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Talent Acquisition in the Digital Age

According to the REC’s annual Recruitment Industry Trends report for 2017/18, the talent acquisition sector’s current worth is over £35 billion to the UK economy, showing how much advancement there has been in recent years. Similarly to most industries, this remarkable growth has, in part, been fuelled and shaped by the introduction of advanced technology and automation. The use of digital technologies in talent acquisition is now commonplace, and arguably necessary to be competitive in today’s market by offering a leading candidate and client experience. However, when focussing on implementing the latest technologies, managers must ensure that they do not compromise on human interaction, and the highly valuable skills that real people bring to the table.

From directly shaping the way that individuals seek employment, to the types of jobs now available, robotics and automation are moulding both the workplace and the way in which HR leaders are approaching talent acquisition.

The capabilities of technology in talent acquisition

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, 72% of HR leaders believe that AI is ‘important’. This is unsurprising when you consider that artificial intelligence has facilitated more streamlined recruitment solution strategies for many and increased hiring capabilities in several ways.

Automation has freed up days that were historically spent on repetitive, mundane tasks to allow hiring managers to dedicate more time to focus on what they’re really good at – engaging talent. Most companies are sitting on a bank of data when it comes to candidates, however stale CRM systems mean that capabilities are not always being utilised sufficiently. AI can help address this issue by extracting information that becomes highly valuable leads. This does much of the legwork for HR professionals, who can then focus their efforts on other pressing tasks.

According to We Are Social, the number of internet users worldwide in 2018 was 4,021 billion, up 7% year-on-year, with social media users worldwide now sitting at 3,196 million. The internet has allowed us to expand our reach and visibility globally, enabling companies to capture both active and passive applicants. The limitless exposure to candidates around the clock can certainly improve a company’s visibility and also provide more opportunities to manage its brand identity. Strategic social media use can develop a company’s employer brand and increase direct sourcing.

As leaders are aware, the current market is candidate-led and populated with tech-savvy individuals. Automation helps businesses capture these individuals’ attention in effective ways, and also at the right time thanks to data from complex analytics. Advanced algorithms can now predict for example when someone is likely to be looking for their next opportunity based on subtle changes in how they engage online - and thanks to machine learning the information that we collect in this way is becoming increasingly accurate.

The limitations of digital tools in talent acquisition

There are, of course, limitations to use of digital tools in talent acquisition. While the rhetoric that robots are coming for our jobs will be familiar to many, HR can sit quite comfortably knowing that they are safe from this mythical attack. That is because people buy from people, and when it comes to hiring, in particular, only humans have the capacity for empathy, care and the attention to detail required when life-changing decisions are involved.

Candidates do not just want a job description when seeking employment, but a comprehensive understanding of who they will be working with, in what type of culture and what they will learn. That is why video is increasingly popular in recruitment, as it allows candidates to have more of a connection to the people in the workplace.

Beyond the risk of falling short on candidate engagement, the potential of more serious ramification should also be considered. Examples where technology has unintentionally reflected the racist and sexist biases that exist in society are rare – but nonetheless demonstrate the limitations of AI enabled-recruitment solutions perfectly.

When St George’s Medical Hospital School in London decided to automate parts of its admissions workflow in the 80s, the system learned from previous admission data to discriminate against non-white and female applicants and those with postcodes revealing their working-class background were also given lower priority.

While only just last year, Amazon scrapped its “sexist” tool that used artificial intelligence to select the ‘best’ candidates to hire. During the four years that it was in operation, the system quickly learned to favour male applicants, while penalising key words such as “women’s champion.”

Why in-house expertise beats automation

Automation should do the heavy lifting for businesses recruiting, and inhouse experts and leaders should be positioned in the driving seat. Technology must be harnessed to monitor activity, improve visibility, and manage brand identity – but it is important to remember that people are at the heart of all business success.

Digital tools in talent acquisition should be a part of a wider strategic workforce planning objective, with in-house leaders selecting individuals based on how likely they will fit in with the current culture, and projected growth plans. While AI may identify and favour candidates with skills and education that are typically associated with a role, a professional invested in the business will be able to build on this insight to spot characteristics and potential that technology simply isn’t programmed to recognise.

An in-house team can take a bird’s eye view of all hiring activity and ensure talent acquisition is following the expected route, setting your firm up for future success.

For more help with utilising technology for your talent acquisition, get in touch today.