Where The Rubber Meets The Road Responsively

William Tincup Good HR, HR Tech, HR Technology, HR Vendors, Mobile Recruiting, Recruiting, William Tincup

No, not that rubber. For the love of God, get your minds out of the gutter people.

This article is about responsive design and why we should all care about it. Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at creating sites and applications to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, pinching, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors. Note: Pinch and zoom should NOT be your go-to-market strategy in 2014. Naw’mean?

A major challenge for developers of business technology (like the ones we use in HR and recruiting) is to create applications that perform on multiple devices, monitors and browsers. One solution is to create a different product for every device. This is commonly referred to as an “app strategy:” an iPad, iPhone and Android app, plus a desktop version. Another other solution is to design a single, universal product that is capable of adapting to any screen size, perhaps even screen sizes that don’t exist yet. The latter is “responsive:” one product that responds to the environment you are using it in. So, when you log into a responsive application on an iPhone or tablet it adapts to the smaller screen. On a laptop display or a giant monitor, the app expands and uses all of those extra pixels. And, dammit, Christopher Walken doesn’t like to waste pixels!

At the core of the matter is the concept of meeting people where they are. Meaning, if your employees want to use a business app on their iPhone—they should be able to. If your employees want to work from a desktop—they should be able to. You get the point. Your employees should be able to use technology that runs HR & recruiting from wherever and whatever they’d like. Technology should be easy to use and extremely intuitive. It should not have barriers around it… meaning, works great from the desktop… not optimized for an iPad. That’s no bueno.

In many work situations, we don’t even know how important this issue is because employees have been forced to deal with whatever got served up. A life without choices is not a life worth living. (I’m so poetic… Hallmark called, they want me to start on Monday.) Back to the story at hand… Employees—especially recruiters—have been troopers, but my gut tells me that they are about to revolt. They, in their personal lives, have a ton of software that they use… on their phone, laptops, tablets, etc., that mold around how they want to do stuff. And, when they come to work, it’s not like they forget that software should be malleable around the user of said technology. They’ve been quiet up to now, but we should recognize the quiet storm that is underlying our employees’ frustration with our technology choices. Largely, it’s not that the technology doesn’t work… it just doesn’t work where and when they want it to.

So… firstly, let’s find out how they are currently using the technology that we’ve purchased. That’s current use. Then, let’s ask them how they would optimally use said technology. That’s future use. A few real world examples:

  • Current use: recruiters are using an ATS that is desktop centric (600 pixel content channel in the center of the screen)
  • Future use: would love the option of reviewing candidates via their mobile device of choice
  • Current use: managers review candidates and collaborate via desktop and tablets
  • Future use: would love the option of employees doing this via phones
  • Current use: employees usage of self-service portal is limited to only certain browsers
  • Future use: would love the option of using the application from home with spouse AND using on Google Chrome
  • Current use: executives have to login to a desktop app to approve a job req or offer
  • Future use: would just reply to an email alert with comments or a special command tag to approve or deny.
  • Current use: hiring managers log in to a desktop app to provide feedback on interviews
  • Future use: managers either log in via their phone or respond to a simple email to provide feedback.

You get the point… technology should enable work NOT force employees and/or admins to work a certain type of way.

Something else to think about is for anything in talent acquisition (i.e., ATS, screening, assessment, skills testing, etc.), we also need to think about meeting candidates where they are. In the same vein as meeting employees where they are… we need to be purposeful in thinking about how they would like to interact with our brand. How easy or hard is it? Is the software that we are purchasing making life better for candidates (and employees) OR harder?

Responsive design isn’t the magic bullet but it is damn important, and we need to raise our collective acumen about the subject. As a buyer of HR technology, here’s your list of knockout questions for folks selling you HR/recruiting software:

  • Is this product responsive or do you have an app strategy? If there is an app strategy, how often are the apps updated?
  • If this is not responsive, is that on the product roadmap? If so, how long do you anticipate the redesign of the product to take?
  • What are the browser requirements for this product?
  • Can you demonstrate this product on a mobile device? (a good product demo person will have a device simulator on their computer)
  • Are there any limitations to what areas of the app can be accessed from a mobile device?

Responsive design is the new mobile and will prove to be immeasurably beneficial for the recruiting technology industry and consumers of HR technology in general. Responsiveness is the catalyst that we’ve all been waiting for to truly accelerate the socialization of recruiting technology beyond just recruiters and HR professionals—meeting people where and when they can and want to do work. Our industry is once again on the cusp of reinventing itself again and with the help of new technologies like “HTML5,” “One-page apps” and “Javascript,”… the cornerstones of responsive design.

So, the purpose of this article is simple… understand what responsive design is, why it is important and be able to distinguish vendors that do it from those that don’t. Now… don’t you feel smarter? Well, of course you freaking do.