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Workforce Planning | 7 minute read

Recruiters or AI – Who Will Be the Master Populace?

March 27, 2018

These days, I often find myself the only human participant in service-seeking interactions – with a robot/chatbot increasingly driving the conversation on the other side of the phone, computer or intelligent kiosk. For some, this is fascinating; for others, unnerving. And yet, as Head of Canadian Engagement with global talent solutions provider, WilsonHCG, I feel the need to ask: what about recruitment? With so many advances in AI, to what extent does human-driven talent acquisition face the threat of extinction? Who will be the master populace, recruiters or robots?

In 3-5 years, could an ATS or CRM platform eliminate the need for recruiters all together? Just as baby boomers fear letting go of the steering wheel in autonomous vehicles, should recruiters fear being removed from candidate conversations? Will the talent acquisition industry allow a machine to assess “fit” such that the recruiter’s value comes into question? Having been in the talent acquisition business for two decades, I do not think wholesale change will happen. That said, the components of today’s sourcing, screening and talent selection will absolutely continue to evolve.

This belief is borne out of the many conversations I have with the "coal-face coders" spearheading recruitment technology vendors. Without fail, there is collective belief around the amplified need for skilled recruiters to oversee a function that relies on the personal and experiential – but one that also embraces and learns how to manage AI-based tools/technologies in order to bring true business value. Below we delve into the above questions, the precise balance between human interaction and automation, and what the 2020 “recruitment recipe” will look like. 

Recruitment Recipe: Technology (18%), Process (30%), People... Still a Whopping 52%
Though we love to hate the media and it’s sensory overload, as consumers we devour news about automated grocery stores, drone deliveries and the latest developments for at-home automation like Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Home and Apple’s HomePod. What we sometimes forget, though, is that new technology also requires people – from concept to creation, as well as manufacturing through launching, training and managing work practices.

Gartner believes that, by 2020, AI will create more jobs than it eliminates: “AI is more likely to assist humans than replace them as combinations of humans and machines will perform more effectively than either human experts or AI-driven machines working alone will.” In addition, Faethm CEO, Michael Priddis recently gave a fascinating account in Toronto of the impact AI will have on the landscape. He predicts that, whilst AI will impact a number of jobs, it will also augment and add value to more careers – thereby creating additional opportunities in the coming decade. Michael also cited many incremental changes that the logistics and delivery function are experiencing because of AI.

For example, it’s quite startling how autonomous driving trucks and drones are impacting the delivery value chain such that human-driven truck stops could soon become a thing of the past. However, whilst drones will be flying around clusters of nests and people management at distribution centers will be significantly leaner, new opportunities will exist to oversee the design, manufacturing and management of the new autonomous logistics capability.

The prime purpose for AI is to speed up repetitive and mundane processes, but also to automate them. In recruitment, this is exactly the noise preoccupying the hiring manager, recruiter and candidate conversation. Companies need to uncover which parts of the recruiting ecosystem can be automated, and where the experiential “gold” sits with regard to the strategic “human element” that recruiters weave into the process.  

Dig Deeper: [REPORT] HR & Talent Technology – The Journey to Automation

What I believe to be true, although a trivial comparison, like the barista that prepares your favorite brew and wraps it all up with customer service magic... recruiters can differentiate themselves by showcasing their ability to manage candidate and hiring manager interactions while equally bringing rapid-fire market intelligence to precisely inform the hiring process. Recruiters in 2018, 2020 and beyond must elevate into an consultant role with their hiring managers; they must learn and consult on candidate culture fit, leadership potential, soft skills and character traits, build personal and engaging relationships with candidates, all the while overseeing “control centers” of talent analytics as well as clustered, AI technologies.

The "Human" Future: Darkest Hour or Bright Star? 
The pace of change and rapid release of job-impacting technologies are accelerating in both the real and digital worlds. We know that, although previous industrial revolutions have all been newsworthy, none will compare to this imminent fourth revolution. “First, break all the rules” has taken on a new meaning and is the cornerstone of disruptive business practices, processes and inherently the people challenging status quo. Curiosity brings new value, but change management is the new currency.

I take great solace from Michael’s recent comments
 “You can’t just be looking at automation of the workforce. You have to be looking at a three-pronged strategy: automation, augmentation and addition.” Yes, change is upon us, but the real benefit evolving from AI is talent acquisition's opportunity to spend more time executing and refining the “valuable” people stuff – leaving the mundane and routine aspects of data entry, retail check out or picking and packing to machines. 

Further, managing economist at CEBR, David Whitaker, states“Human effort becomes more valuable as it is focused on higher-level tasks, creativity, know-how, and thinking ... There is clear evidence that points toward robotic automation in many cases being a complement for human labor, rather than a direct substitute.” As our children experience new age learning, leverage devices and work across numerous digital domains, we will see AI contributing to an increase in jobs. In fact, as much as 65 percent of the jobs our children might undertake don’t even exist today.

In the words of Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy: “Racing with the machine beats racing against the machine.” Rest assured, there is not a troop of machines ready to march into HR or recruitment. The craft of the recruiter is not under threat any time soon. However, it is vital we continue to re-define the meaning of “value”, improve the agility of our recruitment teams, and race with the evolving talent industry; it is both urgent and will be at the very core of conversation not in the coming years but the days, even hours ahead.

[REPORT] The Journey to Automation: HR & Talent Technology

About Paul Dodd

Paul Dodd is the head of Canadian engagement for WilsonHCG. Paul helps organizations, across a spectrum of sizes and industries, realize their unique talent needs by combining global knowledge with specialized Canadian expertise. He is a recognized thought leader with more than 20 years of practical experience. Under Paul's leadership, WilsonHCG has developed a range of customized, strategic recruitment solutions that shorten the recruitment life cycle while driving value for for each client. Paul continues to push for greater innovation in recruitment solutions development, while emphasizing the need for customer service and comprehensive support.