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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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How the Internet of Things and AI Will Power Staffing’s Digital Intelligence

Late in January, as covered by VentureBeat, Accenture released its annual forecast report. As one would imagine, the global technology consultancy discussed the increasing digitization of the world, both in business and personal realms. Obvious trends showcased the rapid development of machine intelligence, advances in automation and the unstoppable expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). However, this year’s report struck a surprising chord. With the understandable fears of robots replacing humans, a sort of neo-Luddite sensibility has been gaining momentum. That’s why Accenture’s latest research provides a fascinating twist: “We are beginning to see the emergence of technology for people, by people -- technology that seamlessly anticipates our needs and delivers hyperpersonalized experiences.” Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and design thinking will be the drivers. They are also critical transformations that will shape the staffing industry. Let’s explore the possibilities and see how we can create a future that Accenture dubbed “Technology for Humans.”

The Digital and Human Disruption

“Digital disruption has a new direction,” Accenture proclaimed in the preamble to its report. “We’re using technology to disrupt ourselves.” What does that mean? That the emergence of new technologies is people-centric. It’s designed by people, for people. In the staffing industry, this concept is paramount. We’re a people business. And to unlock the full potential of an intelligent, digital HR ecosystem, we should be concentrating on these wider trends, embracing them and then transforming them into realities.

“The pace of technology change is breathtaking, bringing about the biggest advancements since the dawn of the Information Age,” said Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer, in a statement reported on by VentureBeat. “As technology transforms the way we work and live, it raises important societal challenges and creates new opportunities. Ultimately, people are in control of creating the changes that will affect our lives, and we’re optimistic that responsive and responsible leaders will ensure the positive impact of new technologies.”

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

“With machine learning, we can discover unforeseen connections and create unprecedentedly detailed and accurate models and predictions,” writes Sami Viitamaki for VentureBeat. “Google has learned to magically discern what we want from the first word we type. And IBM is now building macroscopes that learn in infinite detail how massive systems, from cities to natural ecosystems, work.”

Viitamaki wisely points out one of Google’s earlier forays into machine intelligence. Yet as we discussed in November, Google has expanded its capabilities and tailored solutions that bring machine learning to the staffing industry. Google’s Cloud API provides recruiters, hiring managers and other users with the most relevant search results and recommendations. The API relies on Google’s advances in machine learning to understand how job titles and skills correlate. It then compiles the data to determine the closest match between job content, location and seniority.

Google is not the only technology pioneer to begin introducing AI to human resources. We’re also seeing a surge in developers launching chatbots, akin to Amazon’s Alexa, that facilitate informed decision-making for recruiters and talent.

  • A Boston-based startup called Talla is working on a chatbot that can assist talent with entering the workforce prepared and enhancing their productivity.
  • As ERE noted in September, HiringSolved is introducing a virtual assistant known as RAI, which guides “users through questions that very experienced sourcers ask themselves in order to chop through a database and hone in on who they want.”
  • There’s also Mya by FirstJob. Mya is an AI that uses natural language processing and machine learning to automate up to 75 percent of the recruiting process. Similar to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Mya can simulate conversations and somewhat complex interactions with users. Through these exchanges, she continually gathers data about candidates, skill sets, engagement levels, cultural fit and more. This information, FirstJob says, is then transformed into quantifiable intelligence.

Machine learning shines brightest when broad and comprehensive datasets are present. This is precisely why Randstad’s acquisition of Monster made sense. Monster, during its lengthy and formidable tenure, had amassed an untold wealth of workforce data. Randstad recognized the value of talent analytics. Randstad also understood how to synthesize and act on that data. Through Monster’s database, Randstad gained the opportunity to refine processes through a trove of untapped business and candidate intelligence.

Here’s the thing. Every staffing firm collects data. Every VMS, ATS or other HR information system being used collects data. Whether we realize it or not, all of us in the staffing industry have now become data companies. And the evolution of AI will empower us to put that information to incredible uses as we grow.

The Internet of Things

“To build machines with a better understanding of the world, we need to build integrated systems that learn through connected sensors and act directly via smart devices,” Viitamaki explains. “These gadgets expand the physical presence and footprint of AI to help it grow more aware and intelligent.”

To many people, the IoT represents smart devices: phones, tablets, home appliances, security systems, automation systems that control temperature and lighting, and even “thinking” refrigerators with built-in virtual assistants. The IoT also includes other gadgets that are becoming more commonplace in staffing.

Smart technologies are allowing HR, procurement and contingent workforce professionals to optimize their own productivity and mobility. Many processes may now be carried at from any location, at any time:

  • Timesheet approvals and tracking
  • Payrolling
  • Widespread communication with workers, colleagues, MSPs, staffing providers and other partners in real time, from any office
  • Video interviews, webinars, live-streaming conferences and even video-based recruitment marketing
  • Performance monitoring, feedback and reviews
  • Offers of incentives such as digital gift cards, shopping discounts, performance awards and more
  • Access to benefits and pay stubs for talent
  • Virtual learning and skills development tools, available in educational videos, digital curricula, forms and more
  • Wearable devices to track wellness, safety and performance

As we wrote this August, wearable tech has become a power-packed performance tool for the workplace. The benefits of wearables reach far beyond time-management and motion studies. They have the ability to provide HR leaders and managers with data they previously couldn’t attain, and then measure the analytics to create greater levels of efficiency.

  • They can improve job-related safety and reduce risks.
  • They foster health, fitness and wellness programs, preventing accidents or environments that lead to medical costs, lost time or worse.
  • They increase efficiency by analyzing movement, stress, time spent completing tasks, and providing insights to users.

Now consider how machine learning and IoT come together:

  • Mobile tech records how workers spend their time, how they interact and how they feel about their jobs. Tracking and analyzing this data gives workforce leaders an incredible understanding of where talent are succeeding or struggling, in real time. The opportunity to address issues instantly could have phenomenal results.
  • As Chris Cancialosi points out in Forbes, “Data could be used to track the work of employees and to help them understand who they should connect with to move the work forward and keep key stakeholders informed in the process.”
  • The AI in the personal assistants most of our smartphones offer can learn to filter out the information we consider most important, even in emails or social communications. These advances could help talent discover the most relevant information they need, at times when it’s most useful.

Design Thinking

Design-thinking, a subject we explored in 2015, simplifies the complex interactions people have with technology, intricate processes and non-traditional structures -- it does so through principles that emphasize empathy, prototyping and tolerance for failure. Harvard Business Review’s Jon Kolko believes it’s “the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

“There’s a shift under way in large organizations, one that puts design much closer to the center of the enterprise,” Kolko writes. “But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.” At its core, design thinking promotes four tenets:

  • The human rule -- all design activity is ultimately social in nature.
  • The ambiguity rule -- design thinkers must preserve ambiguity.
  • The redesign rule -- all design is redesign.
  • The tangibility rule -- making ideas tangible facilitates communication.

Design-thinking is a human-centric approach to optimizing digitally enabled processes. Consider Hardware as a Service (HaaS), where infrequent or isolated transactions no longer require cumbersome onsite equipment -- the virtualized model replaces physical machines with subscriptions that allow for frequent data collection and on-demand transactions. The same situation can be applied to staffing.

“The number of on-demand labor platforms and online work-management solutions is surging. As a result, leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution,” VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi observes in his recent article.

The advent of talent marketplaces and on-demand talent acquisition platforms, which happen to form the backbone of our Crowdstaffing model, are giving rise to a new type of business-to-business partnership. We’re no longer talking about the relationships between MSPs and staffing suppliers, or even additional suppliers for Master Vendor programs. In our model, which relies on a global network of independent recruiters who place talent locally, we can offer MSPS, other recruiting firms or hiring managers direct support in filling roles outside their core capabilities. We can also allow them to tap into the crowd from our online platform -- even for irregular or one-off requests. Like HaaS, crowd-based talent acquisition is paving the way for this type of design-centric model through Recruiting as a Service (RaaS).

How Do We Unlock Staffing’s Digital Intelligence?

Fortunately, there are several key ways we can incorporate these mechanisms into our hiring ecosystems. In fact, this is part of a broader conversation I’ll be hosting at this year’s VMSA Live in Arizona on Wednesday, April 5. I hope to see you there. Even if you can’t attend, be sure to check the blog next week for my follow-up article on how we can make these transformations a reality.
Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley thought leader, speaker, motivator, and the visionary behind the groundbreaking Crowdstaffing ecosystem. Blending vision, technology, and business skills, he is transforming the talent acquisition landscape and the very nature of work. Prior to launching Crowdstaffing, Sunil honed his skills and experience as a business leader for companies such as IBM, EMC, and Symantec. "We need to think exponentially to mindfully architect the future of humanity, civilization, and work. When we collaborate and work together, everyone prospers."
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