Sourcing & Social Event: Will AI abolish HR and TA roles?

Insights from our latest event

This morning, industry leaders attended our latest Sourcing and Social event to explore the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) in the full employee hiring and retention process. The panel, featuring Matt Comber (CEO at Sourceflow), Victoria Bond (CEO at TenSpace), Aiden Halliday (Chief Commercial Officer at JobDeck AI), and Martyn Redstone (Founder of Bot Jobs), was hosted by Sarah Pawson, CEO and Founder of Fruition IT and Fruition Consulting.

The event commenced with a compelling statistic: AI is projected to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy. This figure set the stage for a deep dive into AI's potential and challenges in recruitment and talent acquisition.

Effective Tech Rollout in Recruitment

Matt Comber emphasized a systematic approach to integrating technology into recruitment. He advocated for breaking down processes into manageable parts—screening, sourcing, and interviewing—before deciding how AI could enhance each segment. "Benchmarking current performance and piloting tech incrementally, while maintaining clear communication, is crucial to success" he also added the importance of communication cannot be overstated, as its absence is a primary reason for tech implementation failures.

Balancing Innovation with Regulation

Victoria Bond stressed the importance of governance in AI usage, particularly concerning GDPR and data integrity. "You're putting information in there that can be used by other people," highlighting the need for caution and foresight in data handling. Bond envisions a future where every organization has its own language model, underscoring the importance of building robust data foundations today.

Aiden Halliday expanded on the regulatory landscape, emphasizing the need to blend AI with human oversight to mitigate concerns and build trust. "AI allows me to rediscover my why: getting back to working with actual candidates," he said, advocating for AI's role in removing mundane tasks and enhancing human interaction.

AI's Impact on Recruitment Roles and Processes

The panelists explored the evolving landscape of recruitment roles. Matt Comber predicted that data scientists and software engineers would become integral to TA and HR functions. He highlighted a platform, Clay, which uses AI to create hyper-personalized emails, illustrating AI's potential to revolutionize everyday tasks.

Matt shared his thoughts on the type of people that will become more higher value to organisations: “Microsoft said in early 90’s that word, etc would create a 2 day working week. But what happened was, we just made more docs. Now we’re onto a trillion documents made in Office every year. At the moment, gen AI is improving productivity, but a study said that it reduces the divergence of ideas by 40%. We need to have analytical thinking in business and really protect the creative people in our businesses that are able to think differently. They’re going to be the artists of the future.”

Matt continued: “ChatGPT is going to tell me what I can cook for dinner tonight. But they’re going to tell everyone else, too. Which might make it all quite boring. Out there thinking will separate brands of the future.”

Sarah questioned this: "what if you’re not a creative thinker? I’m not? Is my brain going to become obsolete?"

Matt combatted this with: "I would say you are, because you built a business. Maybe your skill set is having a different view of the world to others. Then that’s great, you can have totally different ideas to other people."

Martyn Redstone envisaged a future where managing AI agents would become a common role, fundamentally changing the nature of work in recruitment. "In the future, we’ll be managing a team of AI agents, too," he suggested, foreseeing AI's growing presence in various operational aspects.

Ethical Considerations and Bias Mitigation

Addressing ethical concerns, the panel underscored the necessity of stringent audit processes to prevent AI-induced biases. Victoria Bond shared a personal anecdote where AI misgendered her in a bio, a stark reminder of inherent biases in current AI systems: “12 months ago, I needed to write a bio on myself. I put in my qualifications to write a bio and ChatGPT spat out a bio with ‘he’ and ‘him’ all the way through it, as a CEO. Until we have diversity in engineering teams, that bias will always exist," she asserted.

Aiden Halliday highlighted the forthcoming EU AI Act, which will classify AI's use in job-related decisions as high-risk, necessitating clear transparency and accountability from organizations.

Enhancing Workplace Culture with AI

The potential impact of AI on workplace culture was a topic of keen interest. Victoria Bond expressed cautious optimism, envisioning AI's role in enhancing employee experience and engagement by providing predictive insights rather than retrospective analyses. “I would love to get HR to the point where, rather than coming to a board meeting talking about what happened last month, we can go and talk about what’s happening next month. We’ve got a real opportunity to get ahead of the game and optimise culture and performance. There will be  an enormous cavern opening up between those who got their data sets in place early and those that don’t.” However, she acknowledged the challenges SMEs might face in keeping up with AI advancements due to budget constraints.

Matt Comber hoped that AI would foster more human connections by freeing up time from mundane tasks. “ I have really struggled hiring recent grads and putting them into successful teams. The  generation we now have has now been dehumanised because they live their lives in apps. It’s a generation of people who have never called up to order a pizza. Added to that is working from home as another layer of dehumanising. My hope is that AI makes us more able to have that human connection by eliminating mundane tasks.”

Skills for the Future

The panel agreed that new skills would be essential for TA professionals to thrive alongside AI. Aiden Halliday emphasized the value of removing mundane tasks to allow professionals to focus on candidate interactions. Martyn Redstone noted that future job descriptions would naturally incorporate AI skills, much like Microsoft Office proficiency became standard in the past.

Matt Comber suggested the emergence of roles like Chief AI Officer (CAIO) to navigate the complexities of AI implementation, emphasizing the need for commercial, technical, and governance expertise in these positions.

Victoria commented that she believes it will go full circle: eventually, it will be a differentiator for companies to say “we’ve got a person who will reach out to you” 

Final Thoughts

The event concluded with a lively Q&A session, addressing concerns about AI's impact on job quality, candidate assessment, and potential resistance to AI adoption. The consensus was that while AI offers significant efficiencies, human elements in recruitment remain irreplaceable, especially for high-value roles.

In summary, AI has potential to be transformative to the world of recruitment. The event highlighted the need for careful implementation, robust governance, and a balanced approach that integrates human insight with technological advancements. As the industry evolves, the insights from this event will undoubtedly serve as a valuable guide for organizations navigating the complex landscape of AI in recruitment

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