Exclusive HR Breakfast Event, October 2023


Event Takeaways

  • Take up of AI in the talent sector is high
  • Don’t automate because you can, only because you should
  • Transparency and privacy are crucial
  • Use technology to remove the tasks that are admin-heavy
  • Talent Intelligence can offer a significant competitive advantage
  • We have the chance to define the role of AI – we should use it
  • Be open and flexible with new tech, and keep learning

There is nothing like a global pandemic and the rise of hybrid working to make us slightly overexcited about coming together face-to-face with colleagues, clients and partners, but that is what we did at our recent HR Breakfast at the AllBright Club in Mayfair. We were as giddy as kids in a sweet shop.

The excuse for our gathering was to give our guests a sneak preview of our latest report, The Art of the Possible, The Power of Disruptive Tech in SME Recruitment.

Our report revealed that 71% of HR teams are already using AI and are making their functions significantly more effective. We were keen to discuss this with our audience, a mix of partners, clients, and our own talent team.

Ahead of the curve

Co-CEO Felix Mitchell kicked off the day and revealed that the report, which surveyed over 300 companies and ten subject matter experts, showed that the talent sector is progressive in its adoption of AI, often in a small way – such as integrating ChatGPT or incorporating it into an ATS solution. But certainly, the industry is not lagging behind.

We were super grateful for Charlie Voller Barnes, Head of Solutions at Amdaris and Ben Donovan-Aitken, our Chief Delivery Officer, who expertly fielded a Q&A session for us, which uncovered many interesting threads of conversation regarding adoption and the appetite for more disruptive technology.

Not can we, but should we?

Our discussions began with considering the importance of achieving the right balance between human processes and AI. It’s not purely a question of whether we can automate a procedure (frankly, most processes can be automated) but rather whether we should. Is technology the best solution for that part of the process, or does the human element contribute something else that tech cannot replicate?

We touched on the important topic of addressing bias within the recruitment process, with Felix emphasising the need for caution in this area. This a good reminder that AI is not a silver bullet, and the impartiality of AI systems hinges on the quality of the data they are trained on. Input garbage, and you’ll inevitably output garbage.

The group were introduced to some guiding principles when it comes to using deep learning or unsupervised learning for candidate shortlisting. The process needs to allow for the provision of clear feedback to candidates regarding the reasons for their non-selection. This is particularly important for candidates with protected characteristics. Transparency is also important, as candidates want to know when their evaluation involves AI.

Privacy remains a concern, and consideration must be given to how we collect the vast amount of data required for AI, both which is collected directly from applicants and any inferred or predicted data.

A resulting discussion on the areas of privacy, usage and transparency concluded that businesses need to create an AI policy which should communicate to customers how AI is used and inform internal staff about compliance measures.

Where tech is helping

Technology continues to take some of the heavy lifting out of the recruitment process. We shared examples of its role in eliminating routine tasks that typically demand significant admin time. An example is the automation of interview scheduling and email workflows. Allowing candidates to self-serve their interview slot in a hiring manager’s calendar is hugely beneficial and implementing an email workflow that gives both parties all the information they need saves considerable time that would otherwise be spent on composing and sending emails.

We explored what it was to reimagine the process of recruitment. With the interview at the heart of the process, we discussed a tool widely used at Instant Impact, which creates AI-driven interview notes. This innovation saves a recruiter significant time so they can focus on human interactions. Recognising that some may be in the early stages of incorporating AI, the consensus within the group was that initiating AI adoption in admin-intensive areas would be a helpful place to start.

In relation to small and medium-sized businesses, there was a sense that they had the advantage of agility and flexibility when integrating AI and disruptive technologies, making it easier for the leadership team to align and fewer bureaucratic hurdles to stand in the way of innovation.

The art of the possible 

The advantage gained from talent intelligence was discussed. It’s an exciting area that allows us to consider not only the experiences of applicants but also the skills that might exist elsewhere in the market, within other job titles or diverse territories, to broaden the talent pool. This sparked plenty of questions about how talent insights can enhance and support the recruitment process and how it could give SMEs a massive competitive advantage.

A recurring question for those who work in recruitment and provide products and services into the talent space is whether AI technologies represent merely another disruption akin to the impact of job boards or LinkedIn back in the day - both of which the industry not only withstood but fully embraced. Charlie emphasised that AI differs as it’s less about just adopting the next shiny thing; but more that we have the opportunity to define its role. What do we want it to do, and what challenges do we want it to fix? She urged us to think about how we will measure success, ensuring that our success metrics are subject to review and allow us to change course as appropriate.

Ben concurred and urged our guests to really consider: Why are you doing it? Think about where in your process you are investing the most time. When you decide to implement something, recognise that the journey and the training are essential. Effectively managing the change across the different demographics of your department is crucial, allowing your team to embrace the discomfort that comes with change. Getting hands-on with the technology is an essential part of the learning process.

The session certainly confirmed to us that there is significant interest, not only in the possibilities presented by AI but also in what others are already doing in this area and the evolving best practices moving forward.

We leave you with one anecdote from Felix - a question posed to each of the collaborators on the paper - though it didn’t make it to the final edit. To indulge him, we’ll include it here. He asked them, “What advice would you give yourself if you were entering the workplace right now?” Their predominant response was a simple one. “Keep learning, learn how to learn, be open, resilient and flexible”.

If you’d like to learn more about our research into disruptive tech - how to get started, the future HR department, as well as the ethics of AI, then head to the full report here.