HR Tech 2019: An Unlikely Paradox

October 10, 2019
Checkr Editor

This article was written by Chris Johnson, Director of Industry Strategy at Checkr.

I left this year’s HR Tech with a sudden urge to watch anything from The Transformers franchise—and for good reason. We’re on the cusp of another big transformation in the world of HR, one that’s going to test both our industry and candidates. As I walked the expo hall and session rooms, I overheard thoughts on everything from complex technology to the role of wellbeing programs. There’s a paradox of worlds that are independently in battle but will work together to drive the next tech revolution of HR.

Changing tides

I’ve been in HR Tech, consulting, and outsourcing for over 20 years—long enough to see the first HR Tech revolution. I remember when clouds were in the sky and there were only humans in human resources. Fast forward to 2020, clouds are now in data centers and human resources is becoming less human. It’s interesting to think about a world with computer algorithms making matches that were once done with instinct but thats coming from a creator and innovator. Is the rest of the world ready?  I think so but it’s going to require trust from leaders on both sides of the divide. Those data scientists with the PhDs will need to listen to the people who’ve dedicated their career to HR and are on the front lines of the war for talent. HR leaders will need to trust those scientists to build technology that creates a transparent ecosystem that removes bias and increases focus on the human factor.

Walking the line 

At the moment there are two distinct camps, #teamAI and #teampeople. Many of the customers I’ve talked with still think chatbots and AI will remove the human touch or “person-person” feel their team has. At first glance this can be a fair assessment. Of course using machine learning to match candidates or a chatbot to pre-screen and even schedule interviews does in fact remove the human out of those actions. However, dig deeper and we can now spend time on truly meaningful candidate tasks. Pre Screening and interview scheduling isn’t fun, these are very mechanized tasks that take time away from talking about very human things like family, sports, vacations, and career goals. These are the conversations that build a meaningful and strong recruiter-candidate/employee relationship. If you stop for a moment and reflect on what makes your team strong, what your employment brand is built on, or why candidates seek your company out I guarantee it’s these candid and personal interactions over tactical efficiency.  

Trust the machine 

The basis for any relationship is trust and this is no different when we talk about AI and machine learning. It’s natural to “trust but verify” at first. However, you need to reach a point where you have absolute trust in the machine—so much so that you allow it to grow, expand, and become a trusted resource within your business. Sounds crazy, I know, but until we cross the trust gap, technology will be seen as nothing more than an extra burden to keep up with. 

I recently had a conversation with a leader at a top staffing company. They have less and less trust in some of their pre-qualification steps, especially when it comes to the legitimacy of the results. They asked me if technology could remove the human and associated bias—that’s right, remove it. That company has definitely crossed the trust gap and is now willing to give the reins to the machine. When quality code is deployed in a thoughtful way, it in fact removes all bias and does so with complete transparency.

Trust your gut

“Wait a minute, didn’t you just tell me to trust the machine?” I did, but the landscape of HR that’s around the corner will require enhanced and new levels of emotional intelligence—or the “gut feeling.” We’ll be tasked with coaching both our new and seasoned colleagues over the trust gap. We’ll also act as the stewards of the new ways of working, engaging candidates, and trusting technology we don’t fully understand. We’ve come a long way since paper applications but it’s important to never forget we’re all still in Human Resources. 

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