One of the most prevalent themes of artificial intelligence as it relates to HR is its power to automate everyday tasks. To get an in-depth look at what this means for TA leaders, Stacey Harris, Chief Research Officer and Managing Partner at Sapient Insights Group, joined us for our virtual event, AI and the Evolved Recruiter.
Harris oversees the Sierra-Cedar/Sapient Insights HR Systems Survey, the industry’s longest-running research effort that tracks trends related to HR technology. She spoke with Jonathan Dale, VP of Product Marketing at Phenom, revealing what the latest data is telling us regarding AI’s role in everyday recruiting activities.
Read on for Harris’ key insights – and learn why she cautions against waiting too long to integrate AI technology into talent acquisition programs.
Watch her full session "Everyday AI: Understanding AI’s Role in Our Daily Activities" here — and unlock access to all on-demand event content!
AI’s prevalence is growing quickly
In recent years, the HR Systems Survey has shown a rapid evolution in AI & ML adoption, from 1% to 17% among responding companies. (For context, consider that it took several years for similar advances in the adoption of mobile access in recruiting and learning.)
The impact of COVID-19. Harris, a self-described data-driven analyst, first worked as a journalist – a job that nurtured her natural curiosity and commitment to finding facts. “When you ask questions, you get data. And when you get data, you can really find things out,” she says. This year, she added new survey questions to capture impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some stand-out findings in 2020? Twenty percent of organizations lack up-to-date information on critical roles and skills, cited as a top driver by 64% of organizations to support critical decision-making during the pandemic. And organizations that had already invested in strong talent practices before the pandemic were better positioned to continue hiring and investing in technology.
AI must be monitored while supporting daily recruiting functions
Even though AI has progressed as a technology over the years it is still at a nascent stage. As far as the level of sophistication that AI technology is providing recruiters, “We’re still at a point where Artificial Intelligence has to be monitored and reviewed,” she says.
Automating administrative tasks. Nevertheless, AI is proving itself a powerful time-saver. Recruiters use AI tools to support administrative areas such as scheduling and managing ongoing engagements with both internal and external candidates.
Narrowing the funnel. Some organizations are foraying into using AI to support decisions related to selections and recommendations for candidates, talent pools, criteria, and skill sets, although this must be approached carefully. This area has its share of risks and opportunities alike, Harris points out, and demands an understanding of factors influencing decisions and biases that may exist.
Take diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, for example: The struggle here is that even if you’re able to build algorithms to pull existing biases out of a data set, the bias could still be fed back into the system. That’s the nature of AI – it works as a constantly updating loop, always learning and observing what goes into the system.
“We have to be very careful when we’re doing the selection component, that we’re still inputting a human conversation there,” Harris says, with recruiters testing and validating AI in these processes.
How should recruiters capitalize on AI’s time-saving capabilities?
AI is an investment. And, of course, somewhere down the line, ROI will come under scrutiny. If AI is saving recruiters, say, 15 minutes here and there, what’s the best way to use that extra time?
Here are some strategic efforts that can make a difference:
Relationship-building with candidates. When AI starts streamlining administrative tasks like interview scheduling, engagement management, and even sourcing, extra time is best spent developing relationships with key talent that could make a big impact for the organization.
“Technology is a valuable asset in what you do as a recruiter and as an HR professional, but the most important asset is your ability to create relationships,” Harris says.
Educating hiring managers. Developing relationships with hiring managers is important also. Recruiters can channel extra time into educating hiring managers, helping them better grasp how to do a job analysis, for example.
Understanding culture to find best-fit candidates. AI is not necessarily meant to be making decisions about organizational culture and team fit, Dale points out. But by driving better efficiency around administrative tasks, recruiters gain extra time to focus on company culture.
Assessing the performance of AI. In areas where AI is taking on more sophisticated decision-making roles (e.g. narrowing the funnel), recruiters should devote time to double-checking the technology’s work.
This is an important step that can get overlooked in the push for greater efficiency. But having this parallel process in place should be a top priority: It drives up the value of investing in AI right now, Harris points out. “You get the opportunity to see what it’s doing right and what it might be doing wrong, and calibrate for the environment that you’re in,” she says.
The case for adopting AI now
The temptation may be to wait until AI’s maturity and prevalence in the market grows – a mindset that often makes sense when it comes to tech adoption. But the opposite is true with AI, Harris says, and there are vast benefits tied to investing now, while the technology is still novel.
Earlier adoption means a better-trained system. “Everything about artificial intelligence is about tailoring it to your data, your processes, and your organization,” she says. By accumulating data over time, AI systems are constantly learning and refining responses. The sooner you’re inputting your own data into these algorithms, the more impactful the system will be in supporting specific organizational goals.
So adopting AI now, while it’s still relatively in its infancy, will pay off versus waiting to adopt it later in the name of cutting costs.
The fast evolution of chatbots. As Dale notes, chatbots represent how crucial it is to jump in early. Within less than two years, chatbot use has expanded beyond a candidate using the bot on the career site to being infused throughout the talent lifecycle. Recruiters, employees and hiring managers now also use them in various portals, feeding the bots a constantly growing set of data.
“Behind a chatbot is the largest amount of data that your organization has ever captured,” Harris says. “The more it understands your world, the better it’s going to be in what it does.”
Predictive analytics: Technology to watch
Harris observes another HR technology tool growing more widespread: Predictive analytics (PA), which 27% of organizations report leveraging in their HR tech stack.
A close relative of AI, PA tools make data-based, machine-generated recommendations about future developments. PA can boost the effectiveness of everyday strategy and planning, helping with decision-making regarding workforce, skill sets, and critical capabilities.
Harris advises TA leaders to investigate what PA tools are in use throughout their organizations. Ask: How is workforce planning being done? Is it taking into consideration changes in the market, particularly as a result of COVID-19? TA has an opportunity to add context to this data, she says.
“We have so much power to make a difference in people’s lives,” Harris says. “Technology is an enabler of that.”
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