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Whitebox AI + 5 More HR Trends for 2020

Written By
Emily Friedrichs
Associate Editor

These six trends explain why the rise of fit-for-purpose and business-driven technology continues to diminish the industry’s use of common-denominator HCM suites. The playbook includes strong efforts to replicate the personalization, user experience and engagement power of market disruptors like Amazon and Netflix. Expectations for HCM software have moved definitively from digital record-keeping to collaboration and engagement. The CRM technology that revolutionized recruitment marketing is being applied by the laggards, while early CRM adopters are pushing engagement and influence into talent management. Companies are borrowing from talent acquisition to implement solutions that drive internal mobility programs and optimize the workforce. Some companies are getting their artificial intelligence (AI) ducks all in a row, while others will continue to just chat about it. CHROs are talking up total talent management for a big-picture view of what human ingenuity and horse-power can achieve for HR operations.

Some HR initiatives will fail miserably and digital transformation projects will stumble. It happens. But those with the right technology will have the agility to get back on track. And with all that’s happening in the industry, 2020 is going to be an interesting year.

Trend #1: “Whitebox” AI & Machine Learning

The best candidate experience is created when recruiters are able to spend the majority of their time building relationships. Automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence offer opportunities for talent acquisition teams to use their time to maximum effect, but with some well-grounded caveats.

For 2019, the hot topic of conversation in AI has been chatbots, but HR is still in the process of defining who the audience is for talking to a bot. What early adopters had hoped to see is candidates spending more time learning from the career site and improved economics for high-volume recruiting. Meanwhile another AI trend – scheduling assistants – has achieved some success at reducing the time it takes to set up interviews between multiple stakeholders but is not yet able to completely automate the process. How quickly investment in these areas pays off may have implications for returns on upcoming AI initiatives.

Current AI advancements are happening in NLP (natural language processing) through machine learning, which then creates further improvements in parsing. Semantic search makes it possible for even novice recruiters to be experts at sourcing from big data sets. However, this will only work if the AI is built in a transparent way using HR-specific data, which not all HR tech is doing. In fact, this is how bias can potentially infiltrate hiring, as Amazon so famously learned. Hence the shift towards “whitebox” AI that lets users retain control of how AI operates and ensures that machines are learning the right things from the data.

Predictive analytics are also becoming accessible to some early adopters and will help recruiters tackle new requisitions by replicating past successes. Automation will continue to enable recruiters to schedule campaign actions and searches that move candidates into pipelines.

Trend #2: Improve Candidate Engagement with Messaging Apps & SMS

When it comes to enhancing levels of responsiveness and engagement from candidates, open rates for texting surpass that of email. Messaging also receives a higher response rate amongst groups with traditionally low rates, such as young adults. This year will see the continued evolution of messaging thanks to new functionalities now available, such as sending messages massively, individually or automatically in a workflow step. Candidates can even complete an entire job application via SMS or mobile messaging platforms like Whatsapp.

Combining recruiting texts and mobile messages with emails increases communication effectiveness by maintaining an open dialogue with leads. Automation allows you to create personalized templates for each candidate. Integrations with messaging vendors can cover additional use cases, such as two-way SMS in multiple countries or SMS through WhatsApp, WeChat and other messaging platforms.

SMS can also be applied to outstanding effect in the typical event scenario where hundreds of attendees are waiting to meet your three recruiters. By asking attendees to text a message to a short code (e.g., text the word “campus” to 90206) or scan a QR code, they can register their profile via text in your database. By the time attendees interact with a recruiter, their information has already been captured and the conversation can focus on the match between them and your organization.

Trend #3: Collaboration & Engagement Through UX

Great candidate experience is inspiring improved stakeholder experiences. After all, recruiters and hiring managers are users too. The best HR teams are already engaging all stakeholders throughout the entire talent cycle (e.g. prospects, candidates, hiring managers, employees, executives, agencies, students, contingent workers and referrals). In 2020 this will become more common practice, because ultimately it is the only way to redefine the candidate experience.

Hence why we’ll see more portals and bespoke interfaces, both on desktop and mobile, that speak to the needs of each type of actor in the strategic landscape for the year ahead. Customized tools might include career sites and candidate landing pages, hiring manager portals, onboarding software, and internal career or employee referral sites.

Other strategies to improve engagement include tailoring communications to employees as well as to prospects and increased emphasis on mobile apps for access on-the-go. From sourcing to the onboarding process and all the way through to talent management, the measure of good HCM software is its ability to engage all stakeholders and build relationships that foster collaboration.

Trend #4: Personalization à la “Netflix” & “Amazon”

Online user experience, from shopping to media consumption, has become extremely personalized. Companies are focused on conducting detailed research and mining data to automate and segment communications in order to optimize audience engagement.

Companies can deliver a state-of-the-art consumer experience for candidates visiting their career site by personalizing the job openings and employer branded content on display, based on previously captured data and online behavior. Job filtering or recommendations will be defined by fixed variables like geography, skill profile or screening information, or on variables that oscillate, such as browsing history. With career site analytics, HR can go beyond gathering insights into behavior and create tailored pipelines for prospects and, by extension, for existing talent as well.

As the workforce becomes increasingly gig-based and mission-driven, there is a need to reimagine performance management and employee engagement to keep pace. New technology is enabling the level of personalization previously cited to redesign talent management, even for widely dispersed and contingent workforces, as we discuss in Trends #5 and #6.

Trend #5: Total Talent Management for an Agile Workforce

With companies relying increasingly on a blended workforce, total talent management provides a comprehensive view of all talent that contributes value to an organization, including permanent staff, temporary hires, and gig workers.

Comprehensive solutions that quantify and manage the contingent workforce are replacing the old procurement-centric approach. Deloitte Australia is trailblazing in the gig economy by attracting top independent talent through a personalized and seamless experience for contract workers. Their Open Talent Network automates notifications to candidates regarding relevant new projects and makes it easy for top performers to redeploy.

Disintermediary labor marketplaces will soon be able to automatically match jobs and candidates and offer even greater personalization. Proprietary talent marketplaces are allowing companies to lower time-to-fill and sourcing costs by self-sourcing independent contractors. By combining all TA sources in a single platform, HR teams are also streamlining collaboration with hiring managers and optimizing relationships with staffing agencies.

Trend #6: Sourcing Internal Talent Globally

Companies are well aware of the proven benefits of hiring internal candidates: reduced time-to-productivity, lower costs for hiring processes, increased employee engagement and higher retention rates. At the same time, companies are becoming more global: Multinational organizations placed employees at an average of 13 locations in 1998, 22 in 2009 and 33 for 2020, as estimated by PwC. The same PwC report found the number of employees on international assignments increased by 25% over the past decade and predicts 50% further growth for 2020. Talent mobility has been pushed up the boardroom agenda due to critical shortages in talent in specific markets and disciplines, as well as growth in emerging markets.

For all these reasons, talent management is finally applying marketing techniques such as audience segmentation to achieve a mature internal mobility program. Today’s recruiting software enables companies to capture employees’ evolving skills and career aspirations. It can also pair employee profiles with professional opportunities that match their career interests and their company’s fast-changing goals. Companies can leverage highly configurable workflows, forms and people data modeling to build agile programs for effectively promoting, relocating and rotating homegrown talent.

We’ve gone from not knowing where [our employees] wanted to go, or how mobile they were, to being able to truly understand and build a pipeline of talent that can move within.”

—Annie Hammer, regarding Pontoon’s story of implementing Avature for internal hires

Get Out in Front for 2021

Behind all the software code, people are more important than ever. In an era where technology gives small start-ups the potential to disrupt global monoliths, the business community unanimously recognizes the need for top talent.

Want to discover tools for attracting and retaining the best talent? Check out Avature’s solutions or meet with our team members at an upcoming event.

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