The Fax Machine is Alive and Well. Thank You Very Much.

Every now and again, in any one of the myriad recruiting and/or HR technology Facebook groups to which I belong, someone will post “OMG; I was just asked for my fax number! We haven’t used a fax machine in the office for 15 years!” Numerous people chime in with increasing incredulity: “WTF? That’s crazy! Who faxes things anymore? Luddites!.” Scorn and disdain are heaped upon anyone who still has and dares to use a fax machine.

Let me break this down; not every organization is fully tech-enabled. Not every organization is one that has launched within the last 5 years ready-to-roll with new equipment and of-the-moment functionalities. There are quite a few ginormous entities, especially of the governmental variety, that have not been able to transition due to the financial costs of such an undertaking; the NHS, according to a report from June, still has 11,620 fax machines in operation.

There are also numerous people – job seekers, consumers, citizens relying on the services of those vast governmental entities – who need to send documents without the benefit of a home PC and/or scanner. Yes, there IS a continuing digital divide. (As a point of note, I’ll be doing a Tech Talk on this topic at September’s HR Technology Conference).

In my human resources department, while we scan and email with massive, sometimes overwhelming, frequency, we still send/receive 15-20 faxes each week:

Verifications of employment

  • Banks, credit unions and mortgage companies continue to send the VOE (good old Form 1005!) via fax; the loan processor has filled it out by hand and our Payroll team fills it out by hand and faxes it back.
  • Rental companies and landlords send VOEs, usually just verifying that Sally Sue does, in fact, continue to draw a regular paycheck before they hand over the keys to the apartment or house.
  • Want to buy a car? Yup; faxed verification.

Pre-placement Drug Testing

  • The occupational medical clinic we use for pre-employment, post-accident and workers’ comp testing and care requires pre-authorization. Post-accident and W/C cases are managed in-person but new hires are given directions via phone of where to report for pre-placement cup-filling peeing. Naturally, as you might guess, an HR team member must send that authorization form over via fax.

Employee Benefits

  • Employees participating in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan need to substantiate certain expenses with a receipt. As noted above not everyone has a PC, let alone a scanner, at home so the next fastest option (beating snail mail by a country mile) is to send via fax. We have such a steady stream of employees coming to HR, receipts in hand, that we have pre-filled FAX COVER SHEETS so they can use the stone-age facsimile machine.
  • Heading out on leave covered by the FMLA or the Louisiana Fair Employment Practices Act? Returning to work with a properly filled out “release to RTW with no restrictions” form from your health care provider? Need to get the forms and information into the hands of the 3rd party administrator that handles all leave administration for our company? Don’t have a scanner at home? Bring it the HR Department and use the fax machine.

Our recruiting team does not accept resumes via fax; not that we don’t get asked this question with some regularity. We do not publicize our fax number; I have never had it included on my business card and when asked to supply it on a form under “contact information” I leave that field blank. Somehow though that damn number gets out into the world. My current working theory is that our internal phone list (with fax numbers!) has been printed and distributed all over town.

So please, my dear fellow recruiters and HR technology champions, cease with the ridicule and derision. I would love nothing more than to once and for all relegate the fax machine to the trash bin of office equipment memories where it can reside in peace with mucilage, floppy disks and the mimeograph machine.

In the meantime you can fax those papers over to 225-709-8702.



image: Wikimedia Commons: University of Wisconsin Archives

“English professor Helen C. White works at a mimeograph machine. In addition to teaching English, White served as president of the American Association of University Women.”


Women in HR Technology #HRTechConf #nextchat

Today is the start of the HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas; it’s the 20th annual event and we’re kicking off with the 2nd Annual Women in HR Tech pre-conference event today. Sessions include:

and many more.

The blended topics at the intersection of gender, technology and workplace inclusion make regular headlines and they’re important conversations. Yet, for many HR practitioners who either don’t work in tech or live here with me in “flyover country” the discussions are seen as much ado about nothing. Admittedly, I’m not basing that opinion on anything other than my own anecdotal experiences. To wit: within the last few months I spoke to two separate HR audiences, a thousand miles apart, and when I asked these several hundred HR practitioners/leaders who had heard of James Damore’s “google manifesto” the vast majority were unfamiliar. Which made me sad. This is important for human resources leaders to discuss and it’s not just about “women in tech;” there are bigger issues surrounding gender inclusion and ongoing stereotypes in any workplace/industry.

So yeah…I’m quite thrilled that for the second year the team the #HRTechConf is providing an opportunity for us to have these conversations.

In addition, SHRM will be running this week’s #nextchat live from the conference; join Conference presenter Cecile Alper-Leroux @cecilehcm; and members of the HR Tech Insiders Blogger Team: Dawn Burke @DawnHBurke, Heather Bussing @HeatherBussing, Heather Kinzie @HeatherKinzie, Jennifer Payne @JennyJensHR, (and me!) as we discuss “Women in HR Tech” live on the twitterz at 3 PM/ET on Wednesday (tomorrow).

p.s. check out this great post “Women and Tech – The Pace of Change” from Heather Bussing.


image: Wikipedia: About 8,000 women worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. Women constituted roughly 75% of the workforce there


No Phone? No Profile? No Problem!

Guess what? Not all of us live, work and try to hire people in Silicon Valley. And, according to Matt Charney, that’s probably a good thing.

Scads of us who spend our days working in HR or Talent Acquisition are recruiting for decidedly less ‘glamorous’ positions than Python Developers or Strategic Content Marketers for the newest and sexiest start-up that just got some funding. In reality many of us are looking to hire Customer Service Reps, Certified Nursing Assistants, Pipefitters, Restaurant Kitchen staff and General Laborers.

While our recruiting brothers and sisters in San Francisco, Austin, New York and London may scramble to find elusive tech candidates on GitHub or in some Slack group, those of us who hire in the rest-of-the-world (you know…in reality) often find ourselves trying to connect with candidates and applicants who are not online. Folks who don’t have an email address let alone a LinkedIn profile. People who desperately want to work but have not adjusted to ‘finding a job’ in the year 2017. (this is not a generational or age thing BTW…) 

I run into these job seekers every day. Every. Single. Day.

So what to do? How can we ensure that we’re:

  • meeting candidates at their place of comfort and ability?
  • providing applicants with an experience that is not intimidating or off-putting?
  • bringing them along and educating them for future success in the digital world?

I’m not sure that we’ve got all the answers but my friend Jackye Clayton and I will be talking about this TODAY (Friday, September 1) on RecruitingLive (1 PM EST). Join us for this lively 30 minute conversation – you can register here.






Set it and Forget It: Cooking With HR Technology

Image: Kitchen Timer by Sambla Billån

I’ve recently found myself in numerous conversations with HR professionals and recruiters about striking the balance between effective use of HR technology and still maintaining a human touch in the processes that impact candidates, applicants and employees.

It’s a real problem in search of solutions.

Those solutions range from dialing back our reliance on the technology we implemented with much fanfare and excitement, scheduling ‘moments’ of human interaction and embedding them within a given process, or fully re-engineering the actual tools themselves.

I’ve had these discussions at various events and gatherings (conferences, meet ups, cocktails at the close of the day, meetings at coffee shops) with HR Leaders and HR Generalists, VPs of Talent Acquisition, Recruiting Coordinators, HR Benefits Coordinators and HR Assistants. Also, hovering, silently (or not so silently) on the sidelines for a few of these chats, have been the HR technology developers, founders, marketers, and sales business development guys. To the surprise of no one, the tech guys believe the way to bring in the human touch is to layer on more technology. Chat bots and/or AI anyone?

Are the bots coming? Undoubtedly. But while some get positively giddy at the thought and the implications for their HR or TA team, I hope to resist our HR robot overlords as long as possible.

Oh sure, the necessity for machine intervention in a large enterprise makes sense; if you’re an HR shop dealing with tens of thousands of employees or a TA team handling tens of thousands of applicants per year, the amount of labor hours needed to handle that volume requires systems chugging away behind the scenes to manage the data, the flow and the processes. And, of course, not every employee wants to pick up the phone and talk to the HR Care Specialist (with a condescending attitude) sitting in her cubicle in the Acme Corporation’s Employee Care Shared Service Center (service hours 8 AM ET to 7 PM ET).  In many instances, employees do, indeed, want to self-solve and self-serve.

Yet…there’s also a deep down realization from more and more HR practitioners and recruiters that perhaps, just perhaps, we have started to over engineer our core HR services and processes. To wit:

  • Joe Candidate lands on company career site and, heeding a well placed “Call to Action,” signs up for a Talent Network/Talent Community/Job Notification email blast
  • Joe gets regular emails of “Jobs of Interest!!” and eventually applies for REQ 23-456-2016
  • Over the next week or so, Joe receives emails (programmed, of course, to go out during business hours so as to appear as if a human being is typing them from their keyboard in real time!) apprising him of where he is in the hiring process
  • Joe is invited to complete an online assessment
  • Joe, apparently having passed the assessment, is invited to complete a video interview
  • Joe is sent a link to read employee testimonials and view company produced (Employer Branding!!) content including “A Day in the Life” and “A View Inside Our Offices”
  • Joe continues to receive emails at well-timed intervals
  • Joe has yet to hear the real live human voice of a recruiter, recruiting coordinator or the hiring manager

Now I’m the first to admit that in organizations having voluminous applicant activity, this sort of thing is not only a blessed thing but also, if anyone is to make any headway, a necessity. Bear in mind as well that it’s been about 10 years since I worked for a large enterprise with 3,000+ open requisitions; I myself managed 150+ open reqs (don’t even ask) and would have loved a bit more snap, sizzle and automation in our processes. But…

…we’ve become so damn enamored of this sort of thing that we layer on new bells and whistles and work tirelessly to get our systems to talk to each other so we can set them up and keep our hands off the part of the process that drew most of us to this profession in the first place…talking to people. Human to human.

And this is not just on the recruiting side of the people business, although that’s where we tend to focus the conversation and energy. I’ve also seen this play out in the absolutely most mind-numbingly boring side of human resources…employee benefits. Many a US organization just went through the annual open enrollment period and, undoubtedly, relied on System A (online benefit administrator) to pull data feeds from System B (HRIS) while simultaneously interfacing with Systems C, D and E (benefit providers) all while employees, lost in the labyrinth of confusion, were provided with nothing more than an 800 number, a website, and a generic benefits@ABCCompany email address that is unattended and rarely monitored.

Where’s the human? Why do we consider this movement to a “set it and forget it” mindset to be evolutionary? The use of technology should enhance and amplify that which we can do as humans – not merely serve to replace it.

How, as we move into the future of HR, do we best balance high tech while ensuring we’re still high touch?

I’m not sure I have the answer.



Segmentation and the Practice of HR

baby guinessI spent a few days last week at the HR Tech Fest Conference (#HRTF16) and enjoyed every moment; listening, learning and talking about the future of talent, HR, technology, recruiting, and work.

I was energized when I heard the stories told by HR leaders including Neil Morrison (Penguin Random House), Jim O’ Gorman (Hulu) and Ambrosia Vertesi (formerly of Hootsuite). I was inspired after numerous individual discussions about new ways to leverage existing (and emerging) technology to connect with candidates, applicants, employees and organizational leaders. I got to talk through the logistics of my beta test at work using Slack as an internal community/platform for our hiring managers. I tried out some messaging ideas I’ve been kicking around for employer branding and TA initiatives back at the shop. I had a conversation about how, potentially, I could make Facebook at Work … well, work. Maybe. Not quite sure if that last one actually fits.

One size…one trend, idea, concept, or forecast … will never fit all because of any infinite number of variables including organizational readiness, the demographics of the workforce, the risk aversion of an industry, and willingness of leaders and employees to experiment or test. I’m more than likely, in my current organization, never going to use Virtual Reality technology and it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to the stage of using AI and scientific assessments in our selection process.

And that’s OK.

It’s not just about SMEs vs. Enterprise. I’m not talking number of employees or number of staff in one’s HR Department. It’s really not even about the size of the HR budget or company revenue. Yet those are, quite often, the primary factors in the market segmentation strategy employed by HR tech vendors and solution providers (“oh…sorry….we only work with companies that have 5,000+ employees”). Trust me…I get it. Can’t say as I like it much, but I get it.

So what I need to do is make sure that my team approaches our HR work with a DIY attitude; the reality, by the way, for a huge number of human resources teams. We scrimp and scramble and create using the materials on hand; mixing them up to get the job done. Many HR professionals on the ground don’t have the budget to make a purchase ($$), don’t have the resources to train users on something overly complex (time, staff, and more $$) and don’t have the time to pause and even learn about “what could be.” OK…admittedly some possess neither the curiosity to wonder about “what could be” nor the mental capacity to understand, but that’s another blog post.

As for me, at the end of any of these events, I leave with nuggets of wisdom and ideas for how to scale up/scale down to find the fit, if appropriate, for my organization. Am I going to build an Open Cloud Academy like Rackspace (another nifty thing I heard about at #HRTF16)? Nope. But I got a few ideas from them for something – a ‘tiny” something – that I may be able to create. DIY.

As for that segmentation of HR buyers and users? I always take the opportunity to chat with my friends who are HR Tech company founders or developers or product evangelists or marketing experts and educate them on “real” HR. Quite often they have no idea, whatsoever, what day-to-day real-world blood-and-guts HR is like. And how could they? (Sometimes I show them pictures). Their only experience, quite often, with an HR lady has been with the benefit-enrolling policy-quoting bureaucrat who sits behind a closed door drinking her diet Cokes and warming up Lean Cuisines in the break room microwave for lunch; they certainly never hung out with her consuming rounds of baby Guinness shots. More than likely.

That’s me doing my best to end the needlessly unnecessary segmentation.

You’re welcome.


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