When Machines do the recruiting...

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on November 17, 2016

GLENN DITTRICH, Director Smarter Workforce, IBM Asia Pacific

“Automated HR tools have built-in capabilities to think faster; that leaves HR to focus on more meaningful things like getting the candidates onboarded.”GLENN DITTRICHDirector Smarter Workforce, IBM Asia Pacific

Artificial Intelligence is getting into talent acquisition. Come April, IBM’s recruiting tool, Watson Recruitment Advisor, will be publicly available. Glenn Dittrich, Director, Smarter Workforce, IBM Asia Pacific, says that early feedback from customers is that the recruitment advisor has shaved away 10 days from the hiring cycle. So what happens when machines take over HR functions?

In an interview with Chitra Narayanan, Dittrich peers into the future. Excerpts:

What does the Watson Recruitment Advisor do?

It does quite a few things. First, it looks at how many candidates it takes to fill a requisition, then how many days that requisition has been open, what’s the service-level agreement, etc. It has a lot of information, and based on that, it can outsource candidates for you. It knows what the best fit is, it knows historically what kind of competence and skills people have, what are the demographics of people you’ve hired, and where they’ve come from. And it can prioritise people based on the fit. So it can bring you the very best talent. If you think about everything that a recruiter does, Watson Recruitment Advisor has built-in capabilities to think faster so that HR can then focus on more meaningful things like getting the candidates onboarded. And again, it’s the kind of technology that the more you use it, the better it works — as the more data it has.

The tech sounds interesting, but isn’t AI only as good as the user?

For me, the success of these tools is about making them easier to use. If you get the whole organisation behind it and get the right tool, there has been success. The first generation of business tools, I admit, were not as good as the new ones. Finally, it’s not about adoption rates, it’s about making the technology addictive.

What other tools is IBM bringing into the HR space?

The Career Advisor is another great one. It works the same way as Netflix; which knows what kind of movies, content you like. Watson Career Advisor knows what level you are at, what kind of learning style you have, your accomplishments. And based on that, it suggests jobs.

Is this for an individual or a company?

The Watson Career Advisor is bought by companies for their employees. Today, companies are competing against the likes of LinkedIn. If LinkedIn knows your people better than you do, and is looking out for their career options more than you are, they are gonna leave your company. So companies need to provide something that’s more personalised, that understands the individual: that’s where the Watson Career Advisor comes in.

What employee engagement tools do you employ at IBM?

Where we have really gotten big is the collaboration and social space and taking that info and looking at words and trends. A great example of this at IBM is continuous listening, so engagements are now moving from annual surveys to continuously listening to employees, and to creating change. We had a guy, Max Black, 26 years old, who got on our internal media site and said, ‘Does anybody else find it hypocritical that IBMers are not able to use Uber, given that we are hip with technology and reinventing ourselves?’

Instantly, others started to like his message, writing ‘yeahhh this is terrible, we gotta get out of this bureaucracy’. Our CHRO was able to get the buzz because it got flagged as trending. He took that data, found out it was an insurance issue, and within two weeks, everybody at IBM was able to use Uber and we can go tell the story now about Max Black, a 26-year-old, who has changed IBM!. It shows that we’re able to change the policy quickly.

There’s a bit of a debate: is the technology that’s coming into HR making HR practices better or worse?

Holistically if you look at it, it is having some real benefits. The biggest benefit is that it is giving employees more voice. Companies are realising they can’t just have an ‘iron fist’ rule. I think that’s been the real change. There are big business problems where people have been able to point towards poor ‘people practices’, leading to these cost efficiencies. Now that they’ve put these programmes, they can measure these savings.

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Published on November 17, 2016
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