Spreadsheets are the Toxic Boyfriend of HR & Recruiting #HRTechConf

HR Recruiting, Spreadsheets, toxic, sourcing

I remember the first time I encountered the dreaded Excel spreadsheet. I was in college. It was my first statistics class led by a graduate assistant. English was not her first language and it was only halfway through my class that I realized “arpha” was actually “alpha.” Hooray for the education system and my state college degree.

I remember for an assignment entering data and building a series of charts and being blown away by how simple a scatter plot graph could be. It was so simple and I loved the pie chart design. Oh, how I was so young and naive.

Excel Spreadsheets are Not a Recruiting & Staffing Strategy

I’m drawn to spreadsheets like a moth to the light. They seem like such a simple solution and simple they are. Spreadsheets do not provide any type of effective recruiting or staffing planning. They are just data storage, and provide me a form of corporate CYA that came with a weekly staffing headcount report email sent to my boss and the Senior VP.

Spreadsheets are void of any innovation. And with all the great HR Tech that is out there in reports, analytics and big data to help us hire better, faster and more effectively we are still seduced by the devil that is the spreadsheet.  Fifty-four percent of companies still have a manual staffing plan process that’s spreadsheet basedSpreadsheets are the bane of mediocrity. They are not under any certain terms an effective tool for building a recruiting or staffing plan or strategy.

The seduction is easy. Spreadsheets fit nicely into zero based budgeting. We don’t have to budget Excel technology into our annual planning and HR budgeting. They are also familiar, comfortable like an old boyfriend.

We know the spreadsheet is bad, it’s is so natural, familiar and safe. We don’t have to work to impress them or go work out at the gym. There are no contracts to sign or new commitments to make. My boyfriend and I were together forever in high school which was approximately 2 1/2 years. He was my first love, and it was one that neither of us wanted to leave. Our relationship became toxic and left me doing ridiculously crazy things that weren’t me. I skipped school to be with him. I tried to run away, but I kept coming back to that old spreadsheet. I knew it was wrong, but being together was easy. Those formulas were already developed and I could write them like it was nobody’s business. With a quick sort alphabetically or by hire date or job title, I could tell you everyone that worked in the department in question, store location or at my company. I didn’t have to learn a new HR tech system or even build a crystal report. The spreadsheet was always there and I knew exactly what it wanted from me. 

It’s been five years since I had to send that weekly headcount spreadsheet staffing email and I can tell you that leaving the spreadsheet was one of the simple best things I did for myself today. I opened myself up to new options, different tools and technologies. I made mistakes but most importantly I took chances and learned that there is life after living, loving and leaving the Excel spreadsheet. In fact, calling it quits with the spreadsheet and leaving him or her for good is the start of something I can only describe as amazing.

Yes, there is life in recruiting and HR after the Excel spreadsheet.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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