I enjoyed the new Booz | Allen | Hamilton and DirectEmployers Association study on the sources of new hires – but as with the liquid amber it’s best to enjoy in moderation. There has been a bit of discussion regarding this in the blogoshpere (see several posts here, here, and here). For certain, this is really interesting work but I fear that in the general absence of information of this type, far too much weight will be placed upon the study findings without regard for some obvious issues.
First, the study is a survey format so it is subject to the natural bias of human perception that exists between what we do and what we think we do. That certainly doesn’t negate all its value but it is important to keep that in mind when considering the data. I also feel that the study ignores a critical point that if ignored, or misinterpreted, could really hurt companies using the data to shape their recruitment marketing strategy.
Taken at face value, you should just stop placing ads in the newspaper and online job boards and dump all the money into generating employee referrals and developing the job section of your company web site. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those tactics but ahem…
People don’t just show up at a company site by some wooji-wooji magic and referrals don’t just happen without influencers driving the referral. These individuals have been influenced by a long line of information, from marketing to knowledge obtained elsewhere. If you don’t understand what contributed to the Tipping Point of someone going to your website or being referred to you then you won’t be able to reproduce the success and that’s a critical issue.
I also see an issue with Booz’s ‘value index’ ranking. The value ranking gives credit to methods of attracting job seekers where it’s only partially due, at the expense of other influencers that in fact are helping it succeed. I’m not a newspaper proponent but this study, especially because it uses a survey method, is not reliable to me in making a judgment about print effectiveness. Given how difficult it is to track response from offline media like newspapers how are these survey respondents accurately portraying the effects of offline media? I have spent the last nine years highlighting the value of online media, so it is funny to be defending print – but I really feel that much of the press about the ineffectiveness of offline media is imbalanced (just as viewpoints of online have been off for a long time). The print product still drives value and it’s death, while eventual, is overplayed. And the analogy to what’s being said about referrals and company sites in this study would be like a star player on a sports team getting all the credit for a win. Do you remember how many basketball championships Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls when he lacked a great team surrounding him? That’s right, NADA.
If Booz could show me a pure number that stripped out the unquestionable influence of other media and information that was the catalyst that led to the respondents to knowing the employer’s brand and naming their corporate web site as their primary source of job seeking – then this study would go from good to unparalled.
Let me give you a parallel that is still developing in the online ad measurement world. Over the last few years online ad serving powerhouse DoubleClick has introduced and advocated a new online ad metric called a ‘view-through.’ A view-through measures the latent impact of an online banner ad (post impression activity) and the subsequent action (a purchase or registration) a consumer takes up to 30 days after seeing the ad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great metric that helps demonstrate that the value of an online ad extends beyond the initial viewing. It specifically addresses those in the online advertisement space that view the entire value of a banner ad as a click-through, a measurement that is most appropriate for measuring direct response advertising – not brand advertising. But like this recent Booz study the flaw in the view-through metric is that it assumes the user is later making a purchase solely BECAUSE they saw that banner ad. Of course, the real primary influencer may have been a TV commercial or a referral from a friend. Or to my larger point – all three.
I don’t want to take away from the study as I mentioned at the beginning of this post because it’s great information. I just wanted to provide some food for thought when using this data to drive strategy, especially because I haven’t seen anyone else bringing up these points yet.
Good study, good work and good information. Apply it with a good dose of common sense and you’ll be ahead of the game.