Human Resources

Prizes & body-data: A bizarre world of tech-fuelled hiring

“Win [a] fully sponsored trip and interview” reads the headline on recruitment site Sqore’s “find opportunities page” above a picture of a man on a bicycle ferrying parcels.

The “grand prize” runs the text underneath is “a fully sponsored trip to either Hong Kong, Taiwan or Indonesia with a career interview opportunity with IKEA senior management”. To “compete” you simply have to complete a series of quizzes and innovative challenges.

This is the future of gamification in the recruitment space. Aimed predominantly at entry level candidates it tries to make the whole tedious recruitment cycle a bit more interesting for potential employees. And could not be further removed from the formal business letter of yesterday.

“In the short-term, technology will do several things for the recruitment space: make it more fun, make it simpler, and also diversify the market,” says Sqore CEO Niklas Jungegård. “Employers are already scouting for the best people globally and this trend is likely to continue.”

“In the medium-term we also believe that employers will look more at your relevant employable skills rather than your educational background, and in order to assess these skills you need a fast and engaging way of certifying someone's skills.”

Yet despite these clear advantages there could be something deeply nefarious about recruitment in the future. There may be only four things a recruiter wants to find out: where people are based, what they’re good at, what motivates them and how much they expect to get paid, but the techniques used could become increasingly invasive.

“There are a host of emerging solutions that take your data, infuse a synthesis of the external data and trends, simplify processes and help deliver insights to make HR teams more insightful, effective and empowered,” says Meredith Amdur, CEO at Wanted Analytics.

This may have a positive spin but it is clearly something that could go either way. And it could definitely make some employees uncomfortable, even if it does make businesses more productive.

“I suspect it won’t be long before we’re using virtual reality interviews, or systems that monitor employee vital factors like blood pressure, heart rate, and even brainwave activity to ensure staff members are always performing at their optimal capacity,” she adds.

Yet Amdur argues, the use of smart analytics could well be key to future talent strategies in many companies. To back this up she cites Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends Survey which reveals that the majority of HR teams aspire to be technologically savvy, but do not believe they’re close to achieving that goal.

There is also no escaping the fact that attracting and hiring and keeping talent is extremely commercially pertinent. A McKinsey & Company21 study, ‘Connecting talent with opportunity in the digital age’, published in June 2015 shows the online talent platform market holds massive economic potential. This calculated that online talent platforms could add 2% ($2.7 trillion) to global GDP by 2025 and increase full-time employment by 72 million.

Yet business benefits aside this throw up numerous big-picture problems. “The recruitment market is plagued by an information asymmetry as a result of what skills people acquire and what employers need,” suggests Jungegård.

In short, this could exacerbate an unfair two-horse system. It could mean a race to the bottom on core skills – facilitated by global technology platforms – while a bunch of people at the top continue to cruise on by via nepotism, and possibly, no talent.

The shady world of headhunting provides an interesting example of this. As Jolyon Jenkins put it in a rather excellent recent World Service Documentary ‘How to Hire a Master’: “[This] is often seen as expensive manipulative and secretive… an unscrupulous business of networks and address books, lunches and cajolery.”

Nothing could be less tech-enabled than this power-set. Yet ultra-exclusive social networking sites – the most well-known of these, aSmallWorld, founded by a former Lehman Brothers banker in 2004 – do start to fill that niche.

“Anyone with good lawyers in Phuket, Thailand?” Forbes quoted from aSmallWorld forum. “I’m building a sustainable-apartment development and need some UK-Thai contracts written up for an investor.”

Whichever way the tech-enabled talent market pans out, Steve Carter, Principal at Carter Squared believes “initial scepticism will be replaced by the reality that there is genuine change confronting the sector and recruiters need to embrace it.” And like most digital enhancement, this is likely to include both good and bad.

For employers this is likely to mean the challenge of changing internal process issues versus the opportunity of wider access to talent. For employees this is likely to mean a greater choice for job seekers versus more invasive ongoing hiring and ‘personal development’ practices from within companies.  


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