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The Augmented Human: the future of recruitment?

Seb O’Connell

Robot vs human

The robots are coming and there’s nothing we can do about it. But should we care? Seb O’Connell, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director for Europe at Cielo, the global recruitment process outsourcing provider, explores the impact of technology, automation and data on the future of recruitment.

The role technology, data and automation should play in our lives and businesses is hotly debated. But it’s hard to have a dispassionate conversation about the real issues. We’re scared that robots will take over our jobs and worried about how human interaction seems to be gradually filtered out.

It is true that some view the progression of workplace technology as a further step along the path to what John Maynard Keynes called “technological unemployment”. Indeed, with 56 per cent of firms globally either already automating or planning to automate business practices over the next year, according to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, we might be forgiven for entertaining a certain amount of technological angst. Companies like Toyota are even bucking the trend by replacing robots on the production line with humans, taking the position that workers “are like craftsmen” and enhance the quality of their products.

Perhaps, however, this fear of technological progress is preventing us from appreciating the benefits these advances place at our fingertips. In a human-oriented industry like recruitment, we need to ask ourselves what place we want technology and automation to occupy. Indeed, as technology continues to leap forward, allowing more and more processes to be automated, the troubling issue to be addressed is whether we risk losing the ‘human’ from HR.

Let’s take a deeper look into this. 

Harnessing data

We now live in a data economy and every day we create about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Harnessing this new resource can have a huge impact on HR and the recruitment process.

A study last year by Oxford Economics calculated the average cost of replacing a member of staff to be over £30,000, so it’s clearly vital to find the right people the first time round. Part of this cost is the expense involved in sourcing new candidates and this is where big data really comes into its own.

Seb OConnellData-driven automation and a high-tech HR platform can be used to maintain a healthy talent pipeline, meaning that finding new candidates is far less costly and time-consuming. By maintaining a smart candidate database, for example, you can track who has applied to your firm and when, as well as their interests and strengths. This not only allows you to pull up a huge amount of data should that candidate re-apply, but also creates a self-serving candidate network that can automatically match potential candidates with new openings based on skills and experience.

Re-humanising recruitment

It might seem that using data to drive automation in recruitment and HR is the first stage in removing human involvement altogether. But this is simply not the case. Data-driven automation is a tool that augments the capabilities of the human core of recruitment.

By automating the distribution of material such as new job notifications, company updates and bespoke content, for example, businesses not only effectively communicate and enhance their employer brand but also provide candidates with plenty of reasons and opportunities to get in touch. A high-tech approach that streamlines the recruitment process gives recruiters and HR teams the freedom to concentrate their efforts where they are most needed – people – and actually improves the overall candidate experience.

Ironically, therefore, a more technological approach can actually humanise the recruitment process. Optimising the candidate experience, training and on-boarding new hires, and dedicating time to interacting with potential and current employees can all be prioritised when lower-level processes are simplified through automation.

Augmenting business

More than just locating and communicating with candidates, however, data can be used to improve the quality of a hire and enhance business performance. At Cielo, for example, we work with clients’ in-house HR teams to track the performance of new hires in their roles and feed that data back into a model that cross-references it with the selection process. In this way we build continuous improvement into our clients’ selection processes year on year.

By combining the smartest technologies with the smartest people, we get an approach to recruitment and HR that isn’t simply high tech, but also high touch. By enabling the easy management of the recruitment journey, technology allows the talent management process to become a well-oiled engine driving business growth and productivity and providing consistency and transparency across the organisation.

What this leaves us with is a vision of the future where technology doesn’t push the human out of HR, but enhances it. One where an abundance of data allows us to simplify and automate the more mundane processes, and focus time and effort on improving the human element. This is a future where technology and automation allow HR and recruitment to become key drivers of business productivity and growth. As part of an augmented business, the future of recruitment is the augmented human.

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