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Future-proofing in the Age of Disruption

Wendy Edgar, Americas HR Director, EY

Wendy Edgar, Americas HR Director, EY

The future of work has arrived. Driven by new advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as well as shifting employee expectations, the human resources industry is now at an inflection point in transforming to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving workforce.

Future-proofing today’s HR industry means creating an exceptional candidate experience and preparing the workforce for a digital future. Identifying ways to integrate new technologies across the function has become the new norm to attract, retain, and develop the best talent. Future-proofing also means paving the way for flexible work options to create an empowered and engaged workforce. As HR professionals continue to navigate these changes, there are number of aspects to consider along the way.

Optimizing the Candidate Experience

For many organizations, optimizing the experience for candidates begins long before they step into the door for an interview. Companies are increasingly integrating AI, chatbots, and other technologies into the recruiting process to allow candidates to more easily apply to roles that match their skillset— creating added value for them that is only made possible by a truly personalized recruiting experience.

"Technology allows candidates to easily see where they stand and check on the current status of their application"

Candidates are engaging with chatbots to receive real-time responses to frequently asked questions about the company and schedule interviews. It is now possible to use video conferencing to conduct initial interviews. Technology allows candidates to easily see where they stand and check on the current status of their application. It is helping organizations find better matches, be more responsive to candidates and make the process more efficient for hiring managers.

Our EY recruiting team also benefits from technology, in the time that is freed up for them to dedicate more resources to sourcing prospects and meeting candidates, getting them through the process more quickly and making hiring decisions faster. By freeing up some of their time, recruiters can be more strategic, invest more time finding talent, and focus their energies on creating exceptional experiences for candidates.

Tapping into the Gig Economy

As HR departments begin to utilize AI and disruptive technologies to attract and engage talent, they must also heavily consider an evolving set of employee preferences – particularly around flexibility. A recent EY study showed that 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women would walk away from a job if day-to-day flexibility was not offered.

For large companies like EY, employing individuals on a project basis creates newfound opportunities to address talent and project needs in an efficient way. In fact, currently, 13 percent of EY’s global workforce are contractor workers and in the U.S., we have filled more than 680 jobs through our internally developed GigNow contract worker talent pool.

Developing a network of top contractor talent allows HR teams to tap into this pool of professionals for niche projects that require skills in future-focused areas like analytics, AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and blockchain. Adapting to the gig economy is a strategic requirement and benefit to companies as more people seek flexibility on short-term assignments.

Understanding the Upside and Potential Risks of Disruption

Technology integration across the industry is largely seen as positive; however, there are some inherent risks associated with these changes underway. As the use of new technology like AI becomes more prevalent in organizations, it is important to keep in mind that interactions are being driven by algorithms that can amplify existing biases, given that these algorithms learn from human input.

Another recent EY study shows that 41 percent of AI professionals believe that the gender diversity of AI talent can influence the biases a machine will learn. That’s a very significant number and underscores the importance that bias can be unconscious – even in machines! While new technologies can assist in attracting and retaining the best talent, it is imperative to invest the time in training the technology properly. For AI, that might mean creating balanced training datasets that avoid inserting bias and for chatbots, it means creating the right tone and personality, and curating the content the bot provides as answers to questions. These examples show that although we are making strides in technology, human and intrapersonal approaches still need to be greatly valued.

Looking Ahead

As companies increase their commitment toward future-proofing, they must introduce future-focused skills and the development programs needed in order to remain competitive, and capitalize on technological innovation to attract, recruit and retain the best talent.

Organizations and their respective teams will need to invest in programs and educational tools that equip employees with the skills to solve complex problems and deliver innovative business solutions. While traditional skillsets will always be needed in the workplace, upskilling employees with skills in areas such as cybersecurity, data analytics, blockchain, and robotics is key.

Future-proofing HR means future-proofing the business. The more HR teams tap into the benefits of future-focused technologies, the more skilled they will become in providing employees with the resources needed to remain ahead of the curve and differentiate themselves and their organizations in the market.