Digital recruitment tricks you need to know

It's time to have that awkward conversation with HR and recruitment, writes TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik.

TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik.
Read time 6min 00sec
TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik.

The future of the HR and recruitment industry hangs in the balance... but not for the reasons you'd think.

Yes, retention rates are dwindling, with 76% of millennials admitting last year that they intended to leave their employer. In the meantime, industry practitioners are casting suspicious sideways glances at the developments in artificial intelligence (AI), threatening to replace them. But both these issues are only symptoms of a much bigger problem: marketers are just better at HR and recruitment right now.

"We want you! No, not you, HR and recruitment. We meant the guys behind you."

Marketing has always played a notable role in recruitment. In fact, one of the most famous recruitment campaigns of all time was James Montgomery Flagg's "I Want You" WWI US Army recruitment poster (which was really just a knock-off of Britain's recruitment poster, proving that being a fast follower can often be as effective as being a first mover), depicting Uncle Sam in his famous pointing pose way back in 1917. So, the question is: why is marketing only becoming a legitimate adversary to traditional recruitment now?

The answer, as it is to so many questions at the moment, is digital. Marketing was the frontrunner in early digital adoption, and now everyone else is struggling to catch up, with traditional hiring approaches facing endless obstacles. Are your recruitment efforts hampered by high offline media costs when advertising for positions, limited data tracking ability, and ineffective character references? Fortunately for marketers, digital provides access to affordable online media, paid analytics, and social media that can offer character insights. But that's not all.

"Exactly how many followers do you have and why can't I find you on Insta?"

Digital also opens new doors to innovative ways to attract talent. As a result, more and more companies have been flocking to the likes of Tinder and Snapchat - both with significantly more users than your average job site - to swipe right on prospective employees and snap up the best of the best. And who are they looking to for help? Marketers, of course. Marketers have all the tools. They have all the know-how. And they have all the data.

Unfortunately, jumping on the digital bandwagon now won't be the boost recruiters need to regain their lead. They're still taking it slow, courting their candidates while marketers are pros at speed dating their target market. I touched on this issue in the talk I gave at the Future of HR Summit last month, when I spoke about Crystal.

"No followers, you say? Let's see what Crystal thinks about that..."

Crystal knows that I'm someone who prioritises innovation, that I tend to lose track of time while working, and that I bounce between topics when I'm having a conversation, but we've never spoken. We've never even met, because Crystal is not a person. She's an example of artificial intelligence. By using machine learning, she accurately determines likely personality traits from the data collected during a short questionnaire and an Internet search of your activity. What's more, it takes her just a couple of minutes to do it.

Recruitment is just one pillar of HR's strategy, but it's not the only one vulnerable to a digital revolution.

There are many other digital tools crawling out of the woodwork to take over traditional HR functions. While recruiters can only handle one candidate at a time, HireVue records video interviews with candidates and then analyses elements like their word choice, tone, and facial movements to screen them faster and more effectively. Chatbots like Mya can also juggle multiple conversations, all the while deep-analysing every response. Then there's Saberr, applying an algorithm to determine candidates' 'resonance score' with the company at which they are applying for a position. And we can't forget about Hired, which gives more control to candidates in terms of how they are presented.

Recruitment is just one pillar of HR's strategy, but it's not the only one vulnerable to a digital revolution. I spoke about this at the Future of HR Summit too - how data predictive modelling can be used beyond the hiring process, to do everything from gauging employee satisfaction and performance to retention, and even a proclivity towards criminal activity.

"Human resources aren't enough anymore. We need hybrid resources"

After reading all this, it's easy to come to the conclusion that HR is in danger of extinction, but thankfully, that's not the case. Despite all these automation and deep learning tools, I don't see a future where people feel comfortable taking their personal and confidential issues to an emotionless system for counsel, especially one with the potential to be hacked. And even if they did, none of these tools offer a holistic solution. At the end of the day, the machine needs a master; if not to control it, then at least to monitor it and tell it what to do as the goal posts change - something they will always be doing in a digital age.

The challenge for recruitment and HR lies in how to respond to that awkward conversation, when their clients want to know why the person pulling the strings should be them and not a marketer instead. To do this, HR and recruitment personnel will need to use technology, not only to streamline their processes, but to do so in a way that is unique to their special set of skills. Britehouse is one such company managing to do this, offering clients like Ster-Kinekor a customised recruitment solution, developed and tweaked by people who know the process backwards and forwards.

The beneficial contribution of AI and analytical technology in this sector is undeniable. It's made getting the right man or woman for the job more than a hit-and-miss exercise and less draining on business owners' bottom lines too. But the human element remains important in guiding where new technology can be applied best, and where it simply has no place. Where would you draw that line?

Can HR and recruitment really take on marketers that have a considerable head start in the data and tech game? Is partnering with tech companies an option to counter-balance this imbalance? Should HR work towards a seat at the strategic table? And who would you feel most comfortable putting your company's HR and recruitment needs in the hands of?

About Lee Naik

Lee Naik was named one of LinkedIn's Top 10 Voices in Technology and is recognised as one of SA's leading digital and technology transformation experts. He is CEO of TransUnion Africa, where he leads a portfolio of businesses that help organisations make more informed decisions and consumers manage their personal information, leading to a higher quality of life.

Check out his Linked blogs and follow him on @naikl for his latest commentary.

Lee Naik
CEO of TransUnion Africa.

Lee Naik is CEO of TransUnion Africa and is recognised as one of SA's leading digital and technology transformation experts. Naik has worked across all spheres of government and private sector industries. He has a deep understanding and appreciation of the transformative role technology can play and his experience ranges from developing first-in-country strategies and solutions to leading complex delivery programmes. In his previous role as MD of Accenture Digital, he focused on helping organisations transform their businesses to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world. A frequent speaker and commentator, Naik was recognised as a global top 10 commentator in the 2015 LinkedIn Top Voices awards, and was a recipient of the 2015 Standard Bank Rising Stars Award. In 2016, he was one of the top 10 finalists for the IITPSA's IT Personality of the Year award.

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