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Tackling talent scarcity – Unlocking the power of technology in HR

Jonquil Hackenberg, head of C-suite advisory at Infosys Consulting

In the turbulent context of Brexit, companies are planning and making provisions for every eventuality. Many organisations are investing in new technology in an attempt to streamline business operations and weather the Brexit storm – but investing in new technologies without considering the talent needed to implement them could be a recipe for disaster.

Organisations across a range of sectors are seeing a new phenomenon form: ‘talent scarcity’. As the skills we need to operate modern organisations stack up, with existing and potential employees fleeing in light of Brexit, this issue is here to stay. In this challenging context, HR operations must remain reactive and efficient, to upskill existing employees and continue improving performance.

Luckily, thanks to technological advancements, HR is undergoing a massive transformation. With the advent of analytics, HR leaders are now equipped with vast amounts of data about past, present and future employees – but the challenge ahead is figuring out how they can analyse and maximise this data and turn it into valuable insights that can turn an organisation around.

Upskilling with AI

Technological advancements present opportunities to create efficiencies throughout an organisation – and nowhere is this more apparent than in HR departments. Specifically, automation and AI are seen as the ringleaders of the rise of technology in businesses. However, the focus is often on how AI threatens jobs, rather than on how AI and automation will create opportunities to upskill existing employees to maintain, manage and implement such technologies. Before implementing AI technologies in an HR department, the whole business needs to see AI as a tool to assist employees – and in fact improve existing jobs – rather than as a threat.

For example, AI helps HR professionals move from administrative tasks to focusing on the human and building the best teams possible. With more resources and time to invest in the training and support of current employees, HR departments are better equipped to face the challenges presented by talent scarcity. One of the key ways to reduce the impact of the ‘war on talent’ is to upskill existing employees, moving them into roles that are vital to the business but difficult to fill. By harnessing AI to reduce the time and labour taken to source candidates and monitor performance, HR professionals can drive upskilling, and reduce the impact that Brexit-induced talent scarcity could have on their organisations.    

Predicting people

Currently, only about 34% of companies are leveraging data to inform people decisions. Given that maximising data and turning it into actionable insight is increasingly commonplace across other areas of a business, this might come as a surprise. Predictive analytics holds the key to this change – by embracing new tools, HR teams can reduce their workload and increase the accuracy of their candidate profiling processes. Software that can scan applications, finding the perfect candidate, then ‘learn’ which characteristics successful candidates have is a valuable tool for improved performance.

Capturing and understanding data can also help HR teams to better retain their staff. By increasing staff retention rates, HR departments can contribute to better business performance by reducing spend on training and recruiting new staff.

In a landscape of ‘talent scarcity’ and digital skills shortages, it is no longer enough to simply advertise available positions and wait for applicants to appear. AI technology can be used to proactively recruit the right candidates and even enhance the candidate experience. For example, recruitment bots can be deployed for early screening phases and to communicate information in a timely and efficient manner to potential recruits. This AI-driven process can also extend to self-service onboarding, which helps with retention as well as recruitment.

Intelligent recruitment

If implemented correctly, AI can drive increased performance across many areas of HR – which ultimately drives growth for a business. The narrative around AI’s role in HR often simplifies its potential to increasing efficiencies by reducing the time taken to scan CVs. While this is clearly a valuable efficiency gain, the potential of AI is far greater than this.

Thanks to developments in semantic understanding, AI can go beyond a candidate’s résumé to scan their online presence and use this information to more accurately assess suitability to the company culture. Trends in this data can then be ‘learnt’, stored and used to inform future recruitment decisions.  AI can also be used to evaluate video interviews, assessing thousands of data points to determine cognitive ability, as well as profiling candidates by determining their suitability to different roles and functions within the business.

Tailoring employee experience through technology

Historically, performance management has been far from an exact science. It is often a time-consuming 6-monthly or annual review process, which creates issues for managers and line reports alike. With advancements in performance monitoring thanks to AI, data can now be continuously gathered and analysed on employees, meaning that performance against KPIs can be monitored – including indicating results of online training modules.

This employee performance data can then be used to shape personalised KPIs for employees which will enhance development, help employee retention and drive growth for the business itself. This can create opportunities to HR departments to assess where upskilling is necessary and who might be a good fit to train in new roles, enabling them to respond directly to issues caused by talent scarcity.

It’s clear that technology can be used in many ways to improve performance in HR – from efficiency gains, to more accurate candidate profiling, to recruitment and performance measurement. AI is becoming increasingly necessary as HR departments work hard to maximise new technologies and increased volumes of data.

This will only be further exacerbated as the impact of Brexit on talent rolls on. In the context of post-Brexit ‘talent scarcity’, HR professionals will need to harness the technologies that will enable them to be reactive to change,  and able to continue delivering for their business. After all, hiring and retaining the best people is what makes a business survive and thrive.

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