Automation to the Rescue – but for Who?

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Machine Learning, Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) – topics that seem to be on everyone’s mind these days, particularly for those with jobs in Talent Acquisition (TA) who may be disrupted the most.


What if the point wasn’t about who is being disrupted, but where and what we choose to disrupt.  Ask yourself this question, “Is automation targeting the type of TA activity that’s most needed and for the companies that need it most?”


Since the earliest days, technology evolution has focused on deliverables for the largest companies, with a trickling down and eventual adoption by smaller firms as the new tech activity took root. Programs like email, texting or messaging worked great using this approach since they’re made for everyone, but recruiting is done very differently in different companies.


If you evaluate TA in Enterprise-sized companies, there is very little “direct” recruiting being conducted in a literal sense. Enterprise companies, for the most part, are well known in their industries and have resources to market their company Employment Brand. Recruiters in this setting are largely focused on processing 100’s of candidates who apply. Except for a small amount of “purple squirrels,” there is less need for “direct” recruitment. In most smaller companies, few of these factors exist. They must aggressively approach the market for talent, and attract, engage and influence. In other words, in this setting direct recruiting is a key activity needed to land applicants.


All companies regardless of size are interested in process improvements, but the trickle-down approach doesn’t always work. The introduction of ATS programs are illustrative of this as thousands of companies couldn’t make use of them as they were too costly and too cumbersome. It took about a decade for a streamlined ATS version to hit the market, and now with good choices, I constantly am asked by TA leaders which ATS should be considered.


With AI and automation, there are companies who are crying out for solutions, and hopefully, they’ll be heard. There are very distinct choices to make for automated TA solutions, either improving the applicant process or improving the quantity and quality of the applicants. In other industries automating the process has proven successful, such as in Travel, Legal and Financial that have already been disrupted. When’s the last time you needed a bank teller or a travel agent?


In TA Tech, there seems to be a mad dash to automate “applicant processing,” but for me, applicant quality and quantity has always trumped process every time. Eliminating steps and bottlenecks is vitally important, but not all TA processes are similar. With fewer candidates available who are doing the work that is needed, there is a strong need for engagement automation, especially for smaller companies with fewer resources. The best place to develop a simplified and automated engagement program is with TA leaders and practitioners in these smaller companies who live and breathe attraction and cultivation every day. The percentage of this activity found in Enterprise-sized companies is just too small.


These are not start-ups, they are what I refer to as “Near Enterprise” companies, with 1,000 and 5,000 employees. These companies mostly have the resources, but many are not well known and need recruitment marketing and engagement solutions to improve their hiring needs. In the U.S., there are about three times more “Near Enterprise” than Enterprise sized companies (5,000+ employees). Sure, some of the smaller companies will have TA needs and programs like the big boys, but the far majority want more attraction and cultivation support than process automation. Hiring Managers with long term unfilled openings will do that for you.


If we were to include the Mid-Size 500 to 1,000 employee companies (SMB) to the number of Near Enterprise suggested above, you’re looking at almost 30,000 U.S. companies vs. just over 3,000 Enterprise. The size and scope of this larger market segment shows how big a deal engagement is.


For my money, attraction and cultivation automation has numerous layers and nuance based on function and need. There’s just too much ground to cover with more possibilities and opportunities to ignore. If you agree with this idea, as TA leaders, we need to make it easier for AI and automation vendors to work with us. It’s hard to tackle a marketplace with up to 30,000 companies. There are many companies who are eager to provide automated solutions at an affordable cost and the easier it is for them to learn what is needed, the better the solutions they will be able to deliver.


Perhaps AI and automation will be able to turn the tables and bring a “trickle-up” approach to Talent Acquisition.


About the Author


K.C. Donovan’s motto is, “Live in the future, then build what’s missing.” He has a unique blend of executive marketing, recruiting, sales, and entrepreneurial experience and is a regular blogger, conference speaker and contributor to the digital TA conversation. As a 4x company founder, K.C. has built businesses and teams of up to 400 employees and held numerous TA leadership roles. Currently, he is EVP Global Strategy for Clinch, a leading Recruitment Marketing company. Previously he kept busy as a sommelier, firefighter, asst press secretary U.S. Senate, sous chef, field camera (ESPN & CNN), and a “door to door” insurance salesman.


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