Maggie BleharNovember 13, 2023
Topics: Recruiter Experience

Humanizing Automation to Create a Personalized Talent Experience

For many organizations, “talent automation” can evoke a plethora of opinions. Yet the term is one of many representing the current paradigm shift that talent acquisition and management teams currently face.

On this episode of Talent Experience Live, Rob Cohen, Manager Process Owner, Talent Acquisition, Philip Morris International (PMI) discussed how his team uses automation to meet growing hiring and retention demands efficiently and at scale. Learn how organizations can leverage this technology to optimize talent processes and cultivate a candidate — and employee-centric approach that values the human touch.

Watch the full episode on demand below, or keep reading for highlights.

What are some ways PMI uses talent automation?

At PMI, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools save recruiters time by lifting manual tasks that detract from their ability to do what a machine can’t do — and that’s applying human knowledge and relationship skills to bring in the highest quality candidates.

“It’s about those mundane tasks, taking away things that a system can calculate,” Cohen said, giving the example of automating the scheduling of communications leading up to a new hire’s start date.

Particularly for PMI’s high-volume and early careers job roles, automation plays a key role in application screening. “We have masses of applications — it would be ineffective and inefficient for a recruiter to have to go through every single profile,” Cohen said.

For these job roles, he explained, candidate selection is about surfacing metrics-based factors. “By bringing in automation with a level of AI and some decision process, we can start comparing apples to apples, and it levels the playing field for everyone,” he said, which helps to reduce bias. From there, the system will prompt recruiters on which candidates have the most potential.

Related reading: AI Scheduling: A Must-Have For Your TA Teams

How do you leverage AI for personalized messaging?

A key part of the candidate experience is what happens after applicants complete the assessment and interview process — do they get personal follow-up? Any follow-up?

At PMI, all job candidates receive a personalized communication that’s generated with the help of AI. For unsuccessful job candidates, the communication explains why they were not selected and includes tips on how to improve future assessments.

These messages are written in a friendly, conversational style (not corporate-speak) and provide far more detail than anything a recruiter would have time to present to every candidate, according to Cohen. Survey scores suggest that this has had a positive impact on the candidate experience: “On the whole since this sort of thing has been introduced, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) has gone up,” he said.

How do humans stay in charge of the machine at PMI?

It’s true that automation and AI can equip teams to accomplish superhuman achievements. But human judgment and direction are essential to making it all work. Recruiters are the ones pulling the levers at PMI to ensure that the timing is right when it comes to sending rejection letters, for example, so that job candidates won’t receive them on a Friday, Cohen explained.

Relatedly, recruiters intentionally randomize the timing of automated responses to groups of students who apply from the same university.

Bottom line? It comes down to the need for human understanding of where people are and what they need at the heart of any automated communications process.

How are you balancing automation and human decision-making for a frictionless talent experience?

To be clear: “No system is hiring and no system at PMI is removing or rejecting a candidate from the flow. That is done by a human being.” However, the way Cohen sees it, the most valuable impact technology can have on the talent experience is to remove friction, easing the application and interview process.

Case in point: PMI uses an automated assessment process for early career roles that draw high volumes of applicants. All applicants first answer basic screening questions, upload their resumes, and fill in work experience.

Next, they complete a video interview, and high-scoring candidates automatically move forward. Remaining applicants are reviewed by a recruiter, who decides whether or not to keep them in the running.

Related reading: How to Transform Recruiter Efficiency with AI, Automation, and Video

What are some challenges to expect when implementing automated processes?

Although the payoff is worth it, be prepared to invest time into setting up this level of automation, Cohen advised. In his experience with implementing automated video assessments, one of the biggest challenges was ensuring legislative compliance.

It may also take time reconfiguring the rules engine to align the system’s output closely with recruiter feedback and needs, he said.

In addition to easing the minds of the legal team, securing more general buy-in also took some finessing. “Getting across those hurdles with stakeholders [required telling them that] this automation isn’t here to remove people from jobs, it’s to allow recruiters to actually do what they should be doing, and what they’re experts at: finding and nurturing the right candidates.”

What advice do you have for organizations just beginning to introduce automation into the talent experience?

Cohen recommends a measured, intentional approach to integrating automation and AI into recruitment processes. “Break your process down, have a vision to improve one thing, and then move on to the next.”

Second, think about the overarching goals of what you want automation to help accomplish. Is it improved efficiency? A better candidate experience? “Don’t try to chase everything,” Cohen said.

Finally, keep your human recruiters at the center. “AI won’t replace recruiters because they have empathy and sympathy,” Cohen concluded. “Don’t underestimate the power of a recruiter and their market knowledge and their functional knowledge. It’s really key to the success of anything we do in this space.”

Related reading: 6 Companies Successfully Using AI in Their Recruiting Strategies

To continue the conversation on successfully implementing automation into your recruiting processes, book a personalized meeting with a Phenom expert.

Maggie Blehar

Maggie is a writer at Phenom, bringing you information on all things talent experience. In addition to writing, she enjoys traveling, painting, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. 

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