I don’t always sleep well - who does, right? One night, as I sat in my backyard listening to the wind and the sea, my wandering brain started thinking about a post in a Facebook group. The question came up - as it had in the past, and has done again since - about the “death of the ATS”. It’s one of those things we love to hate, and hope to replace. All whilst not quite knowing with what.
And as happens inevitably in this equally-inevitable topic, people started talking about “The Funnel”. Everyone started talking about “The Funnel”. How important it was - how you had to “tie your funnel data to outcomes”. Etc. It sounded so cool. So “Marketing”.
It is cool, right? Being able to predict precisely what will happen based on specific actions you take, able to tell business leaders with confidence how well your team will be doing with recruitment 6 months, or even a year out. Data analytics to get us to that good old, cliched, Seat.At.The.Table.
Here’s the thing: yes, it’s cool. It’s also… kind of a lie. At least that’s what I came up with that night. Let me explain the thinking a little bit.
Here's where I'm at: not sold on relying on “The Funnel” (be it recruitment marketing funnel, applicant funnel, etc) - heck, even marketing isn't sold on it. Corporate Marketers started looking askance at the concept several years ago - for good reason. Consumers don't follow linear paths to specific, measurable conversion points. The job discovery process isn't linear - it never was. And, often, the interview process has a bit of zig and a zag to it (unless you have nailed your processes, and everyone’s following them - good luck with that). The problem we hit is that we all want it to be linear. In programming, that’s called a procedural language. Step by step - the language follows a process. Not bad for programming simple robotic actions. Terrible when it comes to variables.
Funny thing is: people. People are the ultimate variables. Expecting people to willingly enter the process, and then follow a predetermined set of steps to a logical conclusion is… well. Optimistic.
If you look at the history, way back when, a supply chain engineer decided he could make recruiting software. So, he built a system based on... supply chain. And supply chain software is built to deal with objects that don’t say “no” to being in the process, who all get willingly stored in the same places, and get delivered very predictably. That system is called Taleo, now, and it has had an overly-large impact on the ATS's that came after it. Some of the more progressive systems have tried to shake off that heritage, but... you still see echoes. Ghosts in the machine. Still tracking activities through a funnel.
Job discovery was never really transactional - which makes it challenging to layer a funnel on top of. Real workflows look like pretzel logic, if they're being honestly used. Our prospects come in and out of view, from different directions. They engage in the process (seemingly) randomly, and disengage the same way. Sometimes they skip steps. Move backward, in and out. It’s not one funnel - you have to measure many funnels, over many potential paths. I'm viewing it as akin to the board game Chutes & Ladders - sometimes they're on one square, about to hit victory (for you), the next they're sliding out of view, only to (hopefully) come ‘round the bend again. Maybe.
Fun, amiright? Also: how the hell do you measure that? I don't think even that does it justice. The sheer fact is, it's more like somebody took Chutes & Ladders, and then made it 3-dimensional. Go + Chutes & Ladders, as it were.
Along with that, we're now entering into an economy that is becoming less rigid - work is more transactional, gig roles are evolving, and everybody's got a side-hustle. Mechanical Turk, Amazon's "digital guns for hire" tool is spreading the wealth (and/ or creating digital serfdom, but that's a post for another 3 am ramble). And this is just the beginning - the majority of leaders at the companies we support are increasingly convinced that this trend is their future, and (of course) they don't know how to get there. Your game is “Go + Shoots & Ladders”, only you're playing it underwater. While drunk.
“While 66 percent of companies believe their use of off-balance sheet talent will grow significantly in the next 3–5 years, only 49 percent say they are not able to manage contingent labor well and 55 percent say they have never used or do not understand how to leverage crowdsourcing. So while some elements of the future of work are well understood by business leaders, others are still in an emerging stage of understanding.”
Keenu, err, Neo said “there is no spoon”. And we have all come to appreciate King Keenu/Neo, right? Similarly: there is no Funnel. Not really. There are rough aggregates & guesses you can make if you’re hiring the same roles at mass volume - sometimes a big enough data set can win the day. But most of us are lacking that bit. We need to start thinking about how to measure the drivers that hit our process - is your employee referral process spinning and driving in a large volume of hires? Nice! Measure that funnel. Is military recruitment critical? Funnel it. Figure out where and what to measure that matters there. Ultimately, you’ll find points where they converge - as long as they follow the same steps going forward. Even then it’s going to be subjective, because: humans. We have a hard time with the whole “unchaotic” thing.