In his post, Dr. Anton discusses, “the importance of people being seen, heard, and valued by those important to their future” and “timeless needs of visibility and voice.” I’m more of a concrete person, so I try to relate these things to what I have observed and things I can use in business. I have worked in companies focused on digital technologies since the 1990’s, and I love, love, love technology. However, technology can actually be a barrier to a solid relationship and exacerbate the inability to interact with a true person. In particular, I see a glaring flaw in what has become a standard practice for businesses: online hiring. Yes, I know that technology is convenient, but just because you can, does that mean you should?
Let’s think about this from a practical standpoint and relate it to something every company seeks, which is employee engagement. It used to be that businesses would actually encourage job seekers to come in person to their facilities to apply. That was usually followed up by a bit of paperwork and then one or more interviews. Over time, the existing employees were able to observe that person, to pick up on behavioral nuances, to evaluate the general nature of the person and to see them under various circumstances. They could see in many ways if this person was a good fit for their team. This practice also allowed the prospective employee to observe the company’s business environment, to watch how people were treated, and to understand a bit about the company culture. Now, just try to walk into any business and speak to someone about a job – even if they have a “now hiring” sign plastered across the front façade. Impossible. So how is it possible to get a peep into the true nature and character of a potential employee or vice versa?
Many companies, large and small, spend time and effort creating environments to encourage employee engagement. But this is like closing the barn door after the horse has left. The best time to value a person and to truly see and hear them (and evaluate whether they will truly be engaged in the company’s message) is when they are being considered as a team member – not afterward. An applicant might act engaged online, but is the company really a good fit overall? Are they truly seen and valued for who they are inside? How can they be if they have not been allowed to speak to a person during the hiring process? Is the company a safe place to, “be yourself”? Is the employee’s “true self” even a good fit for the company? What about the prospects who were rejected because of their online responses? Were they rejected prematurely? There are intangibles that no online questionnaire can see. Plus, by using this process, the company is rejecting the many opportunities it would otherwise have to build a relationship with the applicant and truly introduce the applicant to the company and its philosophies that bind its employees together as a team on a much deeper level.
If a job applicant is distancing him- or herself from “true self” to try to fit into the company mold, as explained in a website or job description, and the company has implemented a largely online hiring process, there is arguably no authenticity to the process. It’s no wonder companies are HR-challenged! Such practices can lead to employee disengagement, turnover, malaise, increased sick days, employee theft, sabotage, or worse, which arguably costs a company more than the money saved through online applications and hiring.