Everybody’s talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) and how we’ll be using this to solve zillions of HR problems real and still unknown. I’ll wager that several contributors to this agenda series will focus on these. Unfortunately, AI/ML in HR is still way too early to take into the mainstream. Yes, the demos we see at user conferences and HR technology shows are seriously cool but these are several years from being ready for prime time.
No, the most important strategic priority will be in developing a new kind of recruiting — the recruiting capability companies need, if they hope to become relevant, successful digital age corporations. Old recruiting methods, technology, sources, etc. may be woefully outdated, inappropriate and ineffective in getting access to people with scarce data science, math, social science, statistics and other digitally relevant skills.
Businesses everywhere are going to digital. Survey after survey shows top executives ranking digital transformation as their number one priority. Everyone wants to do it but scarce few firms have the people or a game plan for succeeding in these efforts. HR will have to play a key role in these efforts. They’ll need to find people with unique R&D skills to design & develop new innovative solutions. They must locate project personnel to drive these massive transformation initiatives. These efforts will require change management, training and other skills. And, finally, HR will need to find the permanent staff needed once the new initiatives become operational realities.
But remember, these digital transformational initiatives are hugely transformational. Nothing about these efforts will resemble the old business, business practices or skills. These efforts will also be at a huge scale – no little bolt-on or incremental change afoot here. Can HR operate effectively at this scale?
Seriously, who within an HR department knows how to source or evaluate someone with great machine learning skills? Can the typical recruiter know who is really a genius at algorithms or just someone blowing smoke? Where do you even find these scarce savants anyway? If you think you’ll find all the digital-savvy talent your firm will need via old school methods (e.g., classified ads), you’re dreaming.
Recruiters will need to find and cultivate new sources for this talent. They’ll likely need new colleges to recruit from. They’ll want to access the same kinds of digital water coolers that quants hangout at online. They’ll need to use new tools that target these new kinds of prospective hires (e.g., Entelo). And, in what may become the biggest break from the past, Recruiters will need to actively cultivate relationships with these prospective candidates months or years in advance of the actual need.
Digital capabilities are not luxuries – they are the lifeblood of tomorrow’s winning firms. The choice of HR teams globally is: Will HR help or hinder?
Even if Recruiting can source the job candidates, can operations executives do a solid job of evaluating them? That’s doubtful as the new job requirements are quite unlike current requirements or the skill sets of the executives making these decisions. Digital transformation will likely cause other workforce changes in the business, too. The introduction of robotic process automation may eliminate clerical jobs. Chatbots might impact customer service positions. Existing workers will either require retraining; replacement with differently skilled workers; or, elimination. Can HR get in front of these changes and minimize the adverse impact to befall its current workforce? How will HR help the company pivot in the most positive, proactive manner possible?
Overall, the strategic priority for HR won’t be business-as-usual (e.g., putting butts in seats). No, HR must become a MAJOR contributor to these digital transformation initiatives. Because if the people needed for these digital initiatives don’t materialize, the transformation won’t occur and the company will cease to be competitively relevant. Digital capabilities are not luxuries – they are the lifeblood of tomorrow’s winning firms. The choice of HR teams globally is: Will HR help or hinder?