The Covid-19 pandemic inspired changes, but they are built upon a transformation already taking place. Looking into the future, technology will continue to drive the way work is performed and where it is performed. The implication is that talent acquisition processes will have to change too to find talent that is adaptable and flexible.
— By Donna Chan
The 2020 pandemic seemed to drive many changes in the way work is performed and where it is performed. In reality, it accelerated changes already taking place long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. In fact, having proved that many jobs could be successfully handled remotely, attention was also turned to other critical issues transforming the workforce. They include continuous technology changes, changing labor force demographics, social justice, inequality driven by organizational environmental decisions, and changes in laws and regulations impacting all of the above. Recruiting and hiring people became a process involving more than identifying skills and capabilities. Talent acquisition professionals must take into consideration the changes occurring now and into the future. Human Resources must balance economic performance and social performance, requiring talent decisions that are not biased and support organizational agility and adaptability. Technology is certainly playing an important role already, but many existing systems simply automate what has always been done. What is needed now are processes and systems that meet the skills needs of the present and the future – talent that is flexible, possesses critical soft skills and is able to change and grow as skills needs change.
Technology Permeates all Jobs
The ability of companies to stay competitive is dependent on having the right talent in place, especially technical talent. Technology is changing the very nature of work, but there are many other considerations today besides technology. The people recruited and hired need to also reflect diversity, social responsibility, legal requirements, and more. Companies are struggling to find and retain the needed talent, overcome siloes within the organization that continue to operate with a territorial mindset, continuously upskill the existing workforce, and meet the needs of a changing labor force. Many organizations struggle because they are relying on legacy strategies and systems for recruiting, hiring, and developing talent. The focus is on traditional assessments which excludes many qualified diverse people because biased reasons are embedded in the process. The legacy talent systems do not consider factors like career planning, ability to collaborate across functions, adaptability, and learning capacity. The talent recruitment and hiring systems hired tech people who would work in back office IT offices, but now most employees are required to work with technology which is under continual improvement and advancement.
The systems used a decade or two ago fit the business environment, but they do not now. The issues driving HR technology decisions are not just about current skills or even past experience. The issues concern finding, attracting, and retaining talent and improving the employee experience. Other issues include developing people to reach their full potential, workplace planning, creating collaborative work environments, and ensuring well-being, diversity and inclusion. The HR technology focus is now on developing the right talent acquisition tools, developing the employee experience through portals, skills mapping and career pathing, intelligent recruiting, intelligent HR automation, providing business insights, and tailoring learning journeys.
Technology is not just adding new requirements for skills. Jonathan Grudin, Principal Researcher with the Natural Interaction Group at Microsoft Research studies human-computer interactions. He believes that people will create the jobs of the future with technology central to the process. They will not just train for them. The future workforce will need creativity, complex communication skills, systems thinking, ability to thrive in diverse environments, intercultural sensitivity, emotional intelligence, and initiative. Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards and filmmaker believes that the skills people need in the future are the skills that machines and robots cannot possess. They include skills like taking initiative, empathy, curiosity, multi-disciplinary thinking, and again, creativity.
Recruiting Soft Skills
Conventional recruiting and hiring strategies usually do not focus on these kinds of skills. They focus on identifying people with a fixed set of skills. The systems also are built on biases now embedded in data. A change in focus is needed as the demand for emotional and social skills increases across industries. Due to technology, hiring people into a specific role rather than the organization will leave the organization to experience a skills shortage. The talent needed are people who are adaptable and agile because organizational roles will rapidly change. Flexible employees will be able to learn the new skills needed and move into roles across functions.
To hire for soft skills rather than hard skills requires a different screening process. A host of new technology companies are appearing, offering screening capabilities that assess for soft skills, like PredictiveHire. The technology solution offers blind interviews that solves for three pain points in recruiting – bias, efficiency, and candidate experience. The company team consists of data scientists, IO psychologists, recruitment industry professionals, and artificial intelligence experts. The inclusion of psychologists and data scientists is an indication of the need to assess for soft skills as well as technical skills. Artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in recruiting, interviewing, and hiring decisions now that developers understand how bias can creep into data. It has a way to go before it is a mature, well-tested recruiting and hiring technology. However, there is already no doubt it will play a central role in the future talent management strategies.
Letting Go of Old Ways of Doing HR Business
Strategic recruitment will be critical to organizational success in hiring people with skills for the future workforce. Most recruiters today only source talent externally, but in the future the recruiters will source talent externally and internally, working closely with hiring managers. Technology will be the workflow enabler from beginning to end. As technology advances, organizations must be willing to embrace the new HR technologies rather than holding tight to existing, traditional systems.
There are many forces of change in progress in talent management. The bottom line is that the HR function will have to be as adaptable and flexible as the talent it seeks to recruit, hire, develop, and retain.