Monster roars at government market

For years, the Monster.com name, and the company’s green, toothy creature mascot have been well-known among job seekers and private-sector companies looking for new employees.

In recent weeks, however, the online recruitment company has boosted its efforts on the government side of the workforce fence. Through a series of new hires and the formation of a policy advisory board, the company is arming itself to continue pushing further into the government market, a move company officials called a natural progression for the job-search giant.

Monster is not a new company. Jeff Taylor founded it as an online bulletin-board-based firm in 1994, called the Monster Board. TMP Worldwide acquired the Monster Board in 1995, along with another online job-search company.

Those two companies, under the TMP umbrella, merged in 1999 as Monster, and TMP Worldwide changed its name to Monster Worldwide in 2003, to reflect the dominance of its most successful brand.

Monster Government Solutions, however, is much newer than the original Monster idea and was created as a subsidiary to Monster Worldwide in 2002.

The new moves continue to push a larger strategy in the government market, said Phillip Bond, general manager of Monster Government Solutions (MGS).

“It was really about trying to play a leadership role in the public sector that corresponds with the leadership in the private sector,” Bond said.

But the public sector presents a new set of challenges, Bond said. Navigating government recruiting processes is not easy for a company that built its strength on serving the private sector.

“For a company that didn’t grow up getting government contracts, it can be difficult to understand all the hoops you can go through,” Bond said. “Monster is learning, and we are very committed to it.”

To address the deficiency, MGS officials went to the government itself.

In January, the company hired Richard Whitford, who brings government human resources experience from the Transportation Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management. As MGS’ senior vice president of product development and delivery, he will oversee the development of human resources software products.

More recently, Melissa Wojciak, staff director of the House Government Reform Committee, left her government post to join Monster Worldwide as director of federal affairs. Wojciak spent 10 years with the committee, helping write legislation and examining issues such as e-government and workforce management reforms. Although she is not working directly for the MGS subsidiary, she will work closely with it, according to the company.

Bond, who also joined Monster last year after leaving the federal government, said Wojciak was part of the company’s effort to build its policy expertise.

MGS officials are also looking more closely at public policy surrounding workforce management. In March, MGS created the Monster Advisory Council, a panel of government, industry and academic officials, organized to advise the company on how to best navigate human resources management and offer guidance on entering the public space, Bond said.

The move coincides with gradually increasing interest in doing business with the government in the few past years. It also fulfills a need for more of a thought leadership perception of the company, Bond said.

Perhaps the company's most visible federal win is OPM’s USAJobs Web site. MGS first won a contract to maintain the site in 2003, but the Government Accountability Office upheld a protest from rival Symplicty. However, OPM awarded Monster a second USAJobs contract in 2005, and Symplicty's protest failed that time.

Stan Paul, general manager of the Government System Group at CareerBuilder, another online recruiter, said many agencies struggle more with their business processes and a lack of resources for recruitment efforts than they do with policy issues.

CareerBuilder, which established a government group in August 2004, approaches the issues differently than Monster does, Paul said. But similarly, the company can partner with the government to tackle those workforce issues.

“A lot of the problem is [the government] didn’t have a recruiting problem a few years ago, and now the infrastructure can’t handle it, from their systems on the back end to having enough manpower to deal with this,” Paul said.

CareerBuilder lists government job opportunities on the same Web pages as private-sector listings, Paul said, seeking to build a virtual marketplace that doesn’t set them apart. Robert Guerra, a partner at consulting firm Guerra Kiviat, said he was skeptical of Monster’s approach, noting that the government should re-examine their recruitment process.

“If [Monster] had a federal recruitment advisory board, that would be a whole lot more interesting,” he said. “The policies are established parameters and guidelines. It’s the operations that deliver results.”

However, some observers, including Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president at the Information Technology Association of America, said it seems as though Monster is moving in the right direction with its recent hires and advisory board.

“In general, what they are doing, hiring experienced staff and also the federal advisory group, that is really a recipe for success,” she said. “We see more and more of these advisory groups in particular, and we recommend that to our members as well if they are newer to the federal market and need that input.”

Michael is a writer based in Chicago.

Monster claws its way into agencies

While Monster is undertaking an effort to get its fangs deeper into the federal market, it already has its share of success stories.

One example is Monster Government Solutions’ work with the Office of Personnel Management on managing the USAJobs Web site. The company, which has been running the site since 2003, extended the job with a five-year contract last fall and has big plans to further enhance the site’s capabilities.

MGS’ contracting efforts hit a snag last year when the Homeland Security Department canceled a contract over problems with Monster’s QuickHire system, which allows job seekers to apply online. Department officials said they were unable to get access to much of the data that 232,000 job seekers submitted through the Monster system. However, MGS officials said the troubles with DHS have not affected their relationship with other agencies. Indeed, OPM renewed the

USAJobs contract shortly after the DHS incident.

The Coast Guard also uses QuickHire, and agency officials said it works well for them. The agency has used the system for nearly two years to fill thousands of positions and sort through tens of thousands of internal and external candidates, said Ronald Kogut, the Coast Guard’s chief of the Office of Civilian Human Resources.

Although the Coast Guard largely considers the Monster relationship a success, Kogut said it hasn’t been flawless. The agency experienced hiccups similar to those DHS encountered, such as the system being unavailable at times. The problems coincided with a new release of the system, which was likely overwhelmed by the high volume of applicants, he said.

“I wouldn’t call it smooth sailing the whole time, but we worked with them to overcome those issues, and they were very responsive to us,” Kogut said. “We’ve moved in a terrific direction.”

Monster officials said the Coast Guard experience was an example of the company working closely with its customers to address their concerns.

“Over the past year, Monster Government Solutions has made substantial investments in personnel, software and hardware upgrades specifically for our hiring management solution,” said Phillip Bond, general manager of Monster Government Solutions. “Additionally, we continually monitor the performance of all our customers to ensure that the appropriate performance levels are maintained for success.”

Creating a monsterThe following timeline tracks the ancestry and evolution of Monster Government Solutions.

1967: TMP Worldwide founded.

1994: The Monster Board launched as an online job-seeking service.

1995: TMP buys the Monster Board and another online job site.

1999: The two employment firms merge to become Monster.

2002: Monster forms its Government Solutions division.

2003: TMP Worldwide changes name to Monster Worldwide.

2003: Monster Government Solutions gets a contract to manage the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJobs Web site.

2005: The Homeland Security Department cancels a contract with Monster after QuickHire system does not perform well.

2005: OPM renews USAJobs pact with Monster.

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