Chatbots & Challenges

TECHNOLOGY - Sergei Makhmodov, CEO Asia, DaXtra Technologies explains how to build a robust tech ecosystem.

It’s clear as another year ends that the traditional recruitment business is far from dead – despite warnings that the encroachment of various tech companies would soon kill it off. Agencies are alive and well, and although the inefficient ones will go the way of history, the strong will adapt and survive as the strong always do.

At the same time, the tech cheerleading is not entirely without merit: any permanent recruiter that wants to thrive in 2018 and beyond must develop a robust, technology-driven internal ecosystem in order to compete.

In a speech at The Global Recruiter awards in Singapore this past October, I reminded the audience that legendary entrepreneur Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, singled out global competition for AI superiority as the most likely cause of World War III.

I don’t necessarily agree with Musk’s dire – and some would argue, sensationalised – outlook. But his essential point is well taken: that is, competition in most industries will be stiff going forward, and superior technology will likely determine the winners. All of which means it will be technology – not some other force – that will drive and determine efficiency gains, service quality, and the cost of business for permanent recruiters.

For now, the good news is that growth in our industry is steady – though by no means explosive. According to advisory firm Staffing Industry Analysts, global staffing revenue growth is expected to accelerate from five per cent in 2016 to six per cent in 2017 and 2018, on a constant currency basis.

What is more, double-digit revenue growth is expected in China (16 per cent), Italy (15 per cent), France (11 per cent), South Africa (11 per cent), India (10 per cent) and Sweden (10 per cent). Investing in a robust tech ecosystem has never been more important for permanent recruiters, if they want to win a coveted slice of these proverbial pies.

It’s all about relationships

For permanent recruiters (as opposed to temp agencies), harnessing technology should be all about nurturing stronger relationships with clients and candidate communities. It’s common sense, really: candidates are using digital tools to navigate this tech-driven world, so recruiters should too.

How so? First off, as we all know, an agency’s candidates often turn into clients years later. Keeping abreast of a candidate’s movements on social media, for example, will allow the recruiter to keep ongoing contact with the candidate after they are placed – rather than dropping out of the scene once the placement is complete.

Some new technologies allow recruiters to scan the social media activity of select feeds. Top shelf solutions in this category include TweetDeck, an all-in-one Twitter tracking and dashboard tool.

For example, say an agency places a candidate as a commercial director in a technology firm called ‘Company X.’ One day years later the candidate tweets, “Exponential growth in 2017! Go Company X team! Looks like it’s time to expand next year!”

The agency should have the technology in place to be notified of this tweet, so they can quickly follow up with the candidate and try to solve his or her recruitment needs in 2018. It’s a tried and true case: the former candidate has now become the client.

Of course, there are unresolved legal matters in regards to this technology, especially around the issue of privacy. But social media posts already public are useful as a data source and permanent recruiters must position themselves to benefit from such data. Using tech solutions to do this job will eliminate the need to scan social media manually, making agency work much more efficient.

Mind measurement

In addition to using technology to measure social media activity, permanent recruiters can also turn to tech solutions to conduct psychometric evaluations of individual candidates. In layman’s terms, this means the measurement of psychological and personality traits via the aggregation of multiple data sources.

While this is less important for temp agencies, which typically place candidates for short-term jobs, personality measurements are crucial for permanent recruiters. Personality is one of the primary value metrics that employers use to choose candidates. In fact, in work as in life, often the person chosen is not the most qualified on paper. It’s personality that wins the employer over; and personality that determines whether they are a good long-term fit.

Solutions in this category include Crystal, which uses a proprietary personality detection technology to determine behavioural patterns based on conclusions drawn from multiple public data sets.

Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? – as if Big Brother is sitting atop the data heap, analysing, recording, and measuring all. There is certainly more room for debate on these issues. But the fact remains: in years past employers and other organisations frequently measured candidate personalities by administering cumbersome multiple-choice tests. The difference today is that all of this work can be automated, much to the agency’s benefit.

Rise of the chatbots

Another area where technology can help permanent recruiters is in consistent communication. For example, recruiters can employ chatbots to monitor relevant job boards and contact candidate pools via text message or email.

The most obvious use of chatbots is for notification of new openings to clients. For example, the recruiter’s chatbot could send a text message to a candidate as follows: “Hey, did you know Google is hiring sales associates in Hong Kong with your skills and background? Contact us tomorrow to discuss.”

Chatbots drive efficiency gains by handling many of the manual processes of recruitment, such as candidate notifications and interview scheduling. They can pre-screen candidates and automate other pre-employment tasks. Chatbots also collect and aggregate a range of data that recruiters can later analyse for better candidate intelligence.

Popular chatbots include Job Pal and Mya – which bills itself as “Your Team’s AI Recruiter.” Indeed, Mya’s core selling point says it all: “Save 75 per cent of your team’s time by automating steps such as sourcing, screening and scheduling.”

And then there’s regulation

Of course, no discussion of technology would be complete without considering regulation. It may not be as interesting as mind measuring or chatbots, but it’s essential nonetheless. One major issue for permanent recruiters over the next few years is compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation – also known as GDPR. It was adopted by the EU in 2016 and compliance is required by May 25, 2018.

The details of GDRP are too complex to enumerate here. But suffice to say compliance will be challenging given the exponential proliferation of data sources. According to a PwC survey, roughly 68 per cent of US companies expect to fork out between $1-$10 million for GDRP compliance.

But here’s the good news: there are tech solutions sold by companies such as AlienVault that will help permanent recruiters navigate this – and other – new regulations. Agencies would be wise to automate these processes so they can focus on what really matters: attracting a strong stable of clients and placing the most desirable candidates.

The number and variety of tech solutions, and the rate at which they are evolving, may seem endless and intimidating. There are even tech solutions that help companies organise and systematise all of their other tech solutions.

Tech doesn’t control the universe (not yet, anyway). But the permanent recruiters that fail to build a robust tech ecosystem or take advantage of the opportunities technology solutions offer are at greater risk of being left behind – or losing share to tech companies themselves.