I’ll staple those applications

This is a story about a time I when I had a great idea.

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The year was two thousand and seven. I was all of 21 years old and very ambitious. I had been working my first “grown up” job for a year now and had been exceeding all expectations. I had learned so much in that time, but I knew I needed to find ways to manage my time better and increase efficiency.

I was the youngest person working in the office at the time with three other ladies. Two of which were older than my parents, but not quite old enough to be my grandparents and one was probably close to my parents age. The two older ladies worked upstairs while me and the younger of the other three worked downstairs. Her and I saw a lot of people every day coming in to fill out these lengthy paper applications. Her and I were the first round of interviews, screening them to see if they were good enough candidates to send upstairs (as I type this, I realize that process was also ridiculous). We handled the drug screens, scheduling, applicant flow, filing, answering phones, etc. The other two ladies handled payroll, delivering checks, extra screening, meetings and one of them did sales. All of that to explain that they weren’t always up close witnesses to the dated process of the paper applications and how long it took.

Process at the time: take paper application, interview candidate, send candidate upstairs for further interview, make candidate an offer, drug screen candidate, on-board candidate, enter new hire information into our system. YEAH, we took their info from their application and entered it into the system so we could pay them. They wrote out all of their info and then someone would take that info and manually key it into the system. Manually. key. it. in.

YALL… one day I was playing around and found out that the software we used to enter applicant data in and administer payroll was in fact a fairly sophisticated ATS! IT COULD TAKE ONLINE APPLICATIONS… We had this product we were paying for that could take applications and here we were handing out all these dadgum paper applications like it was 1982. YALL… I started crunching some numbers, because even in my early days I knew data was the way to make your case. How much were we spending ordering these paper applications, shipping the paper applications to our office, and then stapling all of the separate sheets together? How much time did it take an applicant on average to fill this massive thing out, how much time did it take to file it, how much time did it take to enter it in once we hired them, etc.? How much would it cost to set up 4-6 computers in the office for applicants to use to fill out the online version of this application? THE. NUMBERS. SPOKE. FOR. THEMSELVES.

As you can tell from this typed out blog post about a story from over 10 years ago, I was EXCITED! I had everything I needed to make a case for why we needed to change our process immediately and I couldn’t wait to tell somebody. I remember telling the ladies who worked upstairs about this idea and how simple it would be for me to set it up for us. I talked about streamlining the process, saving time, $$, I hit all the key factors BUT those two ladies only heard “you’re inefficient, I can do it better, I’m replacing you.”

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This is my “really, that’s all you heard?” face…

I didn’t know what to do with that. I was floored because that’s not what I was saying at all. I wasn’t sure where that was coming from and I didn’t know how to dispute it. I let it go. When given the chance to run another office for the same company I eventually implemented all the upgrades I wanted to do in my office. When my office became the biggest billing office in the company, other offices were instructed to do what I was doing. It wasn’t about replacing anyone, it was about improving our efficiency and service. I didn’t know how to refine my message back then or have a conversation with peers who were afraid I viewed them as a non-factor and replaceable. I could have┬ádone a much better job of pitching my idea, my mistake was not taking the time to understand that I might need to.

Learn how to talk to people of all levels. Approach issues with the other persons perspective in mind. When all else fails, shut up and listen.

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