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CEO, Randstad Canada

Technology is an inescapable reality of our everyday lives. Some see the overwhelming use of technology as a harbinger for a future dominated by artificial intelligence. Others credit technology for incredible developments and discoveries. As technology becomes more pervasive, we must learn to maintain a human touch throughout.

The world of work and the act of looking for a job in particular have changed drastically with the advent of the internet. Gone are the days of hitting the pavement and knocking on office doors with your paper resumé in hand, a personalized technique that has given way to a wave of online job-search sites and social media networking platforms.

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You might assume that people looking for work would embrace the broad new array of available digital employment-seeking tools. However, according to a recent survey conducted by Randstad Canada, nearly 64 per cent of Canadians would prefer to have more face-to-face interactions during the hiring process. So how can companies strike the right balance when searching for talent, and what trends can we expect to see in the human resources space?

The rise of AI

With the rise of HR technology, artificial intelligence has become one of the fastest-growing areas of recruiting. According to tech industry news outlet CIO DIVE, nearly one in four companies expects to depend on AI for making real-time decisions in 2018. These algorithms allow organizations to automate certain processes and sort through massive amounts of data. However, some of the benefits of automation raise critical ethical questions for the HR world.

Unlike people, algorithms are thought to be free of biases. That may not always be the case. Tech companies are beginning to develop tools capable of detecting bias in AI algorithms which will help to keep the hiring process free of the risk of discrimination.

While companies must learn to utilize the efficiencies of AI, they must also understand that it can’t do everything. It is prescriptive, but not predictive.

AI can easily find a potential job fit based on a candidate’s past performance and behaviour, for example. AI cannot, however, gauge a candidate’s full potential based on their personality, skills and values. The human touch is still needed to sense a job applicant’s creativity, empathy and emotional intelligence.

So what does this mean for organizations who want to strike a proper balance between time-saving tech and the irreplaceable human touch? Companies must find where the value lies in the HR and talent-management ecosystem by evaluating several elements.

What are job seekers doing to find work in 2018?

Job seekers today have access to multiple technologies that can help simplify and speed up the job search process. Relevant job matches can be found at the touch of a button on Google, and chatbots can quickly answer questions about the application process.

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At the same time, the sheer volume of options has left Canadians feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to stand out in a process that has become dominated by AI.

According to a survey conducted by Randstad Canada, 45 per cent of job seekers now research and apply for new positions through their mobile devices. That represents a seismic shift in habits when you consider that online job applications have only been in use for a relatively short period of time.

Despite a widespread industry shift to mobile job searches, data suggests Canadians do not believe innovation has made the process of finding work any easier. Employees in particular say it’s more difficult to find jobs than it used to be (63 per cent), and a majority (62 per cent) find it hard to stand out from the pack online and on social media platforms.

To combat the overwhelming number of options, organizations should look to create a more streamlined experience by prioritizing user experience when developing easy-to-use workplace and job search tools.

What impact is this having on HR departments?

The shift in how people look for work has also transformed how companies find talent. Data-driven recruitment processes are now the norm. In order to stay competitive and attract the best talent, organizations must improve job seekers' and employees' experience by catering to their expectations and needs.

Learning to balance the efficient use of technology with a human-centred approach in the hiring and management process will help them achieve that goal.

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What can HR departments do?

Organizations can start by thinking about how tech can automate low-value tasks throughout the whole talent management cycle, from narrowing down a mass of job applicants to the top picks, to some of the more painful elements of the hiring process including reference checks, document processing and onboarding. Technology allows organizations to reinvest the time they’ve saved in order to create a more personalized, human experience.

While most organizations will jump immediately to a tech solution, they first need to think about the desired user experience. Doing so is central to the development of accessible and usable workplace tools for candidates and employees.

When looking to integrate a new solution, organizations need to be agile. Start with a pilot, and be prepared to readjust and make improvements along the way. Pilot, test, roll out, monitor, adjust and repeat.

Organizations must also reinvest continually to create more value for employees and talent. Once companies have found a balance between tech and touch, consider investing this saved time into developing training programs focused on soft skills, incorporating a brand ambassador, and other means of helping to enrich the experience for talent and employees.

Ultimately, technology has made an undeniable impact on the world of work. But in the face of more sophisticated tech solutions, the human connection is more important than ever. We are hard-wired to need human contact. Tech can enhance touch, but it certainly can’t replace it. Balancing the two is critical to attracting top talent and realizing prospective employees’ desire for a social, personal and professional work experience with authenticity and meaning.

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