How a HR Director and a Toaster told the same story


Picture credit – BitRebels

Why is it companies won’t make changes to important systems and processes unless they get multiple complaints about them? Let me give you an example.

Last week I was staying away for work in a respected hotel chain. I went down for breakfast and put a couple of slices of bread into one of the four huge toasters lined up in the breakfast area. As I like a crispy bit of toast I turned up the dial to maximum. The toast popped up – not even the slightest browning, just warm – ggrrrrr!! So I did it again with the same pieces – a slight browning this time! I changed toaster and did the same again – and after three attempts I got a vaguely browned bit of toast. By chance during my toasting session, the breakfast chef appeared to check on the hot food. 

I asked him why his toasters don’t work. He said that he knew they were crap and they didn’t work!! In fact they had only had them a few weeks as they were new and none of the four worked very well. “WHAT? Are you serious?” was sort of my John McEnroe type reply. The chef’s response was as follows; “The company won’t make changes to anything in the hotel unless they get enough complaints from the guests – then they will look at it and consider the options ………. even though they know they don’t work. That’s the policy. So make sure you complain and it might help me get some new ones!’ 

I just want you to look beyond toast and toasters for a second. I had the near same conversation with an HR Director two weeks ago with regards to their online recruitment system (ATS):

“We have had it for seven years and it has worked fine. Unless we get complaints from people saying otherwise I see no reason to change it”. 

My response:  “the reason you don’t have complaints is that the process is so long and painful, candidates lose the will to live making an application. Your ‘complaint’ should be the 95% drop-off during the process. Also the recruiters using it, have given up and just rely on job boards and their Outlook inbox.”

“We haven’t had any complaints – apart from the recruitment team saying they don’t like the system”

“Have you ever applied for a job and experienced the process?”

“No, why would I?”

“To experience the process from a candidate’s perspective, maybe.” <large does of sarcasm inserted into my comment>

“As I said we have had no complaints about it, so I see no need to do that, because I am not going to change it anyway.”

This conversation went on for another 10 minutes around this subject! It was ironic because I was invited in to discuss using social media in their recruitment process, because he felt the company needed it to help them with their candidate attraction (which is poor)!!

This is not an uncommon conversation I have with companies, whether it is to do with recruitment systems, processes, technologies or (even ) people. Ultimately they know they have a problem, but for one reason or another they choose to do nothing with their problem until enough people (in this case their job applicants) complain it doesn’t work.

Does this happen where you work? Do you have similar challenges? How have you got changes through in these circumstances?

[Footnote: I actually got this HRD to do an application in the end, with me sitting there with him. He gave up after the 7th page of the process (with more to go!) and conceded that maybe there was room for improvement.]

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