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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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Conversational Commerce: The Next Evolution in Social Recruiting

VMSA Live 2016 has wrapped up, and I’m pleased to report that it was an amazing success. Not only was I honored to speak at this thought-provoking gathering, I was thrilled to collaborate and share ideas with everyone who attended. Together, we truly came together to shape the direction and future of our industry. Heading back to the airport, my mind was still energized by the unique perspectives, imaginative solutions and bold visions that fueled the conference. And despite the multitude of important topics that VMSA Live brought to light, the prevailing theme was innovation.

Innovation Isn’t an Industry Buzzword -- It’s an Industry Imperative

The DNA of the workforce has changed. The fabric of the labor market has changed. From Big Data to online recruiting platforms and cutting edge social apps, the tools of our trade are evolving at an accelerated pace. All stakeholders in the staffing ecosystem must rapidly adapt to thrive. That includes HR, staffing agencies, MSPs and the growth enterprises they serve.

In his piece on VMSA Live 2016, industry influencer Andrew Karpie hit the nail on the head in recognizing and embracing the necessity of innovation: “Oiling and replacing the gears only gets you so far. (The analogy holds when we consider hybrid and electric vehicles and self-driving cars -- or whatever they will be called.) The point is that optimization and incremental improvement are good, but adding in the dimension of innovation is better — in fact, it is necessary.”

Consider the way we recruit. Throughout 2015, we all emphasized the relevance of social media as the next big hiring strategy for top talent. Yet here we are just a few months later, and this hot trend now seems like “oiling and replacing the gears.” The next innovation is already taking shape. It’s called “conversational commerce.”

Conversational Commerce

The idea of conversational commerce was floated in early 2015 by Chris Messina, Google’s former user experience designer and social network pioneer. Messina is also the man who invented the hashtag, which practically defined the functionality of Twitter. So what exactly is conversational commerce? A way to unite one’s shopping experience with real-time messaging on a mobile platform.

“Conversational Commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare,” Messina says. In other words, it eliminates the clutter of apps on our smartphones by expanding the ability of the messaging interface to purchase products, order on-demand services, pay bills and more. In Asia, it’s already happening.

As Tom Hadfield explains in TechCrunch: “China’s WeChat, for example, generates over $1.1 billion in revenue by offering its 440 million users an all-in-one approach, letting them pay their bills, hail taxis, and order products with a text. Line, a Japanese messaging app with 200 million users, has rolled out LinePay, allowing its users to make mobile payments, order groceries, book taxis, and more.”

Essentially, conversational commerce is a digital concierge service that combines artificial intelligence with human interaction. It’s the perfect bridge between e-commerce and the desire to communicate with live people in a social media context.

  • Conversational commerce eliminates the need for users to download and launch individual apps for each on-demand service they use.
  • By using a simple and familiar messaging platform, conversational commerce overcomes the limitations of responsive web forms on varying screen sizes.
  • As artificial intelligence evolves, natural language processing will automate a large portion of these concierge services, while retaining a human representative who can jump in and assist for complex requests or quality assurance.

Conversational Commerce Isn’t a Futurist Fantasy -- It’s Already Here

There are billions of active monthly users on mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Hangouts, Snapchat, WeChat, LINE, Kakaotalk, Slack and traditional SMS/MMS. Think about it: we live on our mobile devices. According to Pew Research, messaging represents 97 percent of smartphone activity. And for all the apps we load onto our devices, studies by ComScore suggest that we use only three of them about 80 percent of the time. The idea of consolidating everything into messaging makes perfect sense. And it’s happening.

As Julie Ask, principal analyst for Forrester Research, observes: “Brands are realizing that people just aren’t spending time in their apps, so the companies are trying to engage you in places like Facebook because they know you spend a lot of time there.” Who are those brands? Uber, for one. Through an integration with Facebook Messenger, users can hail a ride without leaving the messaging app to open the Uber app. Slack, one of the fastest growing messaging platforms (with over two million daily active users), is currently developing a similar system that targets chores such as travel bookings, expense tracking and meeting scheduling. After all, Slack’s motto is “be less busy.”

There are also emerging developers like Rhombus, msg.ai, Belazee and Magic, a startup that recently raised $12 million to launch its conversational commerce offering.

Conversational Commerce, The Next Generation of Social Recruiting

The impact of social media in recruiting can’t be understated. And although social recruiting isn’t being rendered obsolete already, the arrival of conversational commerce certainly signals a tremendous shift in talent acquisition. As K.C. Donovan writes in ERE Media, “Talent engagement with our digital focus on email, social networks, mobile apps, and more is about to be turned on its head.”

Texting candidates, for instance, is currently on the rise. According to Software Advice, 43 percent of Millennials now consider text messaging a professional recruitment approach. In many ways, it’s more direct, immediate and personal than an alert that pops up in a Twitter feed. Conversational commerce, as a recruiting tool, allows for one-on-one digital engagement with candidates at the beginning of their job search. It’s the epitome of proactive recruiting. And the interaction occurs within the prospect’s mobile messaging or texting app. “The engagement potential of this as a talent-acquisition application is enormous,” Donovan says.

Just as conversational commerce allows consumers to connect with brands and services through their messaging dialog in real time, the same process could serve to put recruiters and top talent in touch with a superior level of intimacy, accessibility and immediacy. Recent studies indicate that the best candidates will slip away if they’re not made an offer within 10 days. Given this somewhat dire statistic, the potential for conversational commerce as a talent acquisition tool is enormous.

“Text is often more comfortable [than a phone conversation] even if it’s less convenient,” investor Jonathan Libov notes. “Text-based interaction is fast, fun, funny, flexible, intimate, descriptive, and even consistent in ways that voice and user interface often are not.”

As Donovan concludes in his article, “At the core, our stock in trade is the ability to attract and engage career minded people, and the thought of being invited to interact with organic career conversations that happen every single day in messaging programs is breathtaking.”

The Spirit of VMSA Live: True Innovation Enhances The Human Experience

The amazing thing about the disruptive technologies we’re seeing in the staffing industry -- and the digitally enabled socialization they foster -- is that they’re creating a catalyst toward embracing the value of human experiences and community. They stress the value of relationships. Talent acquisition is no longer a process; it’s transforming into an engagement experience -- a series of ongoing interactions that begin at the first point-of-contact and build with every conversation.

Digital technologies are already poised to lead recruitment efforts through social media, virtual job fairs, online staffing and crowd-based sourcing techniques. And soon, conversational commerce could change the game again. Success will come to those who use technology in a way that enhances the candidate experience, builds relevant relationships and fosters meaningful interactions. Innovation is clearly a huge takeaway from VMSA Live. Yet as a forum focused on human resources, VMSA Live also reminds us that real innovation never sacrifices the humanity it’s designed to support.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, thought leader and influencer who is transforming the way companies think about and acquire talent. Blending vision, technology and business skills honed in the most innovative corporate environments, he has launched a new model for recruitment called Crowdstaffing which is being tapped successfully top global brands. Sunil is passionate about building a company that provides value to the complete staffing ecosystem including clients, candidates and recruiters.
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