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  • Automation and the Future of Recruitment

    05th October, 2016

    As many people predicted, rapid developments in tech has resulted in the ‘rise of the robots’! This isn’t the synopsis of a sci-fi movie, although these days it sometimes feels that way. Flippancy aside, the robot ‘threat’ is a real one. The evolution of Artificial Intelligence in recent years means jobs that were previously viewed as safe are increasingly under threat of becoming at least partially automated by machines.

    According to one study by Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of current jobs are at risk of computerisation over the next 20 years. Other professional reports published discuss how automation will transform the way we work over the next 10 years, and will drive new ways of doing business and new roles for humans.

    So how can businesses avoid being automated out of existence? This is the subject of a whole other blog, but the main thing to do to survive disruption is to focus on the positives of what makes us human: what can we do that robots can’t?

    Having discussed the topic of automation at length from our perspectives as an Information Consultant and Recruitment Specialist, we’ve identified the main areas that can’t (yet!) be automated: innovation, negotiation and relationships and helping people. Why? Because they require a lot of uniquely human traits, such as empathy, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence. Here we explore both sides of the automation debate from a recruitment perspective.

    Innovation

    Dan Hare: “Recruitment consultancies like Rowlands are often perceived as being part of a ‘traditional industry’, but all businesses must adapt to use and survive automation. Rowlands provides a good example of a business that has harnessed technology to complement its existing services. They have invested significantly in technology and efficiencies over the last couple of years to stay up-to-date with the trends of the ‘connected generation’ by implementing facilities such as the cloud, mobile, analytics and the web. Like many businesses, Rowlands also have access to ‘cold data’, which can provide insights into the Jersey job market, their success rate and many other factors of the business. However, this data only brings real value when it is applied alongside Rowlands staff’s personal knowledge of the local job market and their relationships with clients and candidates.”

    Jeralie Pallot: “Good recruitment isn’t about following a set of rules: it’s about applying continuously updated knowledge of job markets, demographic trends and legislative developments to the unique circumstances of candidates and clients. The team at Rowlands are constantly challenged to find new and better ways of doing things. Gone are the days when we could update our website every three years – we’re now constantly thinking about ways to improve and introducing new functionalities every year to address the needs of job seekers. While people are happy to search vacancies in their spare time, after speaking with candidates we found they were often reluctant to call us to ask quick questions on salary or skills for a particular role. Obviously we’re aware of how people are now constantly connected via their smart phones, so last year we became one of the first UK recruiters to add an online chat function to our website. This is a much more efficient way for people to get in touch with us. The chat message goes directly to a waiting consultant who is able to answer their question or solve their issue. Although partially automated, a human response can ensure a completely personal and targeted answer that could not be achieved if fully automated.”

    Negotiation

    Dan Hare:“Automation has already been embraced by a number of industries and services for financial exchanges. For example, Amazon, Uber and Skyscanner are able to identify matches based on the ‘best price’, or other criteria to achieve results. Some believe that ‘robo-recruiters’ will be able to apply this to the job market. However, my examples above operate within a market of perfect information and interchangeable offerings, in other words, they deal with ‘face-value.’ While Rowlands could try to use this approach by automatically filtering CVs and personal information to create an apparent match, recruitment isn’t this straightforward. The Rowlands team must also use their knowledge of their clients and the individual candidate beyond the job specification or CV to consider how they will fit in terms of personality and company culture. Rowlands are able to use their knowledge to create matches on a more personal and human basis, using insights that a machine would be unable to identify.”

    Jeralie Pallot: “In a market where the demand for quality far outweighs the supply, the expertise of a consultant is extremely valuable. As Dan has pointed out, while an algorithm could provide matches based on basic information, relying on obvious indicators will only make up part of the picture of the current job market and critical bits of information could easily be missed! For example, due to confidentiality or sensitivity issues, only 2/3 of our vacancies are currently being advertised in the marketplace. We do however discuss these other roles with job seekers that demonstrate suitable skills or experience. If they were relying on an automated job board and not working through Rowlands, they would not be aware of these opportunities. There are many cases where we’ve negotiated bespoke solutions too, hybrid roles based on unusual and valued skillsets that fit both the candidate and the client perfectly. No algorithm would be capable of making this kind of offer as it requires a personal level of knowledge and understanding beyond basic information! Rowlands consultants invest a lot of time in preparing individuals for interviews by helping them to speak more confidently and bring out experiences and interests they may not realise is a strength, but will actually make them a lot more attractive to employers. This help alone can often lead to job offers and new careers that may have been missed if they were going it alone. We also work closely with both sides to help weigh up any concerns and manage expectations to create offers that works well for both sides in the end. In summary, relying only on what is visible on the surface can limit the choice of the job seeker and employer and result in missed opportunities for both parties. This is where Rowlands can really help.”

    Relationships and Helping People

    Dan Hare:“Robots such as Pepper demonstrate an impressive step forward in the use of robotics for customer service. However, while interacting with a robot is a great marketing gimmick and looks pretty fun on the surface, the technology isn’t currently at a place where machines can properly react emotionally or establish real relationships with people. In the Financial Times video, Pepper shows how the novelty of consumer service robots in the real world can soon wear off and it instead becomes inflexible and frustrating! This is obviously a key facet to working in partnership with any business. Rowlands’ relationship with their clients allow them to connect on a human level. For example, if a candidate has the right skills for a job role, but they haven’t presented this well on their CV, or they’re unsure how to get this across in an interview situation, the Rowlands team member could suggest helping them tweak their CV, or have them practice a mock-interview. My point is that automation can valuably address basic and repetitive tasks, but a human is able to provide a constantly evolving, personal service based on interaction and wider-knowledge of the present situation.”

    Jeralie Pallot: “At Rowlands, we take pride in establishing real, lasting relationships with our clients. I like to think that (other than our positive outcomes!) our personal touch is one of the main reasons why clients keep coming back. Our clients know that if they’re working through Rowlands; they’re going to get a bespoke service that focuses on quality rather than quantity. We’re not going to spam our clients with candidates that may not be suitable just to ‘see what sticks’. Instead we take a proactive approach, getting to know both clients and candidates on a personal level. This way, we are able to understand and cater to their individual needs, whether this is matching client companies to their dream candidates or helping a client present their company culture better to attract the right people to their business.”

    What Next?

    Jeralie Pallot: “Just to be clear, we’re not against automation! Automated tech definitely has its place in the workplace and can add value when harnessed in the right way. Automation works extremely well for repetitive tasks such as processing information and filing and a machine taking on these kind of tasks can have a positive impact on efficiency. Many people predicted that the digital revolution would do away with recruitment consultants, yet Rowlands has continued to see a high number of businesses and jobseekers looking for recruits and jobs through our services. In fact, we are looking to implement some automation ourselves! This will be used to improve the value of our Salary Survey for our clients, to deliver a constantly evolving service that is always up-to-date. What’s important is for businesses to look ahead and future proof in the face of automation, whether this means implementing tech to compliment services or adding value where tech can’t. While Rowlands’ success rate speaks for itself, our clients can rest assured in knowing that we genuinely care in a way that a machine can’t. In other words, letting our human qualities shine through is what really make us stand out from the crowd.”

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