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ATS Systems: Tracking a Return on Your Investment


5/15/2009 7:38:55 PM

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ATS Systems: Tracking a Return on Your Investment
By Wendy Lalli

In determining the financial return on a corporate investment for human resources such as an ATS system, a decrease in labor costs is sometimes viewed as the most prized return. But when it comes to determining the value of a recruitment tool, there is far more at stake than the immediate expense of the software. Recruitment affects a company’s ability to succeed in the future as well as operate profitably today. And for any business concern that comes down to building a superior, loyal workforce committed to achieving the company’s long range goals.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 80 percent of corporate turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. The key to reducing this number is finding the right pool of skilled applicants and then having the time to select the best candidate for your needs from that group. So if you’re seeking the most effective Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your company keep in mind that the value of any ATS is determined not just by the number of applicants it helps you process but the long term success of those you eventually hire.

What ATSes Can and Cannot Do

As someone who has been actively involved in recruiting in many different environments and industries, Andy Davis, a staffing industry professional at InfoCurrent, a division of CORESTAFF Services, readily acknowledges that “Applicant tracking systems can greatly reduce the day-to-day busy work of placing job descriptions on job boards, sorting resumes, responding to applicants, setting up manager interviews, and keeping track of the whole process from start to finish. But recruiting is still an art. A good recruiter not only understands the demands of the position a manager is seeking to fill but what kind of candidate would best fit the department, that manager’s management style, and the company’s culture.”

“Remember,” Andy cautions, “ATS stands for ‘applicant tracking system’ and it’s just that. What you put in is what you get out. An ATS may help you manage a large number of candidates but unless you’re dedicated to the recruitment process, even the most sophisticated system has no more value than keeping paper files with zero notes. So take advantage of the time an ATS saves you on paperwork to really get to know your top candidates one-on-one.”

Track Good Candidates Now and Later

An ATS system should always allow you to set certain criteria that will automatically sort applicants into different categories. For example, if you’re looking for a researcher with five years experience and a Masters in Microbiology your ATS system should identify candidates with these credentials, sort them, store them in a file for immediate consideration and then allow you to send them on to your hiring managers. It should also sort and store resumes from any applicants who may not have these specific attributes but may still be viable candidates for other positions later on. This represents an enormous savings in time and effort not only for current searches and but future ones.

In addition, your ATS system may be able to save you work after candidates are hired. From the moment a candidate first logs in to apply for a job, a record of his or her experience, skill sets and talents remains in the ATS system. In a Workforce Week article, “Talent Acquisition: Where’d They Come From?,” Gina Ruiz quotes Dean Melonas, vice president of recruitment at JetBlue Airways, as follows: “Companies gather so much important information about candidates at the time of hire – everything on their resumes from their address to their professional skills. It’s a shame to see that valuable data go to waste.” Cindy Haugh, senior director of staffing and talent acquisition at Electronic Arts in Redwood City, California, would no doubt agree. In this same article she describes how her company has found that having all of their systems communicate with each other enables Electronic Arts “to draw critical information about employees throughout their entire life cycle.”

Tell you who came from where

But perhaps the most cost effective benefit of a good ATS system is that it can help you identify which sites are most likely to attract superior candidates. Clearly, this is a boon when determining where to invest your advertising dollars. Yet the usefulness of this information is somewhat problematic since it depends on how well the data is recorded and reported. Robert Stefanovic, product marketing manager for Taleo in Dublin, California, claims, “The quality of reporting can vary significantly, even among the top ATSes.” And according to Brian Platz, executive vice president and general manager of SilkRoad Technology in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “Without solid reporting, employers have nothing…The data is no good unless you can determine patterns or trends.”

Adjust to your requirements

The value of data reports – or any other feature of an ATS – also depends on just how pertinent it is to your own operation. So another important aspect to consider before investing in an ATS system is how easily it can be customized to meet your special requirements. This was one of the concerns facing Liz Bacchi, senior manager, talent acquisition at Roche Palo Alto when the company’s European headquarters decided to extend their Taleo installation to Roche campuses in the states. Now, a year later, she finds that, “the Taleo installation has significantly enhanced the recruitment process for all concerned. Despite the differences in hiring practices and languages between Europe and the U.S., the system is flexible enough to accommodate the company’s needs on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Success on this project, as in most things, involved much forethought and careful preparation on the part of the Roche team and their Taleo representative. After considering their existing hiring processes and determining how an ATS could enhance them, the team collaborated with Taleo on manipulating the system to meet their specifications. The Roche team soon found that despite any initial misgivings, the new system had three essential attributes that assured its successful transition stateside: (1) ease of use – internally and externally; (2) strong sourcing capabilities to meet their recruitment needs, and (3) the ability to generate helpful reports quickly and easily.

Of course, all this didn’t happen overnight. It took time, planning and the unwavering support of top management. But in the end Liz and her colleagues have benefited from a system that allows them to interact more effectively with the hiring managers they assist and the candidates they wish most to hire. Whatever system you may choose for your situation, this is surely the best of all possible returns you might hope for on your own company’s investment.



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