Please welcome this article by Dorothy Beach, MBA CIR PHR. We are colleagues through our interest in competitive intelligence. We met at a Dallas/Ft. Worth SCIP Chapter meeting, and I really value her insight into the recruiting world!
Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process of gathering valuable information about your firm’s direct and indirect competitors including strategies, plans, practices or people. Companies value CI and its opposite, counterintelligence or protection of assets, in varying degrees. Those that value CI and counterintelligence are more cooperative about its collection and protection across all functions of the company.
As a new R&D employee in the Healthcare Division at Procter & Gamble I realized that counterintelligence was essential but when I transferred to product development in the Food & Beverage Division, everyone was responsible for gathering CI, especially when we conducted consumer research in the field. Marketing-based companies are especially sensitive to competitive forces and highly value both CI and counterintelligence.
As a Recruiting Researcher and Sourcer, I observed there were usually more formal processes around counterintelligence than CI. Examples of HR counterintelligence are protecting the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) from hacks, using stringent password protection and masking Social Security numbers. CI rarely was an organized effort either before or after a new employee was hired. While exchanging information with recruiters when sourcing candidates for them, I realized that we gathered a lot of CI while speaking to prospective candidates that was not well captured or shared. Much of what we heard was recorded in Excel spreadsheets or in notes of an ATS or not at all. It is no wonder that CI was not appreciated enough to develop a formal CI process and reward system for its information.
Once there is a high level management buy-in to develop a CI gathering process, start with a roadmap to include:
1.) Objectives or goals
2.) A scan of existing and needed resources
3.) An estimated budget for resources and training
4.) A way to record and communicate findings with a risk assessment
5.) Analytics to track progress
6.) A timeline for the roadmap which reassesses its effectiveness
Ideally this recruiting initiative should work cooperatively with the competitive intelligence employees in an information exchange. The process should be open to its evolution in the first launch and have a point of responsibility given to at least two people: a Recruiting Manager and their direct report. Some aspects of each step in the roadmap:
Step 1: A new program might need objectives or goals with some constraints. You can gather “real time” information across all company sources or just focus on the company’s closest competitors. The latter focus works if your company recruits heavily from competitors so there is representation of new hires from all functions
Sample objectives include answers to:
What influences the candidate choice of employer in this industry?
When we are turned down, where do the candidates go?
What recruiters at the competitor companies are stealing our talent?
What is the competition’s biggest impact on successful recruitment? Examples: website, field work, recruiting process, social media channels, job boards or other?
Is our salary and benefit package help or hinder recruitment?
Is the brand perception locally different from what is perceived elsewhere?
Step 2: Resource identification includes the development of formal new employee interviewing questions and additional informal candidate interviewing questions, resources to validate what is said such as financial databases, analyst reports (Gartner, IDC, Forrester) and social media monitoring and a process to acquire and record third party recruiter intelligence gathering.
Step 3: Calculate the budget to cover the expenses of an employee(s) covering this role and identify its responsibilities. Expenses can take the form of added recruiter bonuses for the intelligence that has impact, resources to validate findings, costs for communication platforms and training costs to launch the initiative to a team. Soft costs are the hours dedicated to implementing, executing and evaluating this job.
Step 4: Communication can be a platform such as a wiki for “real time” feeds or an eRoom for posts. More recent tools like Yammer.com, a Twitter-like blog communication internal to the company, can alert a researcher to validate a piece of intelligence and reissue to the staffing organization. Determinations of how long this information should be kept, where and in what form is part of assessing risk. Share it in a way that it cannot be changed (pdf) or downloaded (no PC peripheral policy) and share it broadly and as close to “real time” as possible. Access to this CI information between recruiting and competitive intelligence employees in other parts of the company would be ideal.
Step 5: Determine the analytics you need to track how the intelligence is used and what influence it has on decision-making. Examples of analytics are success in further recruitment, timing from first engagement of the candidate to their hire date, information that can or cannot be validated, and determination of what recruiting channels are most used. If intelligence can be validated it becomes more useful in strategic planning.
Step 6: Each quarter or half year, review what objectives were accomplished and broadly share. Make suggestions for improvement of CI and counterintelligence with an outcome of go/ no-go decision of resources for the initiative’s continuation and evolution.
Agencies using this roadmap can add value to their services to corporate clients with the added benefit of an arm’s length in its information gathering.
Dorothy Beach has been in research for her entire career, possesses an MBA in Marketing and is also certified in both Internet Recruiting (CIR) and Human Resources (PHR). Her blog, FrontEndRecruiting was created to showcase the latest trends, tools and techniques used by recruiters for the research phase of the recruiting cycle. More recently Dorothy has become a social media strategist for the Texas Recruiters Network. She can be found on LinkedIn and accepts all invitations to her extensive network using email@example.com.