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Hire for human instinct in the digital era

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In an age of big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), relying on instinct, intuition or gut feel may seem like an inferior system when recruiting talent but it may just be the edge you need to recruit the best.

 

We live in the digital era. Artificial intelligence (AI) guides our choices of restaurant, how we get there, and helps us get home later if we need a taxi. We talk about generations Y and Z as digital natives and organisations throughout the world are actively discussing their digital transformation strategies.

It is also having a profound impact on the workplace where everything can be measured and reduced to a series of ones and zeros, and a growing number of activities and processes previously carried out by people are being automated in the drive to reduce costs and improve productivity.

But the digital world is not necessarily a better one. Faster and less prone to error certainly, but better is open to question. And hiring people who will thrive in a given workplace is equally important, according to Sigmar head of European recruitment, Shaun O’Shea. The Sigmar recruitment framework addresses three dimensions, he explains, competency fit, motivational fit, and culture and values fit. It has been tried and tested and proven its worth in successful candidate selection over the years, but it also acts as an indicator for the limitations of technology in the recruitment process.

“I have been in the recruitment business for eight years,” says O’Shea. “Eighteen months ago, we set up the largest tech-nology recruitment hub in Europe here in the middle of Kerry. We lean quite a lot on technology tools, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotic process automa-tion. I recruit for the technology sector, so I am very pro-technology, but you’ve got to build in human intelligence as well.”

Technology has its limitations, he explains. “When you hear people talking about new technologies, they say they are quicker, more accurate and better. They certainly can be quicker and more accurate but not necessarily better. They lack human instinct, that gut instinct. You can use technology quite a lot for the first two elements of our recruitment framework. You can search for competency matches and so on but there is no questionnaire, AI algorithm or chatbot which can tell if the candidate lives and breathes the values of your organisation.”

That’s where the interview comes in, when people can interact with each other to tell what they are really like. “People want to know what will happen when your backs are up against the wall, when the organisation is in dire straits, is the candidate a person who can be relied on to live and breathe its values. Technology is important, of course and we use all the latest tools. But we are combining technology with human instinct. We are using it to complement our own capabilities.”

No matter how advanced, technologies like AI and machine learning can be prone to the same errors as humans. “They are designed to do what a human or a group of humans will do but will never have human relationship skills and instincts”, he notes.

But they can repeat the same mistakes as humans. In the US, when AI was used in an attempt to overcome unconscious bias in the recruitment process it was actually found to perpetuate it. This was because the algorithms use data on previously successful candidates to hire from the next bunch, thereby repeating and possibly amplifying the behaviour of its human predecessors.

Indeed, in 2018, Amazon ceased using AI assessment of CVs after it was found that the software was biased against those which include the term “women’s”, such as in “women’s team captain”. Again, this was due to trends in the dataset of previously successful candidates.

This is not the only reason to be cautious of an over-reliance on technology. Mistakes are costly, says O’Shea. “The Work Institute published research last year that showed that wrong hires are costing businesses around the world $600 million every year. The average employee in Europe now changes job every 12 months. We have to look at why people leave, and it’s usually because they are not a technical or motivational fit. It’s generally about culture.”

“Every organisation needs to hire the right people for them,” he continues. “Every hiring process should be unique, not off the shelf. Technology should be used as an enabler. It can be used for creating a long list of candidates and identifying a large talent pool. You need human input for short-listing and interviewing. If the recruiter works for the company, they will already know the culture. If it is an external recruiter, they will need to learn the client’s culture. I recently spent three days in Stockholm with a client learning their culture. Before that I was in Berlin and Barcelona.”

It’s not about organisations having a good or bad culture. “I explain to clients that their culture is their culture. They shouldn’t try to hide it or represent the organisation as something that it is not.”

But culture can vary. “It can be different from country to country, office to office, and between sales and production and engineering. You have to understand it, if you are to hire candidates who will be the right cultural fit.”

He concludes by pointing out that the human interaction at interview stage is now critically important to hiring the best people. “The economy is now at full employment and financial, accounting, and technology candidates can have five or six job offers at any one time. It’s a two way process now. Candidates are as much as interviewing the company as they are being interviewed. It’s now almost a question of them hiring the company.”

Mac Giolla Phádraig adds: “You can take the human out of the stone-age, but you can’t take the stone-age out of the human. Certain instincts are hard wired in us all, some in our self-interest; survival, fight or flight, reproduction and others which are altruistic; compassion, tribal instinct and a societal instinct.” Intuition is when you trust your instinct, which is often perceived as being “fluffy” as a decision-making factor when used to recruit. “We should not pit data against intuition, rather we should use our intuition to develop a hypothesis about a candidate and test that with the data in a experiential way at interview. Afterall, instincts are the fundamental drivers of how we behave and how we feel. I for one, would love to see a new recruit display, compassion towards my customers, tribal instincts towards my team and societal instinct towards the world at large. Use your instinct to hire for human instinct.”

 

 

 

Posted by Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig & Shaun O’Shea on 11 March 2020

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Resignations Surge in September as Offices Re-open

Resignations Surge in September as Offices Re-open

Main Points Q3 record breaking recruitment placement results Highest in 20 years, peaking in September Up 44% for same period in 2020 Job orders in the first half of October are trending higher than any previous single month in company 20-year history The Talent Shortage Economy: Recruitment (for on-site labour and remote skills) is the single biggest threat to the Irish economy War for talent now being fought on two fronts: Battle for Retention internally and the Skills Struggle externally    “The Great Return is causing a Mass Exodus. The reopening of offices in September has prompted a new surge in resignations as Ireland now faces a Talent Crisis. Employers are increasingly requesting in-office presence and Employees are voting with their feet..” says Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, founding director Sigmar Recruitment:   Sigmar Recruitment today reports a record high number of job placements for Q3 (July, August, September) 2021, up 44% on the same period 2020. The figures released today top previous results recorded in Q2, 2021, with September recording the best single month ever in the 20-year history of Sigmar. Job orders in the first two weeks in October are trending higher than any single full month in the company’s 20-year history.   The first half of the year saw strong, consistent growth with job placements, peaking initially in May. Summer months remained as strong, peaking once more in September. Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, founding director of Sigmar believes that the request to return to the office in September has caused employees to revolt, as they do not wish to return to pre-pandemic conditions and practices..   Commenting on the tightening of the labour market, Mac Giolla Phádraig says: “Demand for talent has remained at an all-time high for the second quarter in our 20-year history. It was somewhat unusual not to see demand abate over the summer months. Indeed, demand continued to increase over the summer, resulting in September’s record results. The rate of job requests  in the first two weeks of October is unprecedented, indicating continued in Q4 and raises the question of the sustainability of talent supply.   “Remote working has literally opened up a world of new opportunity no longer bound by location which is creating significant churn in the professional skills market. This last 18 months has seen employees demand greater flexibility. The request to return to the office by employers in September has prompted employees to reconsider whether they recommit or resign. Many are resigning.”   Mac Giolla Phádraig likens remote work to long-distance relationships, which in many cases don’t work out. “We’ve gone from “living” with our employees in an office environment to long distance relationships, which often sees commitment recede over time. The context of location also opened up new experiences and possibilities on a scale never before seen. In September, many employers have asked employees to “trial” living together once more, which in some cases leads to a reunion or in others to separation.   "Another factor, on the employee side is that of identity and how what we do makes up part of who we are as individuals. “This last 18 months has asked big questions of us all, mainly how our working lives interact with our lives and how we identify with our working lives. In the absence of a workplace we’ve reassessed the balance between who we are and what we do, resulting in lesser commitment to our working selves and therefore to our employers. Employee loyalty has therefore become increasingly under question with many workers are now committed to the experience of work over the employer, adding further to the current levels of churn.”     Talent Shortage Economy Recruitment for both the on-site and remote talent remains the single largest threat to the Irish economy. Says Mac Giolla Phádraig: ”We are seeing two macro trends converge at once, compounding demand for talent across all sectors – (1) supply of labour and (2)shortage of skills.”   The “high touch economy” for on-site labour in sectors such as construction, logistics, retail and hospitality are currently experiencing severe labour shortages. The disruption to international talent supply chains have caused significant bottlenecks to the supply of labour,  particularly effecting on-site, lower skilled jobs. On-going travel restrictions and pace vaccine rollout continue to impede immigration globally, but as an island nation we are now seeing the impact of this as demand recovers at pace.   The “low-touch economy”, on the other hand, where remote work is viable is experiencing greater churn due to the expansion of opportunity for skilled workers, shift in motivation, identity and desire for flexibility. This is now being experienced more acutely in Ireland as offices re-open and employees now vote with their feet, in choosing to resign over reengaging with employers in many cases. Demand has been particularly strong in IT, Financial Services and Life Sciences.    He adds: “If we thought the war for talent was tough, just wait for the battle of attrition. Retaining workers rather than attracting them is now emerging as the number one challenge for businesses across the globe.”