The inaugural FOT Retreat in Australia was a great success bringing together some of Australia and New Zealand’s most progressive and influential Talent Acquisition Leaders to immerse in a two day discussion and debate on Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Human Centred Design, Future of Talent and Blockchain’s likely impact on HR & Recruitment.
The conversation was rich, brutally honest and transparent, and quite frankly inspiring for those who attended especially when the red wine flowed in the evening (well we were staying in a winery)!
I took a lot out of the event and recommend it to industry peers unable to attend this year. Below I have tried to distil my key learnings and insights for my clients and network whilst providing a window on the discussions without compromising the ‘Chatham House’ rules of the event. I hope you enjoy the read.
AI & Automation:
- 2062 – this is the year, which on average a survey of over 300 global AI & Robotics academics believe AI will become as powerful as the human brain. It’s also the title of our keynote Toby Walsh’s new book.
- Risk of using historical data sets, often polluted with past human bias, to train the algorithms for use today (bias in – bias out).
- Importance of a ‘Human in the loop’ during a hiring process for some time to come until the algorithms are suitably trained and free from bias. Important not to delegate the decision to a machine (yet).
- Importance of organisational and functional maturity, and in particular, the need for a sound data strategy before embarking on data or AI driven protocols and processes.
- Great session facilitated by Simon Townsend (A good friend of TQSolutions) who used real case examples from the participants to bring to life the principles of Human Centred Design and Design Thinking. We are often too focused on the ‘process’ or the ‘outcome’, the inputs and the outputs. Our first exercise was to use a real business problem and question the business representative on the situation focusing on what the person said, what were they thinking, what did they do, what did they feel? Pretty intuitive stuff but often missing from most Process Flow Diagrams !
- Once the problem statement has been well defined and understood, it’s time think outside the square through another simple exercise of creating a range of ‘How Might We’ statements to solve for – How Might We XYZ in order to ABC. A simple laddering exercise helped us to flesh these out and answer the Why and the How of our How Might We Statements.
- The use of CCS cards (visuals) to help construct our narrative through imagery was incredibly helpful and allows you to bring out the emotions and true experience being described / conceived.
- Having used Human Centred Design to create a future state service model for a Talent Acquisition function, I have seen first hand the value of the double-diamond approach and thoroughly recommend its use and adoption to enhance the outputs of functional or service reviews.
Future of Talent
- On Day 2, Kevin Wheeler treated us to a fire-side discussion on the Future of Talent and Blockchain, and his foresights and broad knowledge of the macro trends being experienced by business and society helped paint a picture of the future of the TA and HR functions, which if even 50% of the predictions hold true will be radically different in the future.
- For those that have seen Kevin speak you will be familiar with some of these fearless forecasts: ‘The end of jobs’ and codifying packages of skills as jobs. Why hire people to do jobs, when you can buy / access the skills without the employment arrangement? Atomisation of the workforce is going to continue at pace.
- There is too much talk of job loss and not sufficient visibility of the likely job gains from the current change and transformation agendas, only by understanding both will we truly understand the impact on society.
- It became apparent that these are issues that industries rather than separate businesses should be talking about and seeking to resolve. For example, the large financial service companies are facing into the same problem set and future and could work together as an industry to approach and manage the change, just as Holden advocated for and led for the automotive industry in Australia.
- I was super interested to hear that one of the very large professional service firms is experimenting with hiring non-graduates to train in Cyber, Risk and Technology because it is not convinced the current tertiary system is producing sufficiently qualified and trained graduates for today’s workforce. The same company scrapped reviewing CV’s and transcripts seven years ago !!
I particularly liked their rationale for this:
“There aren’t enough purple unicorns out there, let’s go and find some white ponies and paint them together.”
- Whilst I am not going to go into the detail of what a distributed ledger is and how blockchain works, I will say that much of my clarity around blockchain came about once I understood the security strength of blockchain and the difference between public blockchains, where people have visibility of the transactions occurring which is the case with financial blockchains and crypto-currencies, and private blockchains that can house data for a range of purposes discretely, and only shared with the permission of the data-owner which will need to be the case for HR and TA purposes.
- Data is totally secure as it is nearly impossible to hack a blockchain unless you are someone who has developed computing power we are not aware of today (again I won’t go into the reasons why but blockchain’s appeal comes from this fact).
- Data is also always correct – to exist in the blockchain it has to be verified by the data-owner (verifiable entity). Some of the verifiable entities could include Schools, Universities, Police Departments, Employers etc. In order for me to build a profile in the chain, I need to request the verifying entities provide confirmation of my legal status, my rights to work, my employment history, my qualifications etc. Without verification the data is not valid. The only person who can change my data is me, but in order to change it, I need to have the change verified. Think – portable profiling, portable credentialing as base level services.
- An individual can choose who they share their information with, but note, they do not share the data itself just the verification of the data, the data itself remains stored in the blockchain and not on others databases – think of the impact of this on many intermediaries today !
- The possible impacts of Blockchain are enormous on today’s business world and in particular the HR and TA industry. The uses and applications of such portable and accurate data are immense – try whiteboarding this with your team? Clue: think fully verified, rich deep profiles of people and your workforce available at the push of a button (or click, or hey google).
What Comes Next?
The final session of the retreat was a scenario planning exercise where we looked at a range of possible futures and then tried to figure out how they came to reality. We specifically looked at the impact of AI and Blockchain on the TA industry and developed 4 scenarios – one we deemed ‘given’, one more of a wildcard and then two others with varying degrees of impact and certainty.
I will write about these scenarios separately but thought I would share with you some of my groups ‘given’ and ‘certain’ scenario, they comprised the following aspects:
- Continued and extensive use of ‘stupid AI’ to focus on automation of tasks and processes
- Adoption of some ‘intelligent’ AI to begin making judgments and decisions with a layer of ‘human in the loop’ governance of the decision making protocols
- Need for an exit ramp to a human in the process and not just 100% reliance on AI and automation
- Roles / FTE will be lost in TA and HR functions as Recruitment Process Automation takes hold but many people will be redirected to higher value activities such as workforce planning, talent strategies, attraction and branding strategies, data and analytics.
- The importance and need to retrain and retool Talent Acquisition with several new skills currently in very short supply in the industry (Marketing, Data, Analytics, Technology, Digital, Business Partnering, Coaching, Workforce Planning to name a few)
This summary does not do justice to the depth of conversation from the 2 days but I hope it provides a brief glimpse into the discussion that was had and sparks some further interest in the reader.
If you are not talking about these issues with your business and leaders today, you should be, it’s not a question of if this is going to happen, it’s a question of when !
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