AI Successes and Epic Technology Fails: Panel Swaps Stories at SHRM Talent Conference

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer April 9, 2019
AI Successes and Epic Technology Fails: Panel Swaps Stories at SHRM Talent Conference

​A crowd gathers at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition in Nashville.

​NASHVILLE, TENN.—A panel of talent acquisition leaders from companies large and small gathered at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition to share their experiences dealing with some of the latest recruiting trends, practices and technologies.

Here are a few of the most interesting observations.

AI to the Rescue

Over the last couple of years, the term AI (artificial intelligence) has been thrown around the way "ATS" (applicant tracking system) used to be, said Carol McDaniel, director of global talent acquisition at Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. But how does a company like Delta—which receives hundreds of thousands of applications for its flight attendant roles per year—actually use it?

"We use AI to comb through a very large volume of applications [to find] the qualifications we know make a great flight attendant at Delta," McDaniel said. Delta uses HireVue's video interview assessments to screen applicants before recruiters take over to determine next steps with candidates who advance in the process. "The technology frees up our recruiters to work more with the candidates," she said.

McDaniel knows that technologies like AI and machine learning left alone do not eliminate hiring bias. AI will pick up on the demographics of successful hires that make it through the process, which may curtail diversity. Since the airline needs a diverse group of people to serve in multiple global destinations, McDaniel and her team review the assessment data from HireVue and audit it to stop any bias that creeps into the algorithms.  

Paula Harvey, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources and safety for Schulte Building Systems, a midsize employer in Houston, commented that she realizes that there's a lot of benefits to using AI for recruiting but hopes that more offerings will be made available for small to medium-sized businesses.

Ditching the Single-Vendor Suite

Many companies are abandoning all-in-one suites of HR technologies for multi-vendor technology stacks which contain flexible, integrated solutions, said Tony Lee, SHRM's vice president of editorial. Single vendor systems are less effective and costlier, even for small businesses, he said.

"Most of these cloud-based systems can be bought in parts," Harvey said. "You can buy a recruiting piece that is much better than what your main [human capital management] system provides. There are cheaper options out there that I think will be better than what my system—which is really good at timekeeping and payroll—offers."

Schulte implemented an HR management system about three years ago that turned into "an epic fail," Harvey said. "We spent the last year speaking with and evaluating over a dozen vendors. Do your homework and evaluate what will work best with your industry, your company and your culture."

McDaniel agrees that an all-in-one approach is not the best way forward. Delta just signed a contract with a leading vendor for an applicant tracking system, careers site and candidate relationship management platform. She noted that while "it's a bonus" that these talent acquisition technology modules integrate with your HRIS, it's crucial that those components also integrate with each other.

Hiring for Future Fit

Hiring for openings that don't yet exist is something staffing expert Scott Wintrip has been talking about for years, but the idea is still probably a bit out there for most companies.

McDaniel said at Delta looks at the concept from a slightly different angle. "We evaluate a person's potential to grow in the organization. We utilize assessments to show where the person might fit well in the future. We look at the diversification of a person's experience when they are hired with future roles in mind."

For example, a person may be hired in an operations role but also have a couple of years of experience in HR. The talent planning and talent management teams can partner up and identify employees with the potential to fill roles in other departments based on their skillsets and a career development plan.

"It's not just replacement planning," Harvey said. "It's setting up a talent inventory and getting your high potentials the training they need."  

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Candidate Privacy Cannot Be Ignored

"It's not a fun topic, but understanding and respecting candidate privacy is a critically important one," Lee said. The European Union's (EU's) data protection regulations went into effect last year. U.S. organizations that want to recruit workers living in the EU will need to understand how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to them.

GDPR limits employers' outreach to applicants who have opted into the process and requires employers to purge candidate data.

"In addition to GDPR, we're starting to hear talk about similar legislation in the U.S.," said Brett Bunce, director of field HR and talent acquisition at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, based in Lebanon, Tenn. "We're anticipating an increase in legislation that will continue to tip the balance of power to the candidate or employee versus the organization in how data is being used. That will affect how long you can keep candidate data in your ATS, what kinds of candidate notice you're going to have to give and refining the process about removing data."

But Bunce said that while he realizes these types of disruptive regulations may create headaches at first, they can also be seen as improving candidate experience. "Speed-to-hire is everything," he said. "These rules will help us strip down our application as much as possible until we're only asking for the bare minimum information we need to move forward. Shortened applications lead to a better completion rate."



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