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Succeeding by Focusing on the Basics of HR

By Greg Barber, Managing Director, Global RPO Delivery, Allegis Global Solution

Greg Barber, Managing Director, Global RPO Delivery, Allegis Global Solution

One of the best parts about my job is that I’m absolutely passionate about the business of talent, and I get to work with a lot of different businesses getting talent right. That means working with a wide portfolio of big brands with global hiring needs, something that, if we’re being honest, is exactly the sort of challenge that keeps talent acquisition so interesting for me.

I’ve spent more years in this space than I care to think about, and it’s been amazing to be sitting on the sidelines for a complete evolution in the way companies acquire talent, and how talent finds companies.

"Personal information is part of our responsibility of protecting our people, and if our systems can’t do that, then no tech in the world will save our jobs"

A lot of pundits out there complain that nothing’s really changed in the recruitment space, but for those practitioners who are in the trenches and too busy hiring than to worry about technology or trends, the last few years in resourcing have been nothing short of revolutionary.

The companies I partner with have completely reengineered their processes, people, and platforms in the last few years. The result of recruitment is now moving from a back office, which was largely tactical and highly manual function to trusted advisors whose strategic imperative begins and ends with the bigger business picture and the bottom line.

Technology has fundamentally driven this shift. Even something as simple as job boards, which we think of as passé these days, started the digital transformation in recruitment that continues today; as job seekers went online, employers quickly followed. Fish where the fish are, you know.

No matter what the job market may be, bull or bear, the fact of the matter is that the need for qualified, interested, and available candidates is the catalyst for every talent trend or technological innovation.

Candidates may or may not be customers, a topic of debate in some circles, but they are, to a one, consumers. I’m firmly with the camp that says recruitment is sales, which means that ultimately, work is the product.

Like any e-commerce transaction, recruitment involves finding the most efficient and effective way to match a buyer and seller (if work is the product), with pricing determined mostly by market supply and demand.

This means, employers are increasingly adopting the same technologies that have become more or less mainstream in the B2C world. With digital ubiquity, in recruiting and otherwise, reaching the right talent means delivering a digital experience that’s consistent with consumer expectations and technology.

For years now, every startup out there has tried to position itself as the “Amazon of recruitment,” but looking for a job and looking for any sort of consumer product have already become indistinguishable. This means that if you want to know what the future of this industry looks like, just look at consumer technology a couple of years ago. LinkedIn is a perfect example; the most ubiquitous piece of HR Tech out there today was essentially Facebook two years ago, only lagging far, far behind on what looks to be the same roadmap.

This is why advances like programmatic advertising, digital jobs merchandising, integrated apply functionalities, and behavioral targeting (admittedly not as exciting a talking point as “robots will replace recruiters”) are making the most profound impact on how we acquire talent today. These are all fundamental and foundational in consumer technology, but very much what’s new and what’s next in our space.

Other trend to watch is the rise of automated personal assistants. Be they recruiting bots or scheduling tools, as key features in HR Tech stacks; the move of SMS and WhatsApp from the HR Tech margins to the mainstream (for both recruitment and employee communications); and the increasing need for talent organizations to proactively protect personal data and proprietary PII.

The proliferation of this sort of sensitive (and lucrative) data represents something of a dark side of our digital transformation in talent today. Personal information is part of our responsibility of protecting our people, and if our systems can’t do that, then no tech in the world will save our jobs. So, cybersecurity should be a hot button issue on the road ahead.

The scary thing is, we haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adopting recent technological advancements and how they have transformed the human resources industry (which most analysts share, and which most data confirms, I might add). We’ve only begun to crack AI; the Internet of Things isn’t really a thing on the TA internet quite yet.

We’re headed in the right direction on big data, but it’s early days since we don’t know with great certainty how to accurately measure some fairly basic benchmarks like cost per hire or even time to fill. I always believe that you should start with the basics, first; machine learning, NLP and sophisticated matching algorithms are indubitably driving better results from our tech investment, but we’ve really no way to reliably measure the relative ROI.

Let’s figure out where hires come from and where they cost before we start talking about “big data,” and start with the small stuff. Similarly, it maybe a bit early to talk about how AI is changing the function when most companies still rely on obsolete, clunky and painfully archaic ATS and HCM systems as the core infrastructure behind their hiring process.

Machine learning, blockchain, artificial intelligence, these are all fascinating concepts, and certainly have the potential to impact the business of HR down the road. Today, though, we’d best pursue not what’s possible, but what’s practical, and realize as much of an impact as we’ve seen technology make in the business of HR, we haven’t seen anything yet.

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