Towards the end of last year, I attended the world’s largest HR Tech conference – the HR Technology Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. Five days of keynote speakers, more than 400 exhibitors and thousands of HR professionals from around the globe gathered to experience the latest technology for our industry.

Like a kid in a candy store, I crammed in as much as I could. Seminars from eight to five, meetings between sessions, drinks and catch-ups after-hours, and what little spare time I had was spent running between the exhibitors. I was excited, ready to learn and ready to be inspired by the latest technology.

A more efficient recruitment process?

Did I find some new innovations? Yes. However, when I walked away from my time in Las Vegas I found myself incredibly disillusioned with the technology and how we were implementing it in our industry.

Eighty per cent of the exhibitors were developing or selling technology focused on making the recruitment process more efficient. They proudly spruiked their products: this one was more efficient for the employer; that one reduced human intervention; this one reduced costs.

There was automated appointment-setting technology, artificial intelligence that would scrape data to find the best matches, video interviewing and lie-detection scanning to assess whether or not a candidate is telling the truth in an interview. Each one of these products was aimed at making things easier for the recruiter or hiring manager.

It seemed as though technology had removed candidate and employee care from the equation completely.

Employers, HR departments and recruiters are using up to 15 different types of technology to access and assess candidates. Applicant-tracking systems, online assessment tools, self-managed onboarding tools and HR systems are all common within large organisations.

The recruitment process in Australia can take up to 12 weeks, and all this technology is only resulting in the process becoming even more time consuming, complicated and, for many, expensive.

With all this data and assessment at our fingertips, why is it that employers and HR professionals still list lack of talent and employee retention as two of their biggest issues? The current tenure in Australia, on average, is a mere three years and three months.

Where we are going wrong

The latest PwC study of 1000 CEOs indicated that their biggest strategic issue after strategy itself is people, and I would argue that lack of strategy is itself a people issue. So where are we going wrong?

Technology in the HR industry seems to be taking people out of the recruitment process. Academically, this makes sense. By automating the system and reducing human hours, costs are reduced, time is saved and the bottom line looks healthier.

But let’s look at all this technology from an employee/candidate perspective. The recruitment experience can be harrowing. CVs are sent into the ether to end up who knows where. Screening questions and forms must be completed online and can be both intrusive and time consuming. Automated responses are received with little, if any, personal touch.

Often candidates are requested to send a video of themselves. If they’re fortunate enough to proceed further in the selection process, they will go through psychometric testing once, twice or even three times. All of this happens via technology and often with very little human interaction.

In the early stages, there might be a phone call and eventually, possibly, a face-to-face interview. But there is seldom any in-depth discussion about how the candidate and the hiring organisation fit on values, purpose and goals. At the end of this arduous process, the candidate may or may not get the job. But even more disappointingly, they may or may not receive any feedback for all that effort.

Human Resources, as its name suggests, is – or should be – a human-centred field. Recruitment and management, redundancies and remuneration – all of these processes evoke emotions, at times very intense emotions.

Research indicates that for organisations to be successful, employees need to be engaged, passionate and committed. However, a great deal of technology operates counter to this, increasing the distance and disconnection between management and the team and even among team members.

Making the most of technology to better the process

So how do we make the most of the technology at our finger tips but keep candidate care and employee wellbeing front and centre?

  1. Keep screening questions short and simple, and don’t use them as a replacement for an initial interview.
  2. Use psychometric testing sparingly, not as a screening tool. Get to know the individual’s motivations, skills, experience and passions before subjecting them to testing.
  3. Beware of relying on videos and screening questions as a form of interview. They may be great tools for graduate or entry-level positions, but aren’t going to help you attract top leaders.
  4. Everyone’s time is precious, not just yours. Those who are happy to jump through hoops will tend to be unhappy, unemployed or just eager to join your organisation. Candidates happy and content in their roles will not. This means you may be missing out on a huge pool of talent and possibly that perfect person.
  5. Technology can only scrape information that is available, and most CVs and LinkedIn profiles are missing crucial information. By relying on them, you may miss out on exceptional candidates.
  6. Blend technology with human interaction. It’s amazing the impact a human voice or face-to-face interview can have when attracting top talent.
  7. Don’t only rely on emails, video and online programs to interact with your people or potential hires even if it is quicker. You might be substituting quantity and speed to the detriment of quality.

Remember, behind all the data, screens and algorithms there are real people whose lives are affected by the decisions you’re making on the other side. Keep this in mind and put yourself in their shoes… treat them the way you would want to be treated.

Technology is necessary for running any organisation, and time-saving, cost-cutting innovations will allow an organisation to remain competitive. However, for an organisation to thrive, human interaction is essential.

Talent attraction, engagement and retention will flourish when people remain central to HR processes. The war for talent will be won by those who are willing and able to combine human intervention with the best technology available to them.