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Why Canada’s Biggest Bank Is Looking to a Tech Expert to Shake Up Its Recruiting Process

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The Royal Bank of Canada turned its talent operation over to a technology strategist last year. Surprising? Maybe—but it makes sense.

With over $1.2 trillion in assets and a workforce of 80,000, RBC is the country’s largest bank and as has been racing to offer more and more services in its online and mobile channels. But in its efforts to transform into a “digitally enabled relationship bank,” a critical skills gap became apparent—they needed talent that they didn’t have in order to meet their goals.

That’s where Leona McCharles, the new VP of Global Talent Acquisition with years of experience in technology strategy work, comes in. She has been looking at where the bank lacks people with critical skills and thinking about how to apply “technology strategy thinking and product development” in recruiting in order to upskill the current workforce and hire people with needed skills.

In this week’s episode of Talent on Tap, Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting, talked with Leona about how she is bringing digital disruption and digital transformation to her team.

Treat recruitment like product development and use design thinking to improve every process

Leona says that her team has brought a lot of practices from tech into recruitment. “Treat recruitment like product development,” she says, “and think like a marketer. We think about how we apply design thinking and some of those practices into the way we focus on the candidate experience and the employee journey.”

Leona tells Brendan that to think like a product developer, you have to look from the outside in, through the lens of the consumer. “In this case,” she says, “the consumer is our candidate and the products we are developing are not only the jobs . . . but also the experience of [candidates] being able to get access to those jobs.”

Design thinking—made popular by companies such as IDEO, Apple, and more—classically involves a five-step process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. Other organizations have employed design thinking to improve their hiring process. For example, Lever, a San Francisco–based HR software firm, made its job applications simpler and more intuitive

Leona has her team use design thinking to focus on eliminating the point to point: having jobseekers searching for specific RBC jobs only. She believes job hunters spend too much time looking for postings that are an exact, one-to-one match with their experience and skill set. 

“The perfect job is going to be difficult to find,” she says. “It’s the needle in the haystack. But if we think like product developers and understand your needs and the skills and capabilities that you bring to the table, we might be able to serve up opportunities to you that you might not have even known existed.” Leona believes exploring a broader array of job possibilities is a win for the bank and for potential hires, whether they’re internal or external candidates.

As a solution, RBC launched a new candidate experience last year and deployed LinkedIn’s Profile API, which allowed both external candidates and internal employees to register their LinkedIn profiles. “Based on the [work] experience they had,” Leona says, “we recommended jobs to them.”

As the bank considers where it has gaps in critical skills today, it wants to help its current employees obtain those kinds of skills, Leona says. “We’re looking at how do we leverage more assessments,” she says, “to make sure we understand what learning paths look like for those individuals.”

Embrace AI to make better hiring decisions

Seventy-six percent out of the 9,000 hiring managers and recruiters we surveyed for Global Recruiting Trends say that AI’s impact on how they conduct their business will be at least somewhat significant.

Recruiters note that artificial intelligence can save time and money and reduce bias in decision-making. And 31% say AI can help deliver the best candidate matches, which is the possibility that has captured Leona’s attention.

Leona says RBC is developing an algorithm to hone in on the candidates who have the best chance to shine in a job. What kind of data will the company feed the algorithm? “Past history of hiring success, performance, assessments,” she says. “There is a whole host of things that will make sure we’re helping our recruiters make better decisions.”

RBC is not only thinking about how AI will elevate the bank’s recruiting, but also how automation will impact work across the nation. The RBC workforce study concluded: “More than a quarter of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by automation in the next decade, and half will require a new mix of skills even if the job title stays the same.”

That may sound scary to some. But Leona suggests: “Don’t be afraid of AI because it’s your friend.”

Talent on Tap is a weekly series in which Brendan Browne breaks down some of the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned each week for the latest.

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