So far this year, I’ve been reading all the usual articles on business trends to expect in 2017, the latest tech, what’s innovative, disruptive, Uberizing, Tinderizing and all those other buzzwords.
Trends by definition come and go; #TayTom, beards, Pokémon Go (yes, get over it and move on with your life), fermenting your food, nail polish colours that make you look like you’ve just been hauled out of the Thames. Many technologies that begin as predicted trends become an integral part of the fabric of our social and business interactions; contactless payments, chatbots, workplace collaboration tools, video calls. The overriding themes for projected business trends for continuing growth and adoption appear to be automation and AI. It’s coming whether we like it or not, from robots delivering your takeaway to big data and algorithms that find us, target us and sell to us all by themselves.
As we know, the recruitment industry is no exception.
The automation of the recruitment process and tools to help us find, match, screen and send the perfect candidate are all around us. Everywhere we look it seems we are offered ‘easy solutions’, ‘innovative e-recruitment’, ‘online process streamlining’ and my personal favourite ‘entire human capital management’, ugh. According to the LinkedIn report on Global Recruiting Trends 2017, whilst hiring demands are growing, recruiters report that headcounts and budgets are limited, which makes automation ‘top of mind for the industry’. It’s interesting that limited resources are drivers for the need for speed of screening and therefore process automation, but in the same report recruiting leaders state they would invest in longer term strategies such as candidate experience, upskilling their teams and employer branding if money was not a constraint. Draw your own conclusions.
Are automation, time and cost savings time really more important than a person's interaction and journey through a company?
It may not be helpful here to reference large scale, public sector and enterprise recruitment solutions where high volume campaigns run in this way have obviously been very successful and saved businesses a lot of time and money. It is claimed that automation, rather than dehumanising the process, provides best practice and consistency and improves candidate experience through speed and better communication. There is also plenty of emerging evidence to show that Al can remove bias and promote diversity (another discussion for another day), and I’m all for tools and technology that we have found to improve procedure and workflows, save time and enhance candidate experience.
As your jobbing agency recruiter, what worries me is that what could be perceived as insidious over-automation will seep into our daily processes so much that it devalues the human relationship that I feel is at the core of recruitment. When I see that it is possible to push a candidate through an entire process, from sourcing to qualification to arranging interviews to sending out offers, without them ever actually having any human contact, my heart sinks. Is this genuinely better for a candidate, part of a production line of candidates, to have this so-called consistent and efficient communication rather than speaking to a person at any point?
As the fabulous Meryl Streep said, “disrespect invites disrespect”
We see the ill effects of the automated approach all the time, disrespectful in my view - use the software, press the button, fire off the CVs. Candidates still consistently complain of no human interaction, no replies, no feedback, no help and advice. I’m not blaming it all on automation, there have always been and always will be bad recruiters. But haven’t we in a way been spending all this time trying to get away from dehumanisation? To ditch those old bad practices of the CV scattergun approach and to embrace the building of long term relationships. I fear the growing use of talent-matching, speed-increasing, process-streamlining technology may take us away from where we should be. Where people that we deal with daily aren’t just CVs, data, keywords, job titles on an ATS. The value of maintaining human contact is obvious, everyone wins. Even if we’re not making that placement right now we get to pay it forward, which may reward us in the future or simply give us the satisfaction of knowing we’ve maybe exceeded someone’s expectations or helped them out.
I got to thinking about what are really the fundamentals of recruitment that should never be ‘trending’ – improving the candidate and employer experience, helping people and taking the time to build relationships. We are all limited by time, budgets, resources, but as recruiters the relationships that we have and how we interact with people should engender the recruitment process. After all, our actions and how we do our job affects lives, careers, marriages, businesses. It should never be just about the fastest solution and how much money we can make from someone. There should be a balance between adoption of new tech and automation of processes that allow us to be more effective and BEING HUMAN… or we may as well just pack up now and let the machines take over.