Now almost 20 years into the new century, we are seeing the results of an era built on technology from mobile phones to machine learning. We have many wonderous and exciting tools, but we don’t always have the wisdom to use them well. I see 2019 as a year of adjustment and recalibration. We will continue to reap value from the tools but also create processes and guidelines for using them better and more effectively. Below are some of my thoughts and observations on what is unfolding. I’d welcome your comments.
Trend 1: People Temper Technology
This year is the year of humans winning back respect and taking more control over the tools, software, apps, and AI that have appeared over the past five years. Gone is the wanderlust that has been associated with AI as we begin to see its limitations. All artificial intelligent applications are, as computer scientist John Launchbury says “spreadsheets on steroids.”
Technology will increasingly be looked at as a partner and assistant rather than as a replacement for people. Well executed, technology can augment the weakest recruiter and make even the good ones more effective. Rather than pitching products as solutions to problems, vendors should focus on how their tools help reduce the mundane and administrative aspects of recruitment and how technology can help make assessment more unbiased, administration less burdensome, and automated engagement more useful.
The tools that will gain market share will be sophisticated chatbots to seamlessly engage candidates and provide information and do basic assessment; tools that do assessment whether it is with video, games, or online activities; and tools that automate to some degree tasks such as onboarding, data collection, reporting, and analytics. Other tools that will gain are tools focused on internal mobility and employee development. More technology will be designed for a mobile world with simple interfaces and extreme ease of use.
The talent wars will not be won by searching for candidates. That is a zero-sum game. They will be won by those who de-emphasize traditional search and focus on internal mobility, by a focus on recalibrating qualifications to enable more realistic and affordable hires, by using the contingent workforce more effectively, and by hiring older workers.
Our traditional view of the workforce is a monolith of full-time workers. The more useful view is as an ecosystem made up of a portfolio of gig workers, contractors, part-time, and full-time workers as well as customers, service providers, and remote workers augmented with AI. It will be critical to include technology as part of the workforce thinking because many less skilled, routine jobs will be replaced with technology.
Trend 3: Humans Temper Algorithms
All modern technology relies on algorithms — formulas that tell a program what to do or how to make a decision. Most of us think of algorithms almost like magic. They take in data and out comes an answer (e.g., Alexa, Siri). Reactions range from amazed to scary. In recruiting, algorithms can assess personality, skills, and aptitude. They answer candidate questions and refer them to available positions. They provide us with data on who the most likely candidates are to be successful, and much more.
This year we will understand the limitations and dangers in algorithms and have a more realistic view of what they actually can or cannot do. We will realize that algorithms can be wonderful assistants and provide valuable information that is otherwise unobtainable.
Like humans, algorithms may be biased. They can only make suggestions based on the data they have access to. Algorithms cannot factor in emotion or understand the context of a final decision.
The best recruiters this year will use algorithmic output as they would suggestions from a respected authority. They will temper recommendations with human insight and with a more complete and i-depth understanding of the context in which it is given.
Trend 4: Candidate Rights Take the Forefront
Candidate rights, ethics and privacy will also be important topics this year (and I’m speaking about ethics in recruiting at ERE in San Diego). As of today, we have lots of conversation and talk but few guidelines for how to use the data we collect or have access to about candidates in a way that is respectful of their rights. The GDPR has clarified the privacy rights of candidates in the EU, but in the U.S., we do not have the same requirements. We do not disclose what data we have, nor do we provide any guidance as to how we make decisions and which data might have been most central to our decision.
The same issues Facebook has faced over how its data has been accessed and used will come to affect HR and recruitment. Over the next few months there will be more focus on what rights candidates have … what data can be and what data cannot be collected, inferred, or used.
While the federal government may not change any current laws or regulations, there will be pressure to make voluntary changes and disclosures. Some states may enact regulations or laws regarding data privacy and use. Whatever these may be, they will have an effect on the algorithms we use and on what we can and cannot access or use in our decision making. The use of blockchain (see below) may also have an impact on this.
Trend 5: Blockchain Provides Data Protection
Blockchain will become increasingly available for recruiting uses. While blockchain for recruitment is still in early stages of development, this year will see more focus and interest. Conferences will be entirely focused on blockchain for recruiting.
With blockchain applications, candidates can store personal data in the blockchain and give permission for recruiters to access only the needed data for a period of time. This can speed up verification of credentials as well as background screening.
Trend 6: Hiring Contingent Workers Becomes More Complex
The use of contingent workers is becoming more complex, but no less important to providing a flexible workforce as well as ensuring that needed skills are available. This year may see new guidelines for using contingent workers, more use of third-party placement agencies to prove benefits and basic legal protection, as well as increased scrutiny of employment practices. States may put in place restrictions or requirements on how contingent workers are treated. Legal pressure is still toward full-time employment, but the tide may be beginning to turn as more people become used to contingent working arrangements.