From dollhouses to recruitment
Recently Amazon Echo devices that connect to the Alexa AI voice assistant caused a bit of a stir when a TV newscaster quoted a little girl innocently saying 'Alexa ordered me a doll house'. This set off dozens of other Echo devices listening to the same newscast, all of which immediately ordered dollhouses for their owners. Cute.
Then there were the latest Wikileaks revelations that the CIA could programme smart TVs to fake being switched off so they could continue to listen to conversations in living rooms. Not so cute. Very Orwell's 1984. Combine both and we have Hal, the authoritarian AI from 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Luckily we're not yet at the point where it's entirely up to technology to present us with its choice of hire but it is moving in that direction. While HR is still getting to grips with 'automation light', big data and people analytics, AI developers are moving so fast it's hard to keep up. According to Deloitte's 2017 human resources report, most HR departments, - not in its exact words but the meaning is clear - might as well be starring in the Flintstones not realising that the wheel has already been reinvented.
Technology, like time, waits for no one and you don't need a crystal ball to see where it's going, which also means there's no excuse not to keep up or plan ahead. We all heard about 'the smart home' where something like an Echo device will regulate all electrical devices and tell us when the fridge is empty. Well this is also the era of the 'smart office' where HR will need to work smarter, not harder. Alexa is already said to have 10,000 skills... or 9,999 as ordering dollhouses willy-nilly has been removed. How many of us could say we have 10,000 skills?
Imagine how it could be. With just a word to the gadget on your desk, you could know how many suitable candidates you have, tell the AI to contact them, arrange follow-ups, interviews, tests and simulations. And it doesn't end there. AI can provide you with everything you need with relation to existing staff in terms of performance, training, retention and attrition. It can answer routine questions for staff and also for candidates. You could say it means having everything at your fingertips except the phrase is probably going to become redundant.
Alexa, what's the meaning of life?
- AI is already well in use for job ads and candidate screening, from whittling down applications to providing a shortlist of qualified candidates. It is being used in automated testing and video interviews that are increasingly using facial recognition software to narrow candidate lists even further
- Virtual assistants are already in use to communicate with candidates via email, keeping engagement levels high and enhancing applicants' experience and chatbots have been shown to expertly answer candidate questions about an organisation. This is also effective and efficient when it comes to onboarding
- An emerging technology that is now coming into play in recruitment as it expands from gaming, is virtual reality where candidates can be shown around an organisation remotely, get a feel for the culture and even carry out tasks related to the role in order to test skills and also for them to see how they might fit or be able to do the job even before an interview or setting foot on the premises. Studies show that retention rates are higher among those who have a clear picture of what to expect on the job
- Technology can also provide pre-programmed training and learning for newbies and existing staff, and has infinite patience. As AI develops, it can itself learn and grow it's own abilities and tailor itself to an organisations unique characteristics
- It can organise your talent pipeline and keep track of and communicate itself with your agile workforce and all you will need to do is say 'Alexa, where is X, or Y? Are they on site yet? How long will it take them to get there?'
- Being up to the minute with your recruitment AI adds untold value to an employer brand in a world where candidates expect communication 'yesterday' and where they'll be attracted to working for an organisation with a strong digital presence
Playing throw or catch?
According to the Deloitte report, 88 percent of this year’s survey respondents believe that building the organisation of the future is an important or very important issue, but only 11 percent understand how to do this. So what can an organisation do when technology is developing faster than businesses can keep up with?
The only solution would seem to be getting ahead of it, even if only in terms of knowing what's out there and more importantly what might be coming, because if you're playing catch-up, it's already too late. The most proactive HR departments would have been the ones signing up for Alexa's early beta testing, not buying the Echo device when it already became mainstream and little girls were already able to order dollhouses. Foresight, speed, agility, and adaptability are what organisations need to be striving for in an era of simultaneous digital and workforce revolutions. It's about working on fast-forward and not rewind.
According to reports, Unilever has created an all-digital graduate recruiting process in four steps. Let the Hunger Games begin.
- Candidates complete a short online form tied to their LinkedIn profiles
- They spend 20 minutes on a series of games that are available on computers, tablets, or smartphones that provide insight into various capabilities such as problem solving, personality, and communication style
- Those who pass then record a video interview
- The candidates who emerge strongest from there are given a 'day in the life of Unilever' via a simulation
Deloitte predicts that HR teams embracing digital platforms to take up the dual challenge of transforming HR operations on the one hand, and transforming the workforce and the way work is done on the other, will be game changers.
"Over the last five years, the HR discipline has undergone a rapid evolution. Three years ago, we wrote about HR’s 'race to the cloud', as companies rushed to replace legacy talent systems with integrated HR platforms. Two years ago, we characterised HR as a function 'in need of a makeover', as companies focused on reskilling HR professionals, integrating the organisation, and implementing analytics. This year, as digital management practices and agile organisation design become central to business thinking, HR is changing again, focusing on people, work, and platforms. We call the resulting set of HR practices 'digital HR'", said the report.
There is a theory in the world of conspiracies that whatever technologies we have in our hands right now have been in the dark recesses of secret government basements for decades, which means they're already outdated in a sense. How did Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry know to bring to the TV screen mobile phones, tablets, laptops, video conferencing and AI assistants at least 30 to 40 years before they became a reality? They say he was actually 'an insider' to whatever goes on in Area 51. So next up, food replicators and 'beaming' to work. Now there's something every organisation would rush to get behind.