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Strategy

Imagine the possibilities: How talent acquisition evolves with AI

Brett Coin
Chief of Talent Transformation
December 13, 2023

With the introduction of AI and generative AI, there is a new opportunity to scale with technology and alleviate many of the monotonous, manual, and time consuming processes related to talent acquisition. 

Let’s imagine the possibilities…

Why talent transformation now?

The HR and talent space has been ripe for disruption for quite some time. 

Strategies have long been ahead of technology capabilities, requiring talent teams to scale up and down with headcount. A lack of the sophistication of tools hampers efficiency, and talent is the first team to experience budget cuts at the first sign of a downturn. 

As a result, today’s talent tech stack is siloed, disjointed, and often relies heavily on direct sourcing and job boards. But that’s not the answer is it?

Talent acquisition beyond direct sourcing

When I led corporate recruiting teams, and asked “what are our top sources by hire?” outbound / direct sourcing rarely topped the list. The truth is, only about 15% of our hires came from the channels where we spent 60% of the budget. 

The work of recruiting tends to be highly manual and fragmented with recruiters primarily focused on going after net new talent to build qualified, diverse pipelines. They bounce across a variety of point solutions. In reality the majority of hires they made came from inbound leads: internal employees, inbound apps, employee referrals, contractor conversions. 

The mismatch between effort and outcomes…the boom and bust of economic cycles impacting hiring ramps…it’s no wonder that hiring teams are looking for change.

AI and the promise of talent transformation

According to a recent study by Valoir 2023, 73% of HR workers have experimented with AI, second only to IT workers. As a talent leader, our job is to think about how we can elevate the overall impact of the work our teams do and how to deliver better value to the business, faster. 

But AI can do more than scale. It can help us work smarter by analyzing what’s working, and guide recruiters toward best practices. With AI as a copilot, the talent team can make more informed decisions about how to spend their time most effectively.  

For example, we all know that, once a company reaches a certain size, direct sourcing is one of the least effective channels for sourcing talent at scale. But we keep going back to it, because it is the most familiar. 

AI can help shift recruiters to a multi-channel talent sourcing approach, enabling recruiters to control sourcing (the “search”) in channels that often deliver a higher ROI. 

By first sourcing the talent you know (inbound applicants, applicants in your database, internal employees), then warm leads (alumni, employee referrals, talent in your CRM), you may not need to chase down cold leads. Response rates go up and throughput gets better. The AI can also suggest the best engagement strategy for the channel. 

A significant portion of recruiting time could be saved and directed toward what is most important: connecting the best talent to their company or client through engaging, high-touch experiences. 

Start with sourcing automation

Imagine the possibilities….The vision for AI-first talent transformation is to automate everything that can be automated while equipping humans with the context and insights they need to do anything that can't be automated. 

What cannot, and should not, be automated? Decision making, which, with the right data and AI assist, is where talent teams may begin to shine. Generative AI (Gen AI) is a powerful tool for understanding intent and providing information to help us make better choices. 

You might think of it as a translation machine for turning a hiring manager's wish list into a viable talent pool. It might help you write highly engaging, inclusive emails based on the channel and context of the candidate. It can send them to the right candidates in a matter of seconds. Using AI in the recruiting process, the recruiter will have more time to play the essential role of strategist, expert negotiator, and coach, turning top candidates into productive new hires.

Adopt a multi-channel talent approach

Equipped with automation and AI, talent teams should move faster, be more productive, and more efficient. The next step is to apply this approach to all possible sourcing channels across your talent ecosystem. 

When traditional channels like outbound sourcing cold leads, reviewing inbound job applicants, and sending individual emails stop delivering qualified, diverse pipelines, a multi-channel strategy should be applied. AI and automation can help talent teams break old habits and prioritize channels with a higher probability of meeting hiring demands. 

You might be directed to proactive referral strategies, re-engaging with alumni, or ready-now talent in the ATS. Some companies may find that internal talent is the best channel to lean into. Modern AI makes identifying and engaging diverse talent within every channel easy and possible.

Evolving talent team roles

As more teams realize the benefits of scale delivered through AI-infused talent strategies, talent organizations may begin to shift the responsibilities of recruiters and sourcers. They might become more specialized, similar to the shift in roles as marketing evolved.

Future talent teams may include recruiters, qualifiers, demand gen marketers, loyalty marketers, and program and product managers to focus on key initiatives such as channel demand creation, loyalty nurturing of talent pools, lead qualifying, and operational excellence. 

We may see TA teams operate more like a sales and marketing team, focused on selling a product that is “A Career at X Company”, than what we know as a traditional recruiting organization. 

Turn data into strategic insights

TA leaders invest in people, programs, and technology to achieve their goals. While the most important measure of success may be hires, the top of the funnel is what drives outcomes at the bottom. 

We need data and insights at the top to influence the bottom with measures like total addressable market, market mapping, pipeline diversity, recruiter screen pass through rates, manager phone interview pass through rates, interview to offer ratios, and time to onsite interviews. 

AI not only helps find candidates and automate tasks, it can be used to understand data at a breadth and scale that would not be possible otherwise. 

This depth of understanding and analysis can help to transform the role of talent leaders into strategic business partners. Armed with data analysis and modeling tools used for competitive benchmarking and talent planning, infused with Gen AI to interpret and analyze, the talent team should be better prepared to deliver more strategic outcomes for the business.

Raising the stakes for talent acquisition

Tech consolidation and automation with AI is helping high performing organizations build a modern talent ecosystem to bring more value to the business. 

These initiatives enable consolidation of data, leading to better AI, as well as consolidation of workflows and reporting. An AI-powered talent ecosystem thrives in a culture of recruiting and can provide benefits that go beyond the recruiting team. 

By engaging and enabling partners, employees, and even candidates to recruit talent, your talent acquisition efforts can then scale beyond the outcomes of a single individual, or even a recruiting team. 

It’s an exciting time to be a talent leader. The HR industry has long been ripe for operational improvement and efficiency. The AI technologies are now here, and the future is bright.