Virtual Engagement

Brian Cartwright, Managing Director, Logistics Executive, Middle East & Africa

Innovation, adaptability, and flexibility are arguably three of the key contributing factors to running a successful business in today’s volatile market place where demand can change almost overnight and competition is everywhere.

A company’s ability to innovate, adapt and to be flexible is ultimately led by its people whose efforts are further supported by technology, processes, and procedures.
One of the biggest dangers we face in today’s society with regard to technology is that we have become so reliant on it that we are losing the human aspect of our interactions with one another, this is becoming more prevalent in our personal lives as well as at work. At the core of any business is its people and the way recruitment is handled is a particular area which has undergone a dramatic yet not necessarily positive change over the years due to our over reliance on technology.
A surge of online jobs boards (led by The Monster Board in 1994) continue to increase in numbers, and what began as simple “E-recruitment” systems quickly developed into systems including complex applicant tracking and customer relationship systems.  The contemporary social and commercial environment is typified by social networks with the vast majority of people so focused on developing “one click” virtual relationships, burying their heads into their smartphones and tablets rather than developing real life relationships and interacting with the people standing next to them.
When it comes to recruitment the technology we use certainly enables us to work more efficiently in the early stages of the process with the attraction, identification and tracking of potential candidates as well as managing applications, screening and even initial interviews via video conference.  This evolution in communication has also led to a culture of hiring organizations and individuals hiding behind emails, reducing the amount of genuine real life contact with potential employees.
The ability to reach many more potential applicants via the internet also brings with it a much higher numbers of applications, usually with around 95% having to be rejected, with hundreds, often thousands of applicants clicking “apply” to a job even when their experience is completely irrelevant to the role they are applying for. Hence whilst technology can help us to streamline the recruitment process it has also created additional workload for recruiters and employers at the front end of the process.
 We increasingly  live and work in a socially (or virtually) networked world and the acceptance of this fact by organizations when it comes to hiring, is proving advantageous to those early adopter organizations  that have leveraged social networking  as part of their recruitment strategy. Increasingly organizations have been able to build a talent community where potential candidates are engaged and informed as to what’s happening in the organization that they may one day wish to join. This is a more advanced strategy compared to purely creating a CV database which is quickly outdated, so building and maintaining an enlightened talent community is a key factor in winning the battle for talent.
Ensuring you have a ready pool of candidates to meet possible recruitment requirements is no easy task and just as managing a supply chain is about managing uncertainty and variability, the same applies to your future hiring needs.  Current economic dynamics typified by significant fluctuations in customer and business service requirements often determines that it is often difficult knowing what talent requirements will be in the short and medium term and what types and levels of skills are needed.
Whilst all organizations need to embrace modern technology, increasing numbers are realizing that technology can’t and should not replace  human interaction and valuable relationships. More and more companies are realizing  that creating  vast databases of CV’s is an inferior option  to building a community of targeted prospective future employees through the use of  technology and  keeping them informed and engaged online. This methodology supports tracking and managing the recruitment processes and enabling the relevant information to then take the relationship offline and into the real world as early as possible when commencing the recruitment process for a specific role. 
For many forward thinking HR Directors and Managers it is the candidate experience that is first and foremost in their recruiting strategy and to create this experience is not possible with the “one click /  apply” routine that we see from the majority of job boards and ATS. This is old school practice which is losing its place in the hiring processes used by many organizations today.
The Internet is of course a great place for purchasing products or services. Job boards, and applicant tracking systems can certainly help recruiters to work more effectively but the recruiting process can never be completely automated, technology will never replace recruiters (internal or external) as people are not, and never will be a commodity. The value of human interaction cannot be overstated in terms of quality of the recruitment process, especially at the final stages of the recruitment process. 
The art of recruiting goes much further than simple CV screening and matchmaking, the most successful recruiters tend to have a deep appreciation and understanding of what it means to be human, the ability to see the true person behind the resume. We all have our aspirations, our needs, our individual skills and indeed our flaws and a good recruiter will have an almost 6th sense in order to be able recognize and uncover those factors linking the dots to find the right person for the job, and then because of the competition amongst organizations to employ only the best talent in the market once you have found a highly talented individual who you want to employ it becomes as much about a seduction as it does a simple job offer in order to get them onboard. 
Everything in the hiring process leads to this point, a candidate’s technical experience is paramount, in-depth screening to find a potentially suitable match based on these hard skills and relevant experience to the role is essential.  Just as vital is the identification of increasingly important people / soft skills and the importance of understanding the needs of a candidate and how these needs can fit with the requirements of  the hiring organization – a process that must take place face to face.   
The amazing advantages of ever developing technology are undeniable, just as true is the need for expertise applied by specialist practitioners to achieve the best outcomes, whether in the case of talent attraction and acquisition or any business objective.