DirectEmployers Association is creating a Foundation to accelerate innovation and to ensure that technology remains accessible to employers and job seekers.
In 2007 something changed. For 10 years, companies had tried and tried to build a “smart phone” that put the power of a computer in your pocket. Companies like Nokia, Psion, Palm, Kyocera and Research in Motion brought out product after product. Some, like RIM’s BlackBerry were good enough at a single function like email that business users liked them, but on the whole, pre-2007 smartphones were just not smart enough and were far too expensive for the mass market.
In 2007, two announcements changed everything. First, Steve Jobs announced Apple’s iPhone. Second, Google announced a new operating system for phones called Android. Something had changed that enabled Apple and Google to obsolete everyone in the smartphone business overnight:
Three Open Source products, managed and nurtured by not-for-profit foundations, matured.
The first was a powerful, fast and small web browser called WebKit. With WebKit’s tiny memory footprint, smartphones could finally browse the web without losing formatting or detail. Open source operating systems Linux (the core of Google’s Android) and BSD (which powers iPhone) finally had the features, hardware support and reliability to be used in mainstream consumer devices. Suddenly Apple and Google had the software to build a phone that could display graphics, multitask, network, and browse the web just like a full-power desktop computer. The rest is history and is probably in your pocket.
In 2012, the career advertising and job search marketplace are not unlike the smartphone market prior to 2007. Career advertising is controlled by a few players who have built a mess of niche systems that do not talk to each other. You post jobs to your career microsite. You advertise open positions on a job board, track applicants through an ATS, manage relationships with potential employees through a CRM system and probably have a blog, content management system and document management system as well. The only thing that works the same is how none of these different HR systems talk to each other.
For job seekers, finding a job requires a time consuming, expensive safari through a jungle infested with spammers, fake jobs, scams, dubious “business opportunities” and predators who look to feast on their identity and private information. When a job seeker does find a job, they often arrive at an ATS portal that is so difficult to figure out that it makes being unemployed seem like an attractive option.
“It just shouldn’t be this way,” says Rick Wehrle, a former Monster.com executive who joined DirectEmployers Association in 2008 and now leads the Association’s product development team. “No one is working with everyone’s best interest in mind. Instead, we have a many companies solving niche problems, and no one is trying to make things work together.”
According to Wehrle, the solution is simple: “The Open Source model is defined by sharing code in a way that benefits everyone involved. By adopting the Open Source model, we are adopting a proven model for driving change and advancing the state of the art.” When combined with a not-for-profit foundation, “open source projects are able to marshal the resources, people and mind share they need to create new standards and break down walls that are holding back progress. In this case, those walls are driving up the cost of making hires and making it incredibly difficult for employers to find talent. It’s 2012. It should cost employers virtually nothing to find an employee, and it should not cost job seekers anything, in terms of time and money to find a job. ”
In 2010, Wehrle and Executive Director Bill Warren discussed the idea of launching a not-for-profit foundation to take over development of career marketing and job search technologies. “Companies like IBM, Providence Health & Services and the DirectEmployers Association board of directors were quick to voice support for the idea.” says Warren. “So we began taking stock of the assets we had that could be directed at building open technology and tools that helps realize DirectEmployers vision.”
Through 2011, Wehrle and Warren worked to identify the technology that the Association already had built that would be strong candidates for the open source development process. In late 2011, key people from DirectEmployers Association and key new hires were made to launch the new DirectEmployers Foundation. The first tangible result didn’t take long: in November of 2011, the Foundation added support for the Department of Labor and Schema.org’s format for job postings. The benefit was immediate: search engines like Google could suddenly categorize and include job listings in search results using location, industry and O*Net code data embedded in jobs on .JOBS Career Microsites.
In 2012, the Foundation team will focus on building the base for a new generation of career marketing tools. “The key,” according to Wehrle, “is to create an API that allows job search and job postings to be added anywhere.” The Foundation’s search technology is already visible on sites like US.JOBS and on over 1000 .JOBS Career Microsites. “We want to make it easy for anyone to list jobs on their websites, on their blogs, in their mobile apps and in their social media streams.”
“We are also working hard to forge standards that make it easier for career marketing and job search products to work together.” says Wehrle. “One goal here is to make it as simple as one click for applicants to move their resume to employers. Another goal is to make sure that job seeker’s privacy and rights are acknowledged and respected by the job search industry.”
The focus on job seekers is a key difference between the Foundation and Association. “Part of the problem in job search is that traditional job boards are trying to make a buck by selling people’s resumes,” says Bill Warren. “Job seeker rights are being shredded by lead generation marketers who are taking advantage of people who are looking for work. People should know before surrendering their private information who the employer is, and if there really is a job available.”
As the Foundation spreads its wings in 2012, it will be looking for input and support from DirectEmployers Association’s members. There are three ways that members can contribute:
According to Foundation Director Wehrle, “First, Association members can continue to use the great DirectEmployers products like .JOBS Career Microsites.” says Wehrle, “Second, members should talk with the Foundation about how they can help contribute money, code, and marketing support. Open source is built on the concept that a rising tide lifts all boats - and the Foundation’s direction is one that is very good for employers.”
“Finally, the Foundation can work with its supporters to implement solutions. The Association historically has not been able to do custom work for members because of the laws that govern trade associations. The Foundation can work on custom projects and can leverage existing DirectEmployers products.”
For more information on the DirectEmployers Foundation, visit http://directemployersfoundation.org.