HR when, in fact, their lack of technical acumen and inability to push product updates or substantially improve their SaaS offerings are a major liability to every company still tied to their Tier One ERPs.

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Of course, Meeker’s report suggests what we in this industry have long since suspected: the price of hubris will ultimately be the demise of the traditional HR Technology companies, and the empowerment of the HR end user.

They say you no one gets fired for buying IBM, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on Watson or any of its primary competitors. IBM lost the PC market within a period of a decade because they wouldn’t port their peripherals, and for the biggest fish in the HR Tech pond, let’s just say there are a lot of Compaqs out there waiting to win on ease of user, portability and cost.

No matter which emerging technology wins the race for the integrated talent management suite (barf), the real winner in the consumerization of HR Technology is you.

And that’s a good thing for all of us, really. No more Swamps of Sadness.

The Ivory Tower Still Stands: Meet The New HR Echo Chamber.

alexa for recruiting

Perhaps the most dystopian view of the future I’ve seen came from a somewhat macabre experiment earlier this year, where two Google Home devices were synched to respond to each other (see video below).

The results were like something out of a Beckett play, or a Phillip Dick novel – it was machine learning, in real time, and it took less than three days before these two IOT devices were trying to convince the other that they were, in fact, human.

That we sit somewhere between SkyNet (er, Alphabet, Inc.) and RoboCop (the first use of a police robot to end a shootout with deadly force occurred last summer during the Dallas Sniper Attack) is, for lack of a better phrase, scary as hell. That said, a lot of how we interact with machines in the future – HR or otherwise – will be with our voices, and we will soon develop a fundamental expectation that these devices respond with some reasonable proximity of humanity.

Meeker’s report detailed the increasing ubiquity of the Amazon Echo, perhaps the most prominent early entry into what she refers to as “The Voice Based Front End.” That front end, and its move from margins to mainstream adoption, should have a profound impact on the future of talent technology tomorrow.

While Cortana, Microsoft’s entry into the market, will almost certainly become a core part of the LinkedIn/Office 365 user interface, likely integrated with Skype into a single application – whether that’s prerecorded screening questions or simply transforming talk into text across an enterprise instance. This roadmap seems to already be developing, as Skype’s new UI/UX suggests a head to head battle with G Suite for the future of the workplace.

That said, Amazon has clearly laid the foundation for the future of how we interact with machines at home – and its remarkable growth only underscores what should be an ubiquitous feature set for any candidate or employee facing technology within the next 3-5 years.

 

This adoption should be mutually beneficial – employees will be able to communicate with an enterprise machine learning instance that acts simultaneously as a repository for institutional knowledge (think SharePoint on speed) to increase productivity, foster collaboration and personalized experiences (which should, according to the Hawthorne experiments, dramatically increase employee engagement).

On the other hand, machine learning based voice systems deployed across the enterprise should replace HR’s most manual and repetitive tasks, such as benefits enrollment, exit interviews and performance reviews.

This will allow HRBPs and recruiters alike to spend more time on high touched, personalized interactions with employees that are more meaningful than manual, the sort of situational and dynamic work that requires EI, not AI – and ends with better outcomes for everyone.

Similarly, as employees use voice activated systems to do things like clock in and out, retrieve information, interact with their computers and even replace keycards and password generators through unique voice based identifiers, employers will be able to keep a much closer watch than ever on their employees – which could be good or bad.

Inevitably, some departments will use these as voice enabled spyware, monitoring or recording workplace conversations and interactions in real time, with or without employee consent (spoiler alert: it’s going to be without it).

This will have great utility in things like ER investigations, but even the most white collar jobs at the bluest of blue chip companies will become, functionally, call center positions.

There will be no expectation of workplace privacy, but like any PII aggregator, if the convenience of such technology outweighs the implicit privacy concerns of workers (the model of all “free” software), then history tells us employees, like consumers, will gladly make this trade.

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Meeker suggests that as of last month, Amazon’s Alexa had already accumulated 17,000 downloadable skills; these range from the asinine (“Alexa, be mean to [insert name here]”) to the amazing (“Alexa, tell me how long it will take me to get to work for the first meeting on my calendar”).

As of this writing, I could find only one HR Technology vendor with a skill on this veritable app store – an Alexa powered job search from ZipRecruiter, a company that’s always been more B2C in its orientation than most of its counterparts (see: every commercial after 3 am).

The next generation of Echo, with built in video and calling capabilities, should see a proliferation of integrations or instances with things like on-demand interviewing providers, voiced-based apply (in fact, SmartRecruiters has already developed a version of this, although I could not find that it’s been publicly released yet, the company has confirmed that it is actively developing and iterating this capability) and likely, company reviews and employer branding based skills.

“Alexa, tell me what working at GE is like,” for instance, could pull up Glassdoor reviews, employee testimonials, or real time hiring and attrition data. Similarly, sourcing, screening and selection could easily be expedited through voice, instead of text, based processes.

All it’s going to take is development resources from HR Technology vendors and end user adoption, like all talent tech, but the latter case looks as if it’s already becoming a given, which, in turn, should lead to a proliferation of Skills based offerings from various vendors (or in Google’s case, likely a one stop shop via Google Home, which already has far more sophisticated searching and matching abilities than Amazon).

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Look, a year ago, I would probably have dismissed this as one of those specious and suspect fads, but in the quest to increase individual recruiter productivity, improve candidate experience and close the feedback loop, this is the new social recruiting – only this time, it’s actually going to be more than some BS buzzwords.

In my mind, the question isn’t “if,” but when. And the probable answer is sooner than you think. Can you hear me now?

The Nothing: Your Greatest Asset Isn’t Your People. It’s the Data About Your People.

 spam in recruitingAn industry “influencer” recently posted a “SCAM ALERT” (his emphasis, not mine) alerting other recruiters to an enterprise employer whose candidate experience was, apparently, being imperiled by what seems like a scam so simple and straightforward that one has to admire the pure efficiency of the social engineering at play.

The company in question, a major multinational employer, was seeing its job postings scraped from its corporate careers site, reposted on third party sites, and candidates were encouraged to directly apply through this intermediary, which was, in fact, in no way affiliated with the company’s recruiting efforts.

For years, this was basically Indeed’s entire business model, but apparently the morality line for most isn’t the basic theft of intellectual property through aggregation and deduplication – and the effective hijacking of their employment related SEO/SEM from the “world’s #1 job site” has become codified instead of vilified for reasons I don’t quite understand.

The major difference was that Indeed was built to drive these candidates to the employers and jobs they were looking for, in the hope of monetizing the multi-billion dollar market for online job advertising – 85% of which, according to Meeker’s report, comes from Google and Facebook, both of whose recruiting plays probably means Indeed’s claim to the top spot is now not only misleading, but inaccurate as well.

This new “fraud,” as it were, collects those candidates and instead of passing them off to the company in question, poses as recruiters themselves, hoping to obtain information such as addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers and all the other information required to commit identity theft (by far the fastest growing crime in the world) – and making money off of the candidate through essentially phishing this information under the guise of representing legitimate employment opportunities.

Most recruiters and HR practitioners will likely howl at this duplicity – and, judging from the comment string, most are shocked, shocked, that anyone would hoodwink a random online applicant by asking for information like their SSN, despite the fact that our applicant tracking systems have done this for years and actually made this seem completely innocuous and commonplace.

childlike

Here’s the thing: these hackers are probably doing your company a favor by screening out those candidates who would be susceptible to these schemes before they’re employees, and before they have access to your enterprise systems and you assume liability as an employee.

In fact, I’d actually encourage employers to do this sort of white hat threat analysis as part of their internal mobility and promotions process, as a means of identifying which employees present the biggest risk to what’s quickly becoming the biggest danger to the biggest asset any employer has.

Hint: it’s not people. It’s the data about your people that is what the Economist recently labeled as “The New Oil” for its valuation and commoditization.

An anecdote: when Caesar’s Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the federal judge assigned to unwind the conglomerate ruled that the company’s most valuable asset was not its prime properties on some of the world’s most expensive real estate – think Macau and the Strip – it was, in fact, the 17 years of Player’s Club data the company had collected before it was dissolved.

If the habits and preferences of gamblers, individually or in aggregate, is worth more than any asset of a friggin’ casino conglomerate, think about how much the data stored by your ATS or HCM is worth – both to your business, and to the proliferation of hackers looking to illicitly obtain it.

data theft

We think of data breaches as being from state actors sitting in front of sophisticated terminals somewhere in East Asia or beneath Moscow, or some Mr. Robot style lone actor systematically targeting individual instances, but in fact, that’s pure Hollywood (or “fake news,” if you will, comrade). The fact is, the majority of enterprise data breaches are caused by employee negligence and human error, driven not by sophisticated technologies and black hat techniques, but through the most seemingly innocuous of means: e-mail. And as most workers still live their work lives through their inbox, this means your business, likely, is at risk of having its information compromised.

Meeker’s report suggested a significant spike in spam with malicious attachments, malware or links to third party sites which contain the spyware or ransomware necessary to either capture enterprise data or personally identifiable information, or else hold that data hostage until their demands are paid (or the data deleted).

These breaches have become commonplace in headlines, with notable recent attacks shutting down institutions like the UK’s National Health Service or stealing billions from the Central Bank of Bangladesh – seemingly sophisticated and devastating breaches that were not the result of external intrusion, but rather, internal negligence.

In one instance, ransomware overrode centralized servers through what seems like an everyday oversight – enterprise network administrators neglecting to update obsolete (and exploitable) instances of Windows XP.

Of course, if your company is still on this OS, you probably have a host of other concerns, but here’s the rub: the people charged with preventing these incidents failed at the fundamental part of their job.

bastian

Those of us who aren’t necessarily charged with monitoring our networks and servers from breaches or malicious attacks are far more susceptible to falling for the trick that enabled the world’s largest ever bank heist, and one that’s already targeting candidates and companies alike – phishing scams, in which end users unknowingly grant malware access to their networks not via the backdoor, but inviting them in through our inboxes.

And these type of attacks are just heating up, with trend data in Meeker’s report suggesting these attacks should surge over the months and years to come. Sending data to unknown external parties, opening external attachments and constantly enabling third party software to collect PII for the purposes of expediency (see: every “free” sourcing tool ever) is a core part of recruiting, and applicant tracking and HCM systems are obviously a goldmine of exactly the type of information that are the most valuable to intruders.

While many spoke to standard security protocols and compliance certifications on their website, I could find no mention on any of the major resume parsing or traditional job board sites on how they were able to guarantee that their attachments were in fact, resumes or profiles as promised, rather than being Trojan horses looking for easy access to the potentially millions of records sitting on your enterprise servers.

I’m sure they have talking points, but there’s no way that your major HR Technology vendors can ever innovate quickly enough to totally forestall the rapidly evolving Infosec landscape and preempt the proliferation of new schemes and scams and software.

you have to try

The best that they can hope to do is monitor their servers for suspicious activity and simply shut down their systems before any large scale data breach can occur – this has occurred several times across multiple vendors in the past year alone, and to date, the decision to keep all users out has caused some recruiter consternation, but also preempted any sort of major breach or, in the age of SaaS, total data dump of all clients using a particular ATS or HCM.

This will happen, and the onus is going to be on vendors to increasingly come up with capabilities for preempting this. But just as importantly, it’s up to recruiters and HR professionals to continually train employees and screen new hires on what’s becoming the most critical competency of the 21st century – information security. As a side note, I’d highly discourage that whole BYOD thing, but that’s another post entirely.

We talk a lot about culture in recruiting and talent, but this is generally specious shit like office accoutrements, physical workspaces and propaganda videos from brainwashed, beautiful employees talking about how kick ass their company is. But the companies that win in the future aren’t going to do so because they’ve built a culture of ping pong tables, open seating and flat hierarchies.

 

They’re going to do so because they’ve built their culture around security, and every employee is actively aware of and engaged in preempting and preventing this growing category of cybercrime. A one off course during on-boarding or an annual review won’t do it.

Prompting password changes every 30 days won’t do it. But a shared value and commitment to protecting our companies’ information – and keeping our coworkers and colleagues’ information safe – will at least stanch the bleeding that’s already starting to trickle out of our tech.

If data security isn’t part of your company’s mission, vision and values, well, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

And if you don’t send $500 in Bitcoin to Matt Charney, well, let’s just say you should have quit reading this a couple thousand words ago.

But if you share it on social or leave a comment below, we might unencrypt that POS Lenovo your company gave you anyway.

Originally published in three parts at Recruiting Daily. 

3 Comments on “The Neverending Story: The 2017 State of the Recruiting Internet.

  1. Fabulous article as usual. I’m especially enjoying your ‘nearly’ century old riff on the response to ‘attention’ at GE’s iconic facility “…which should, according to the Hawthorne experiments…” improve engagement without respect to how it is done- and I absolutely agree with you. There is a possible separate path personal data might go that is reflected in the EU where I ‘own’ my data and every instance of its use must first be approved by me. It really won’t work imho until we are able to do with our data what we hoped to do with snapchat…make it disappear. Thanks for this ‘Meeker’ piece.

  2. Pingback: HR Tech World San Francisco: Links and Resources | Learning as I go…

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