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Recruiting Technocracy – The Tentacles of Digitization!
Human Ressources
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The recruitment innovator.

Early in his career, Michael Witt worked in positions that required him to navigate the interface between humans and the job market. His professional milestones included executive recruitment and human resource marketing assignments that included all facets of domestic and international staff marketing. By now, he has received multiple awards for his achievements and is considered one of the industry’s most innovative recruiters. Moreover, he is the founder of both, the RecruiterSlam and the HR TEC Night. He is also a blogger, podcaster, a published author of books and speaker. Today, as an independent consultant, he shares his knowledge with others and supports companies in their efforts of modeling their recruitment and human resource marketing organizations. In the article below, he shares with you – as a guest writer – his insights into the digital evolution in recruiting.

The deployment of a technocratic approach to recruitment.

In the 1930s, a movement gained popularity – primarily in the United States – which aimed to apply a new way of thinking to the government and its power. Technocracy and its disciples launched an approach with the objective of replacing politicians with men and women from the field of science and their engineering skills. The thus contemplated decision-making process was to follow innovative, more efficient and rational principles and was to be rooted exclusively in verifiable technical reliability. However, the movement was unable to attain a sustainable breakthrough. Hence, after some time, it evolved into a still existing lively platform for debate, which, among other things, publishes its opinions in a trade magazine.

Moving a few years ahead in history and narrowing the focus of interest on corporate management, we can observe a virtually comparable discourse that follows the technocratic train of thought. Of course the goal of this is not to interfere with the roots of the technocratic debate. Nevertheless, a comparison appears to be feasible and perhaps even appropriate. However, the outcome of the more recent discourse is definitely still pending. In the context that follows, the focus this touches upon pertains to recruiting as an autonomous human resource management discipline within enterprises.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

An open and rather broad debate that concerns the utilization of technology is currently underway in the field of recruitment. The vehement advocates of strictly technology-based recruiting derive their arguments from the growing trend of digital value generation in almost all areas of recruitment. They presume that it is virtually inevitable that the human recruiting approach will be superseded. A group of human resource recruiter that is just as large is of the exact opposite opinion. Its members clearly oppose the use of digital applications in the »people business« and specifically in recruiting. They are holding on to the familiar principles of human resource management. Conducting a completely unbiased assessment will be difficult and can initially only lead to one supposition: The truth lies probably somewhere in between.

Digital process alignment.

A variety of control instruments are being deployed to manage value-adding activities within organizations. In most cases, a sequence of defined activities and standards provide the basis for all of these efforts. One could refer to it as »the process.« It is indeed possible to also break down recruitment into clearly defined actionable steps. Consequently, the resulting recruitment process is the structuring tool for businesses to plan, structure and control their human resource procurement activities.

Hence, it is certainly not surprising that the first digital offensives aim at digital process alignment. Frequently, the only question is, which goals these strategies are supposed to pursue and whether it will ever be possible to attain the end of the process digitization journey or if one actually should. Looking at a rational and technology-based approach, there is no question that it would be possible to technically depict all repetitive administrative steps in the work process. This can, indeed, be achieved easily. However, a technical aspect would drive even the decision-making processes, such as the pre-selection based on application documents, the analysis of telephone interviews as well as face-to-face interviews in this case. The final decisions would also be made in this fashion. The human being would carry them out. Basically, the market already has at the ready suitable software solutions for all value adding recruiting steps, so that the described scenario could actually be implemented right now.

However, a look at entrepreneurial life reveals a very different reality. By now, it is safe to presume that larger enterprises have all-encompassing applicant management systems in place as the state of the art. Smaller and medium-sized companies are increasingly using such solutions. However, does the mere implementation of software-supported applicant management actually deserve to be referred to as digitization? If only the process digitization, the interface management and the management of the applicant market are included in the digital assessment, the process can only be called micromanagement. Digital process scenarios must be fundamentally those of their customers and depict them for these clients. The mere depiction of individual recruiting process steps in digital process sequences with the assistance of software does not yet generate a digital candidate journey or avert annoying media breaks.

In conjunction with this, searches for solutions must make deductive thinking a priority since it is no longer possible to use large-scale solution concepts of the »one size fits all school of thought.« Instead, individual small and compatible tools will have to be connected and deployed in a networked manner. In other words, they have to be used following a clear »4.0-mindset.« Clearly structured and focused approaches of the candidate centricity have set the standards for a digital recruitment organization. This is the only way to cover, implement and manage the journey, needs and intake of candidates and applicants without problems.

Digital recruiters.

Even if technology will play a central role in future-oriented human resource procurement, the »human factor« will remain indispensable in this environment. Human interactions will still take place in recruiting, no matter what the format of these interactions will be and where it will happen. However, human action will always be accompanied by digital tools. Perhaps they will make their appearance as language interfaces or recruiting bots. While the postulate »Recruiting is people business« may still be valid, it will be diluted to some extent.

Initial signs pointing in a different direction are now evident in the already available fully automated hiring robots that have the capability of depicting an entire end-to-end recruitment process on their own. To be very specific, this means that these systems, after they have been given a job placement assignment, autonomously begin searching for candidates (online), handle the initial contacts as well as the interviews and make the hiring decision, negotiate the contract and complete the recruitment process. On the flip-side, bots also exist at the candidates’ end today, which have the capability of verifying job offers with recruiting departments in the interest of their »principals.« Hence, the strictly bot-based human resource recruitment process at both ends, which is presumably going to happen in the distant future, is no longer a fairy tale, but has already been technically realized in some cases.

Consequently, and this is what we must emphasize at this point, it is no longer a point of discussion when or whether the tentacles of digitization will intervene with the recruitment process. Instead, the question is how we humans will position ourselves in this scenario and how we will handle this positioning in a targeted and value sustaining manner. The primary issue is the stance we take vis-à-vis digitization. The common term used to describe it is the »digital mindset«– a healthy attitude towards digitization and its impact. This does not only include the essential desire to explore new technologies or, more importantly, the enthusiasm for digital action, but also the ability to let go of the status quo. And that appears to be a hindrance in many cases, despite all of the commitment to digitization. Unfettering from familiar patterns and processes, with regard to the current discourse related to digital technologies, is still an issue that is surrounded by at least an implied negative aura. After all, if those who are discussing it were to be honest, they would have to admit that most of them are familiar with working in a fully digitized setting or have already operatively interacted with their »colleague, the robot.« Likewise, and this should also be part of the discussion, these technologies could gift those working with them, with new freedoms they are not aware of yet. As a result of them handling certain tasks, they could generate new time reserves that could benefit applicants in the recruitment process. Hence, digitization in recruitment will not only bring more technology to the table, but also new freedom and the option of extending personal support to recruiting customers.

Consequently, it is irrefutably obvious that those in charge of recruitment should become aware of the fact that their »colleague, the robot« is a value adding co-worker. Moreover, human resource recruiters should prepare themselves for the inevitability of having to collaborate with technologies and software systems as if they were colleagues. However, the cultivation of this attitude, or the arrival at this conviction should not be deferred until the helpful algorithm is activated, but should occur much earlier.

Augmented recruiting.

To begin summarizing the above in a closing statement, the objective of the above is not to conjure up the »Reign of Technology« the hardcore proponents of the technocratic approach have proclaimed. Instead, we are heading straight for a hybrid human-machine approach, which will also take hold in staff recruitment. This statement is corroborated by projections that show that data and IT systems are in fact the »new« factors of productivity. Prophecies related to recruitment cannot be made here, but a completely changed form of recruitment is on the horizon in conjunction with the concentration on a digital competency-based recruitment organization. The digital work patterns to be described that go along with this, which recruitment will have to apply in the future, can be best defined using the term »augmented recruiting.« Hence, the focal point, following the technical origins of the term, must be the technological expansion of recruitment and, most importantly, the personal recruitment workforce. The establishment of this approach will not only bring organizational challenges into companies and HR departments, but will have to begin, first and foremost, with those doing the hiring work – the recruiters. It will frequently have to change the very foundations of their mindset. Digitization has already begun to deeply force its tentacles into recruitment. Attempts to escape its drive will likely be energy expended completely in vain.

Written by Michael Witt.

Are you still recruiting or are you already digitizing?

Digitization drives change – not only in society. It also changes companies and work assignments. It is happening around the world and has interdisciplinary effects. Recognize the signs of time and participate in the evolution – proactively. Become a digital octopus and push your tentacles deeply into your enterprise. Seize the opportunities of digitization with the assistance of our digital experts – who will simplify, show you the way or fight with you in a discipline, in which change is the only constant.

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