Disruptive Tech and Artificial Intelligence’s Impact on Executive Search

May 29, 2019
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Thaddeus Andres, Director of Social and Content at The Cluen Corporation

This article was first published on the Cluen Corporation website. To read the original article click here

Cluen Corporation is an AltoPartners strategic business solutions partner

Technology continues to evolve and disrupt industries, giving way to entirely new sub-industries such as FinTech, Biotech, Telehealth and more. Blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine-learning, virtual reality and connected environments have greatly contributed to these transformations and replaced entire functions within industries.

This transformation begins with technology replacing systemic and routine data input functions. The rapid rise of virtual assistants, automation of data capture and aggregated insights from big data over the last several years, indicate that technology can quickly learn more complex tasks. As the digital information age continues to give rise to new economies and tech sub-sectors, is executive search and recruitment the next industry to be enveloped by technology?

Technology Is Getting More Intelligent.

Candidate databases and job boards like Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter.com and TheLadders.com have been around for years, catering to lower levels of recruiting and management. These sites were built for convenience and easy sourcing for both candidates and recruiters. For years, the speculation was that technology such as this could not breach the c-suite or significantly impact the executive search or recruitment industry. However, new innovations for senior executives like NuRole.com, an invitation only platform that connects and matches board director roles with board ready candidates, are starting to emerge and open the executive talent marketplace in new and different ways.

Beyond these elementary candidate matching platforms inching up middle management levels towards the c-suite, we are starting to see technology integrate deeper into the talent management process and recruitment function. Advances in video screening tools and the gamification of online assessments are providing recruiters with new insights into candidate responses and behaviors. For example, Lloyd’s Banking Group is leveraging 3D virtual reality to completely immerse candidates in “real life” work environments and situations as a part of their assessment program. This cutting-edge technology analyzes key metrics like cultural fit, curiosity and behavior to help search consultants and recruiters assess problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Hiring Is Up For Technology Roles.

In addition to technology learning more sophisticated skillsets, an increase in hiring for technology roles will also drive this advancement. In a recent Forbes article, “Decoding Top Jobs for 2019” author Lars Schmidt identifies newly emerging jobs that have seen a steady increase in the U.S over the past four years. Among the top ten jobs, 20% were tech-specific including software engineers and machine learning specialists. Schmidt also noted a relative increase in the following roles and positions added to U.S. LinkedIn member profiles in the last year (including YOY growth):

  • Blockchain Developer (33X growth)
  • Machine Learning Engineer (12X growth)
  • Machine Learning Specialist (6X growth)
  • Data Science Specialist (5X growth)

From a hiring and executive search perspective – it is clear that more companies are expanding their development and technology teams to drive more technologically driven initiatives, investments and innovations. In the past, companies would match this demand by growing in-house teams or partnering with external executive search firms. Today, more companies are turning towards technology solutions or developing their own applications to streamline and expedite the hiring and recruitment process.

Historically, the quick rise of automation and artificial intelligence replacing administrative data functions, posed little threat to executive search consultants and recruiters. In the future, search consultants and hiring teams alike may want to keep a more watchful eye as artificial intelligence and automation integrates deeper into the executive search and recruitment function.

How Will This Impact Executive Search And Recruiters?

In the same Forbes article, Schmidt also identifies two distinct trends pointing towards healthy signs of growth for the executive search and recruitment industry. Along with software engineers and machine learning specialists as the top growing jobs, the role of recruiter also appeared at the top of this list. Schmidt also delves into the increasing skills gap persisting across many industries. While hiring for tech-centric roles may be growing at an exponential rate, so is the divide among candidates that lack the soft skills of management.

“Soft skills, like oral communication, time management and leadership represent the most significant skills gap…Many of these skills cut across disciplines and industries, so the need for them is both broad and deep,” Schmidt says. Finding qualified talent with a very high level of technical skill and the ability to effectively manage is growing seemingly harder. The skills gap is one of many reasons in which executive search and recruitment firms cannot be replaced by machines or automation.

First, as the skills gap continues to grow, candidates will need to be coached on how to articulate and properly implement soft skills of management. Many executive search firms have diversified their services to include coaching and leadership development programs. Executive search and recruitment firms have a deep connection and understanding of a company’s corporate culture and can leverage this intimate knowledge to educate candidates and leadership teams on these skills. They can curate and tailor a program to best fit the learning styles of participants and effectively integrate unique aspects of the corporate culture.

Second, verification of mastering these soft skills on resumes or LinkedIn profiles, will require a consultation from a human perspective. Through interviews and personalized assessments, executive search consultants and recruiters will be needed to verify a candidate’s grasp on these soft skills of management. Artificial Intelligence and automation can quickly sort, find and identify candidates with these skills in their profile, but the true determination of these skill sets must be judged using intuition and critical thinking. The skills gap is just one example of the many ways technology will not replace executive search teams and recruiters.

Trusted Advisor or Trusted Algorithm?

Many executive search firms serve as trusted advisors to their clients for succession planning and human capital strategy. Some companies are employing and building algorithms to replicate this function in order to maximize profits. Insights can be gleamed from productivity and performance data to evaluate team members and assess their contributions and return on investment to the organization. While reporting and organizational structures can also be leveraged by these algorithms, often times insights are based entirely on hard data and omit the valuable relationships, connections and cultural bonds across teams and the organization.

This is another reason why C-suite executives will continue to turn to executive search consultants for an objective point of view to help navigate the positive and negative impacts a departure may have across teams. Executive search consultants can advise senior executives in situations by considering both hard performance data and using emotional intelligence. While the science of people management in an organization can be quantified using big data and performance metrics, emotional intelligence will always be an equally critical factor, especially for senior leaders.

What Artificial Intelligence Cannot Learn.

According to a LinkedIn survey “Global Recruiting Trends 2018”, the key areas that Artificial Intelligence and automation will not be successful at replacing include:

  • Story-telling / Selling the role
  • Negotiation / Persuasion
  • Understanding Candidate Needs
  • Differentiated Candidate Experience

Within executive search and human capital management, there will always require an element of empathy and emotional intelligence to make effective hiring decisions. Executive search consultants are critical in building relationships with candidates, seeing candidate potential beyond credentials and skills, judging cultural fit, convincing candidates to accept offers and more.

The executive search and recruitment industry was founded on the principal of nurturing and growing relationships. This will always require an empathetic, cognizant and mindful perspective. While technology will continue to advance and integrate deeper into the executive search and recruitment function, it will serve a key role in enhancing teams and capabilities rather than replacing them altogether.

About Cluen

Cluen has been working with Executive Search firms for nearly 30 years developing executive search and talent management software. Our next-generation executive search platform, Encore Max, was redesigned from the ground up for both power-users and new users. Encore Max leverages artificial intelligence, automatic data capture, self-learning technologies and more making it the most simple and advanced executive search software you will ever have. Learn more here or at info@cluen.com.