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Here's How HR Would Look If It Was Owned By "The Ladders"...

Some of you know who The Ladders is, some of you don't...

For the uninitiated, The Ladders is a job board/portal/service for companies who are trying to fill 100K+ The-ladders-commercials-more-attractive-500x282 jobs and the candidates seeking those jobs.  They charge both sides - the company for posting jobs and the candidate for subscribing to the service (appx. $35 monthly).  Lots of people in the HR industry don't like the Ladders.  The haters (I know -  affectionate term - but it's descriptive, right?) don't like the fact that the Ladders charges the job seeker, and there's been lots of questions about whether all their jobs are 100K+, whether they scrape jobs from employer sites without their permission, etc.

With all that in mind, here's one thing that's undeniable about The Ladders:  They never stand still, and they're never satisfied with the status quo.  Case in point - they just launched a premium service that guarantees a 100K+ job for $2,400, or the job seeker gets their money back.  This is more of the same from the Ladders, as they've had at least 3 major product offering launches in the last year.  You can read more about what we've written on The Ladders at the HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent here and here.  Be sure to read the comments, because the detractors are there.

But all the activity from The Ladders in the last year has made me ask an important question:

What would HR look like if it was run by The Ladders?  Here's how the HR function would change if The Ladders was running the shop:

1.  HR would hire a bunch of smart people and then figure out what they were going to produce once they were in the door.  Go to The Ladders HQ, and it's obvious they've attracted a bunch of smart people, and I'm not sure they knew what the strategy was when they hired them. But they figured it out.

2. HR would focus on product, not process.  The focus would be on the following word:  Ship. The Ladders does 3 or more product launches a year.  Let's just say if The Ladders were running the HR shop, there would be new product being rolled out quarterly - a new leadership development tool, a different way to look at career pathing, etc. - it would be heavily branded and launched, or you and I wouldn't be there.

3. HR would market itself and not apologize for it. The Ladders could safely be called the PT Barnum of the Human Capital space, with apologies to SuccessFactors CEO Lars, who seems to have quieted down in the past couple of years.  If the Ladders ran HR, HR would forego one HR Director position in the budget and hire a Director of HR Marketing.

4. The marketing of HR product would be heavily branded and aggressively marketed to both the managers HR supports and Employees/Candidates Like The Ladders, HR would use that marketing position and market to both sides of the table - the company managers and employee/candidates.  Solutions would be marketed in different ways depending on who you were.

5.  HR would think more about owning eyeballs and how to monetize those eyeballs. The mantra wouldn't be "we should really do something with a managerial development track", HR would see the opportunity, cook the product, sign employees up and then come to managers with leverage - "I've got 83 of your 200 employees signed up for this program.  Want to speak to them?  What?  You didn't know we were doing that?  That's what you rely on us for, so we just did it..."

6.  People would still hate HR if The Ladders ran the function, but for different reasons. Lots of people hate HR now, and they still would under The Ladders - but for different reasons.  People dislike HR now because they think it's too administrative, it blocks them from doing things, it's lame, etc.  If The Ladders ran HR, some people would still hate us, but they'd hate us because we were doing lots of stuff - without asking for permission, without patting folks on the head and most importantly, because we were marketing our product across the organization and to the outside world better than the Marketing department could.

That's what would happen if The Ladders ran HR.  I don't know if that kind of HR is what you want, but there's no question it would be different.

Oh yeah - if The Ladders was running HR, there would be about 50% annual turnover in everyone's HR department for about 3 years until it settled in at 20-25%.  

Is that good or bad?  I'll let you decide.


Mike Norton

Imagine a team of HR professionals who considered their function to be a profit center for the company. What would that company look like? Zappos? Southwest? Probably more than that.

Great post! Keep shaking things up HRC.


John Rorick

Thank you for your take on HR. Appreciate the time you put into this post.

As an HR Director who's team direct sourced a Manager candidate who then proceeded to ask why our offer was shy of 100k because it was on The Ladders (we were still offering a 15% increase and had been clear about likely salary) I would welcome a post that makes the same points, but maybe without referencing a company who is confirmed to have just scraped jobs without permission in order to garner sign-ups, while it was getting its hat handed to it by Linkedin. Seems they have recovered nicely with aggressive marketing, but I am not so sure the long-term market prospects can withstand the emergence of Linkedin.

Regarding their latest product roll-out, I see it as a marketing effort, not a product effort. Ask yourself, isn't The Ladders already a service that bills itself as a place to find that 100k job? Members pay for the privilege and employers go there for a specific talent pool. If I were a member I would argue that they should be putting the kind of guarantees they are hawking in their new "product" into the current service...its not like a general membership is sold to candidates as a very slight chance of getting a job. You could argue they should simply expand their current offering with this type of support instead of making those who fail to sign-up feel less important as customers.

HR does need to be more aggressive and forward-thinking. I think the only lesson from The Ladders though is to aggressively market the service to improve on receptivity and reputation...of course the service would likely still be same...

Tom Logue

Your first point reminds me of the NBA Draft and the "skills/position we need" vs "best available player" argument.

In general I lean toward "skills/position we need" but that's how Portland lost out on MJ, so what do I know.

Vicki Kunkel

Excellent post. Hits the nail on the head!

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