Sunday, March 18, 2007

Recruitment and customer experience

Wednesday’s Financial Times carried the monthly technology review.  A couple of pieces caught my eye, both individually and when put together.


First this report In an e-world, IT controls the customer experience (subscription required) makes the point that if your business is conducted online then your customer experience is an electronic customer experience which in turn means the customer experience is decided by the IT department.  This is a point I’ve made myself in the past – although I’ve never came up with such a compact phase to describe it. 


In posts in January 2006 and December 2006 I sounded off against poor travel company web sites.  My customer experience is poor because the web sites are poor.  It doesn’t have to be this way but unless the IT department think about the customer experience, or the people responsible for the product involve themselves with IT this is what happens.  Unfortunately IT departments have spent years refining their image as uncooperative.


Given the increased use of e-commerce by all businesses - not just those like Amazon which only exist on the web but everyday companies like the travel companies I dislike – then any business that does any e-retailing has this issue.  The online brand can damage the off-line brand.


(Apologies if you follow back to those posts, it seems the line breaks have gone absent as I described a couple of weeks ago.)


The second piece that caught my attention was this one Can HR handle IT recruitment?  According to this article human resource departments do not have the skills and experience required to hire IT people.  The story rings true from my own experiences and from many anecdotes I’ve heard over the years. 


Although these stories all ring true I’ve also known several good HR people.  People who have their heads screwed on and want the best for the business.  Plus I’ve read a fair few HR text books and articles and I know HR people aren’t really as bad as IT people make out.  So what’s going on?


Well I have some possible explanations. 


Theory 1: Many companies have bad HR departments.  There are some good HR departments out there but possibly most of them are not worth the salaries we pay them.


Theory 2: Everyone has these problems with HR, it isn’t just IT.  HR is just badly understood by the rest of the business.


Notice that these explanations are not incompatible.  Neither are they incompatible with the FT article.  Which raises the questions: What are HR actually doing?  Why aren’t HR departments getting to grips with IT and trying to rectify the problem?  After all, strictly speaking, it is the HR departments job to hire people so it is they who have the problem.  They can’t blame IT for this problem.


Put all these theories together and you get: HR is important, HR doesn’t understand IT, many HR departments are poor, many HR departments fail to hire the right people.  As a result many IT companies do not hire the best staff.  And because good IT depends on good people few companies will have good IT.


Proof for this theory comes from Google and Microsoft.  Both of these companies have built hiring machine.  They both need a lot of IT staff and they have made sure HR can do the job properly.


So the lesson is: If you want good IT you start by fixing your HR department.


Finally, put those two articles together.


IT controls the customer experience but HR do not know how to hire the people IT needs.  In other words: HR departments do not know how to hire people who create the customer experience.  Am I the only one who sees this as a serious problem here?


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