A Look Ahead to Talent Acquisition in 2017

If our world is defined by the climate of our politics, there's no denying that 2016 was a tumultuous year. Tensions are rising between global superpowers. Civil unrest continues to stand in the way of progress. And, in light of the Brexit and US presidential votes, unpredictability appears to be the new normal.

The talent acquisition profession is also undergoing significant change. While much of this change will pose challenges to employers and employees alike, I happen to think that, on balance, this evolution will ultimately be for the better.

As we approach the end of this unique year, I'd like to offer my top four predictions for how the world of talent acquisition will continue to evolve in 2017 and beyond.

Big data will drive effectiveness. Businesses have access to mountains of data both from within and outside their four walls, and that will continue to accelerate in 2017. The challenge, as always: what is useful, and how do you apply it effectively?

In the talent world, we see big data enabling organizations to better target high-potential candidates by analyzing their social media activity and gauging their interest in job opportunities. This will help reduce waste in the recruitment process by helping organizations prioritize candidates who are truly interested in an opportunity, and engaging in ways that make them more attractive as a potential employer. It can even help companies identify flight risks within their own employee ranks.

By the way, this same data will increasingly be used to help organizations include the most diverse talent pools possible in their hiring. As I wrote about earlier in the year for this column, more than a check-the-boxes initiative, progressive organizations know the relationship that talent diversity has with financial performance is significant. Now more than ever, the successful ones are those that are using data about their existing employees to help them to target a more diverse workforce. From the tech sector, to trading, and beyond.

We also see opportunities for big data to help match candidates with the right jobs and the right employers. This has the potential to dramatically reduce turnover--which costs American companies in the order of11 billion a year--due to new employees failing to mesh well with a new employer. In fact, the online dating company, eHarmony, launched the "Elevated Careers" platform earlier this year, which uses algorithms to better match candidates with job listings based on their skills, cultural compatibility, and personality.

Automation will increase recruitment efficiency--and can elevate the profession. There's been a lot of talk about the rising tide of recruitment process automation (RPA)--the use of 'robots' and other technologies to do the work of recruitment professionals. Earlier in 2016, Citigroup identified jobs that are most at-risk--with those that are process-driven (like recruitment) and technical occupations at the top of the list.

While it might be disconcerting to consider that your job could be taken over by a machine or an application--which can work 24/7/365 and never complains--the fact is, RPA and other technologies have the potential to create roles that are more creative and ultimately more rewarding.

We believe that 'robot' recruiters and human recruiters can live in harmony. Machines will tackle mundane tasks like resume sifting and interview scheduling--which they can do more efficiently, quickly and accurately than most humans. This will enable their flesh-and-blood counterparts to focus on uniquely 'human' skills such as problem solving, initiative, candidate communication, creativity and critical thinking.

"Total Talent Management" is the new employment paradigm. The definition of the word "employee" will continue to become murkier in 2017. Uber has become the world's largest taxi company without owning a fleet or, technically, employing any drivers. A study by the software company Intuit predicted that four out of ten American workers will earn a living as a freelancer, independent contractor, temp or consultant by 2020.

So the movement is real, it's unstoppable. The challenge for HR is that, in most companies, the hiring and management of non-permanent workers is managed by procurement professionals, or the departments that ultimately use their services. This lack of involvement presents a number of challenges that we see HR setting its eyes on in 2017: how does the company track gig workers? How does it assess their performance? How does it ensure they reflect the values and culture of the company? How does it make sure they're hired, managed and, if necessary, let go--all in compliance with the law?

Candidates are the new customers. With a handful of exceptions, unemployment in most of the major developed nations is now down to pre-Global Financial Crisis levels. The battle to hire the best talent is heating up and for the first time in years, candidates--especially the best ones--now hold the upper hand. Organizations must create a quality candidate experience rivaling that which they provide their customers.

A proliferation of technologies in recent years has created a more candidate-centric recruitment experience. We've seen careers websites that are dynamically tailored to the visitor, job applications through social media, and gamified assessments that better engage candidates and predict with more certainty their potential to succeed.

Over the next couple of years, this movement will accelerate. We expect to see more increased use of mobile applications versus job boards, video job descriptions replacing text-based ones, and streamlined digital assessment technologies. We also predict that 'fast-laning' and one-click application strategies will be adopted more readily as organizations seek to make it easier for candidates to engage with them. Imagine recruitment as simple as the order-ahead function at Starbucks. It's coming.

While many of these innovations are technology-driven, it's vital to remember that talent acquisition is, at the end of the day, a person-to-person business. If a process or candidate experience is poorly designed, it will become that much more obvious when enabled by technology.

That's why I'm a firm believer that recruitment will continue to be most effective when managed by a capable, creative, communicative team of professionals who put the candidate at the heart of everything they do, and use technology to enable that strategy. Those who embrace this approach will find themselves winning the competition for top talent.