Recruitment 4.0 - Automation and AI: Walk Before You Run

The Business Transformation Network recently hosted an event on "Recruitment 4.0 - Automation and AI: Walk Before You Run”, at the Bloomsbury Hotel in London. 

The conversation was open and varied, touching on a wide variety of subtopics under the enormous initial topic including:

1. What is the associated fear, fascinations and possibilities?

2. What is an automation first mindset and are we ready?

3. Should HR take a leadership position when considering the future of work, and automation as a key driver of the future?

Technology is often seen as being able to maximise candidate experience, whilst cutting costs, red tape and time to hire, by predicting fit and hiring accordingly; but are organisations really and truly leveraging technology to deliver these world-class talent programmes that they can, or do we not really have our finger on the pulse? In the current paradigm, leadership in organisations are placing pressure on executives across businesses to embrace digital and technology first strategies, but is HR still concerned that too much technology will undermine the human touch? 

Predominantly when discussing technological advancements in recruitment, people often refer to AI and automation, but there are three main types of AI that are being conflated in these conversations:

Narrow AI: Artificial Intelligence that we encounter daily that is set to a specific set of data only (weather apps or computers that can play chess etc.).

General AI: Artificial Intelligence that matches human intelligence (in essence being able to perform any sentient action a human can).

Super AI: Artificial Intelligence that surpasses human intelligence in all aspects (from creativity, to problem-solving and general knowledge).

Having defined this, the conversation progressed to looking at Automation and AI, the discussion around it and began to focus on what is the associated fear, fascinations and possibilities of AI and technological advancements?

There can easily be two main camps for reactions to Automation and AI and technological advancements; Fear and Fascination.

Fear is associated to the general acceptance of using Automation and AI, with attendees agreeing that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) teams are the most scared, which tends to be where the initial issue of integrating Automation and AI into recruitment starts. Having acknowledged this, attendees further explored what was causing this fear, identifying that previous, highly publicised Automation and AI errors have shown it in a light that had made people apprehensive of fully embracing it as it could be missing something or developing itself through machine learning to miss a specific grouping on purpose, thus creating bias. Regardless of this, these are primarily human traits, meaning that they could be happening in current hiring processes anyway... Another fear associated with the implementation of Automation and AI, is that our education (at all levels, from school to in-company) within this area are particularly lax, meaning people don't understand how Automation and AI functions and what it does, and people fear what they don't understand.

On the other hand, fascinations stem from the possibility of increasing the speed of the processes, making them more efficient and less time-consuming, thus potentially decreasing cost marginally. Following this, another fascination, which directly opposes the possibility to cancel out the potential for human error, which in it's own way cost's companies greatly. 

As HR becomes more aware of Automation and AI, they are beginning to integrate it into their business models, however this also provides us with a data-focused gap, begging the question: Who will execute this data – if you have the data something needs to be done with it? Specifically, when arguing the business case for Automation and AI with the board, it is often hard to show the value-added, meaning that you need those able to digest the data to justify the case of Automation and AI within HR (particularly within Talent Acquisition). Continuing on the topic of data, another efficiency associated fascination with Automation and AI is around how it can filter data more extensively, increasing productivity and efficiency within organisations.

 

After extensively discussing this topic, a general consensus amongst attendees was that although Automation and AI can help remove the need for people to conduct menial tasks, increasing efficiency and freeing up people to focus on the human element, it will be difficult for machines to replicate human interaction. From here, the attendees moved onto a practicality based discussion on What is an automation first mindset and are we ready for it?

This part of the conversation initially focused on how difficult it is to comprehend Automation and AI and how it works when you come from a non-technical background, begging the question: Can an automation first mindset only be seen as a mindset of someone from a tech background? 

The general consensus in the room from this was that the mindset needs to change to become a more inclusive design thinking mindset, which in turn will help people understand Automation and AI better. In continuation of this, the idea that HR may never be ready for Automation and AI, due to the nature of the function, was raised. This brought with it a great debate about how HR should always come back to the human aspect, so replacing that aspect with technology, would be futile.

Deriving from this, it was agreed that Automation and AI and HR could potentially work together in the future, as Automation and AI will be able to help with the process side of HR, but the human aspect still needs to remain at the forefront, consequently making the function more efficient and productive, but also maintaining the balance between human and technology.

As humans are inherently emotional and HR is a people-centric function, should HR take a leadership position when considering the future of work, and automation as a key driver of the future?

Due to the constant improvements in technology, which has rapidly increased the pace of business planning for the future of work is almost becoming redundant, because once the plan is finalised, it will almost be out of date. However, having said this, the conversation emphasised that nothing can be done within an organisation without there being a business strategy that needs to come from HR with a TA aspect. The future of work today; Automation and AI gets people to the door, better traction or your company in a TA sense. 

It comes back to education, until people understand how to use Automation and AI and embrace it, they are hesitant to use it as they don't understand its benefits. It is not necessarily about the skills you have but how you apply them.

From this, HR should lead and still have control over the final say in the future of work and workforce planning, with Automation and AI driving the efficiency and productivity of the function.

 

Taking the above into account, it was concluded that when embracing Automation and AI, you need to walk before you can run, meaning that you need to understand AI and automation first. Changing the mindset of your organisation and then use it to your advantage, with the way in which they implement it. Organisations need to accept technological advancements in the future, and not fall behind on technology because that would easily mean the end for their organisation. Having said this, assessing your recruitment process and target market are integral to the successful implementation of automation and AI, with targeted integration being rolled out in increments can lead to long-term and harmonious success between HR and automation, AI and RPA.