Disrupting Talent Acquisition Through Tech

Will the blockchain revolutionize background checking? According to Michael Casey, a former reporter who’s now with MIT’s Media Lab and co-author of a new book, The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything, the block chain–a decentralized computer-based record-keeping system that enables crypto-currencies such as bitcoin–will be the ultimate “truth verifier,” making it quick and easy to determine whether someone actually did graduate from Harvard or MIT.

“Blockchain is an immutable distributed ledger that removes the fallibility of human recordkeepers,” says Casey, who delivered the opening keynote at the Human Capital Institute’s 2018 Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference yesterday. The conference is taking place this week in Miami.

The technology is still in its formative stage and is not yet widely used, he said. However, blockchain will bring massive disruption to a number of jobs–particularly accountants and the legal profession–as it grows more prevalent. Crucially, HR leaders will need to do what they can to ensure that a wide cross-section of talent will be able to help design new blockchain-enabled systems, said Casey.

“We can’t let just the geeks set the rules–this is a social technology, and we need as much human input as possible,” he said. “The best-designed systems are based on input from wide cross-sections of humanity.”

Diversity is much on the minds of the leadership team at BlackRock, the global investment firm.

Natalie Leone, its global head of talent, spoke later in the morning about how she’s helping to transform the talent function at the 14,000-employee organization.

“Our goal is diversity of thought and background as well as race and gender,” she said.

Twenty months ago, Leone led the TA team in a comprehensive review of its systems and processes to determine whether it was structured properly in order to get BlackRock to where its leaders wanted it to be.

It wasn’t easy, Leone acknowledged. “I’ve been working in this field for close to 27 years, and when you discover so many things that are broken, it felt quite vulnerable for me,” she said.

One process that needed fixing was BlackRock’s passive-candidate outreach, said Leone. “There was little to no outreach to silver- or gold-medalist candidates,” she said.

Another issue was that recruiters filled roles at all levels of the company, which prevented them from growing their expertise in certain areas or building relationships with specific business units, said Leone.

Leone sat down with her team and mapped out a vision of what they wanted BlackRock’s TA function to be. “We aspire to become the best in the world at scouting, attracting, assessing and selecting the best and most diverse talent,” she says. “That became our ‘north star.’ ”

Recruiters have since discarded the old “post and pray” model in favor of building ongoing relationships with candidates, she says. Talent acquisition was reorganized into four differentiated service levels: campus, core, lateral and executive. (“Lateral” refers to hard-to-fill positions.)

Bringing executive search in-house has saved BlackRock over $34 million, says Leone.

Meanwhile, partnering with vendors such as Talent Neuron, HackerRank and Textio has helped the company’s workforce become more diverse, with its latest crop of incoming campus hires going from 27 percent female five years ago to more than 50 percent today, says Leone.

Now is a great time to be in HR, said presenter Madeline Laurano, who delivered a presentation on TA trends in the afternoon.

“Seventy seven percent of CEOs say the availability of talent is the greatest threat to their organizations,” said Laurano, co-founder and chief research officer at Aptitude Research Partners, citing statistics from her own research and other sources, including PwC.

Today’s recruiters need to be data scientists, innovators, over-achievers and networkers, she said. Yet the research shows that most are still spending their time on mundane activities like interview scheduling. Meanwhile, even as candidates’ expectations for transparency have grown, ARP’s research shows that companies are actually getting worse at this, said Laurano.

Surprisingly, only one in four companies have a mobile-optimized talent-acquisition strategy and one out of two lack an employee-referral program.

“That was shocking to me, considering that referrals are the best source of quality hires,” she said.

Companies seeking to upgrade their TA function need to be highly selective when it comes to vendors, Laurano warned. There are so many new vendors jumping into the space–I call them ‘two guys in skinny jeans,’ people who don’t really understand the industry but want to make a quick buck from all the venture capital that’s being poured into HR tech,” she says. “You need to determine whether they truly understand talent acquisition or are just looking for a payday.”

ARP’s research shows that over 70 percent of companies are investing in candidate-relationship management, aka recruitment marketing, in some way, said Laurano. Some of those funds are being used to purchase CRM and ATS software from the same provider, she said.

The day’s closing keynoter, Target Vice President of Talent Acquisition Damu McCoy, explained how the retailer is diversifying its corporate and store-based workforce by investing in–not extracting from–talent communities.

“Investing in communities means mobilizing your entire team, having shared accountability and getting your leadership to actively commit their time, not just show up,” he said.

This strategy has paid dividends for Target, which perennially ranks high on lists of the nation’s most inclusive companies. McCoy showed a video of a Target headquarters employee named Maysa, a Muslim woman who spoke about the support she received from her colleagues as she observed Ramadan and the comfort she felt in being open about her religion. The video included Maysa’s mother, who said she felt comfortable in knowing that her daughter was “safe” at her workplace.

“That brings tears to my eyes,” said McCoy. “Being safe at work is something we should all take for granted, and yet that is something that’s clearly on her mom’s mind.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.