People’s gender, ethnicity, where they come from, and age are less relevant to employers, and technology is being used to overcome unconscious biases, writes Navneet Singh
Hiring trends are more dynamic than ever before across India and globally as well. The statistics bear this out too. Today, a person’s gender, ethnicity, which part of the world he or she comes from, and age are less relevant to employers. Detractors may object to this, saying that in the United States, if a candidate with a white sounding name submits a resume, he or she is 75 per cent more likely to receive a call back than someone with an Asian sounding name who submits an identical resume. They may also say that when a candidate with a white sounding name submits a resume, he or she is 50 per cent more likely to receive a call back than a candidate who submits an identical resume except that it has a black sounding name. We don’t deny these statistics, but we know that technology is being used to overcome such unconscious biases, if any.
Tech overcoming biases
Several human resource departments are adopting the ‘blind hiring technology’ these days. There are clear advantages of using this technology, one of which is that it prevents unconscious bias from distorting the hiring process. Why is this good? The simple answer is that when unconscious bias is absent during recruitment, the process is fairer and leads to the best person getting the job. And when the person who is best qualified for a job is appointed, the organisation benefits. Blind hiring technology isn’t the only one redesigning traditional hiring. A key technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), is helping HR departments make the best hiring decisions and manage employees better.
HR Interwoven with AI
Unless you’ve spent the past decade on a deserted island, you know AI will continue playing a big role in everyday lives. The potential of the technology is a mere fraction of that seen today. Its potential applications in HR are immense. Human resource for decades was a soft discipline, but now, it is being aided by AI to make smart hiring decisions and helping employers manage employees.
Consider that AI is being used to spot patterns that help employers manage attrition. Clearly, every HR department wants to ensure it retains the best talent, and by using AI, it can do so. AI is sophisticated enough today to identify an employee who is considering leaving his or her employer. This is allowing the HR to intervene if necessary and ensure they’re able to retain their best talent. Technologies that anticipate human action using big data have crossed the realm of fiction into reality. But there’s much more.
AI is also being used to conduct background verification. This means even small businesses, that couldn’t otherwise afford costly extensive background checks, can use AI to do so. When every business, regardless of its size, is able to do a background check on prospective employees, its odds of hiring dependable employees grow significantly. Dependable employees are unlikely to commit fraud against employers and will likely work hard as well. But that’s not all! A third way AI is helping HR departments is by providing insights that help spot anomalies. Because anomalies are unusual and have an extremely low probability of occurring, spotting them in a timely manner will avert disaster and create opportunities.
Employees are using AI to help with commonplace HR functions. They pose questions to AI that otherwise would have been asked to HR personnel. This is reducing the HR’s burden and making internal processes smoother. Human resources relationship with AI isn’t restricted to managing existing employees. AI is helping with recruitment as well. AI recruiters are taking charge by conducting interviews. Unilever is already using AI to recruit entry-level employees. The methodology employed by Unilever ensures that after several interview rounds with AI only, the most qualified candidates appear for face-to-face interviews with human recruiters.
Trends Impacting HR in 2019
Increasingly, a modern HR department is playing an intimate role in employees’ lives. Employee engagement, as highlighted by an industry study, is on the rise. The study revealed that 57 per cent of HR employees believe employee engagement helps retain productive staff. So aside from recruitment, the HR’s role within organisations is expanding to nurturing interpersonal relationships as well. This year, businesses are expected to increase spending on employee engagement by a whopping 45 per cent. Companies have also learned how to use their workforce in a more agile manner. How, you ask? They have realised that retraining employees creates a greater ROI than hiring new employees. So this year, more of them will re-train employees for new roles rather than replace them with new ones.
The word ‘freelancing’ is heard every day and its possibilities aren’t lost on employers. They have recognised the benefits of creating flexible working relationships with freelancers. So, expect many more employees to freelance this year and in the years ahead. Consequently, to many workers, the attractiveness of freelancing will grow.
While freelancing is a new paradigm, it is one among many shaping HR. An important paradigm is that of employees choosing employers rather than the other way around. This is giving rise to the phenomenon of recruitment marketing. For recruitment marketing to work, HR departments may have to learn a trick or two from marketing because now they have to attract the right candidates using marketing techniques.
Another recent phenomenon reshaping the HR domain is the gig economy. In India, the gig economy is already generating 56 per cent employment and, in the years ahead, is expected to grow annually by 25 to 30 per cent. The US flexi workforce will grow to 43 per cent by next year. This will be a win-win for the HR industry. Last but not least, the biggest HR coup this decade is visible in the marketing domain where traditional brand marketers are being replaced by experts who have an eye for digital marketing, SEO, social media, influencer marketing, website development. Companies have realised the need for candidates who can wear multiple hats, and this is changing industry trends.
The writer is founder and CEO, Avsar HR Services