Jess ElmquistAugust 15, 2022
Topics: AI

Hungry To Hire? With AI, You Don’t Have To Sacrifice Quality For Quantity

Ah, summer. While some folks think of kicking back and catching rays by the pool, my team and I were often hunched over our computers frantically trying to hire a whole lot of people asap.

Summers for me as the CHRO at Life Time meant seasonal hiring sprees for lifeguards, pool attendants, wait staff, camp counselors, and many others who were critical to our success. Growth was through the roof. We had 140 locations in 29 states, 41 major markets, and were 40,000 team members strong.

We had a large part-time employee population, too — which meant lots of moving parts. We were bringing on more than 20,000 people a year, so we became pretty good at high-volume hiring.

But not all organizations are getting it right. Many are sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity. As I explained on a recent webinar, TA teams don’t have to make that choice. Yet most organizations admit to sacrificing quality, according to a snap poll of hiring managers who weighed in when asked.

The good news? There are solutions out there to help CHROs streamline their hiring needs — whether that's quarter-to-quarter, month-to-month, week-to-week, in a specific region with one location or multiple locations.

I’ll confess, though — it isn’t always as easy as some suggest. I found myself struggling with many of the things you’re faced with: old-school legacy processes, pen and paper notes and spreadsheets, and indifferent managers who don’t bother showing up for candidate interviews.

To compensate, we tried to build our own customer relationship management, learning management, and applicant tracking tools. But our outside agencies really struggled to understand the message we were trying to convey. Plus, I needed data — reliable data — so I could make informed decisions that would drive impactful results. Unsurprisingly, my hacked-together Frankenstein monster of tech “solutions” either didn't give me valuable data or required a lot of effort to get it.

Despite the challenges, the one area where I drew a hard line was not surrendering quality for the sake of quantity. At the same time, I realized that every person we didn't hire could cause a negative impact on both our candidate and employee experience. I needed a comprehensive solution that could grow with my team and would help me hire for the now and the future.

So I became a Phenom customer in 2016 and never looked back. After 11 years of high-volume hiring in the fitness and hospitality sector, I’ve onboarded more than 200,000 people and spoken to hundreds of other CHROs and talent leaders across the country. Here's what I found.

The Four Non-Negotiables of Every CHRO

There’s a slight but noticeable shift in high-volume hiring in recent years. I’m sure you’ve picked up on it too. So I’d like to share four must-haves every CHRO needs to hire en masse without sacrificing quality or quantity:

  1. Automation. We need to be able to reduce the redundant, administrative activities that bog down and clutter the calendars of our recruiters and talent experts. Intelligent automation can free them to be more productive with the roles and responsibilities that they're passionate about — changing people's lives by matching them to the right job, and building relationships and networks.

    We all have recruiting superstars on our teams. I’ll never forget one of my best. She was helping us hire general managers and area directors, very important roles at Life Time. We met weekly, and more times than not I found myself trying to unchain her from interview scheduling and other facets of her job that were weighing her down.

    That’s why automation became an absolute calling card as a way to solve this vexing problem. Make sure your platform has a chatbot that's having conversations while recruiters are engaging one-on-one with candidates. And let automated scheduling handle the task of getting interviews on the calendar.
  2. Personalization. Job seekers are looking for something beyond a successful company with a lot of revenue. They want to know who you are and the purpose behind your company. Does your organization give back? Are you doing anything around sustainability? What’s your DE&I strategy?

    So you need to be able to personalize the candidate experience and tell your story authentically to resonate with best-fit talent.

    Granted, it’s practically impossible for us as hiring leaders to personalize every experience. So in high-volume situations especially, that’s where artificial intelligence can help.
  3. Quality. What we didn't want to do at Life Time, and we would not do, is forsake quality to get quantity. We had certification and license requirements that we simply wouldn’t compromise to hire faster. Securing the right talent pays dividends in the long run.
  4. Quantity. Different industries have different needs when it comes to hiring volume. But having a capable pool of talent at the ready is non-negotiable.

    I recently spoke with the CHRO of a food processing company whose headquarters are in a rural town of several hundred people. His issue wasn’t finding people who want to work. Rather, it was finding people who lived near the company’s HQ — a perfect example of where AI and automation can help immensely.

    (Our customer Land O'Lakes was in a similar situation during the pandemic and is a great use case for how AI and automation helped can check it out here.)

AI + CEOs + CHROs = A Winning Combination

High-volume hiring, especially in this market, is going to persist for some time based on how active candidates are today. I read the news about layoffs and attrition, but there are other industries that are looking to ramp up — and ramp up fast. Look at the airlines. Think they have a hiring issue on their hands right now? The carriers are cutting routes because they can’t staff planes, and that’s impacting their bottom line.

So mass hiring has moved from an HR problem to a business problem — which means CEOs are getting schooled on the value AI and automation brings to balance quality and quantity to HR teams and the entire company.

In fact, a Mercer study found that 70% of CEOs are already aware of the efficiencies that come from partnering their talent with AI. It's a fundamental need across their business, whether that's on the factory floor or making intelligent, data-driven decisions at the HR level.

What you can do is build the business case in your organization to show the benefits of automation and personalization.

Judging from the organizations I’ve worked with, the tendency is to under-invest. They’re looking for a solution for just one of their challenges — “I just need someone to help me with a career site” or “I just need a technology platform that has a video interview feature” are the things I often hear.

My advice? Stop! Without considering the bigger picture, you're on your way to building a technology Frankenstein of disparate systems that will never give you the long-term solution to meet your business needs. Think a little bit broader and further around the corner, do your research, and consider the scalability and experience that any potential solution will provide — I promise it will pay off in the long run.

I think you’ll find our new High-Volume Hiring Playbook helpful in your journey. You can download it here.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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