Technology has disrupted every industry including recruitment. Peter Reid, the head of Mint AI, says that recruitment technology is one of the most invested in sectors. From assessment tools to video interviews and applicant tracking systems, human resources (HR) is now a high-tech, highly-automated field and for many companies, this shift was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With Covid-19, communication technology matured to the point that everyone realized that you don’t have to physically sit in an office to get work done,” says Reid. “Things have changed considerably and while there are obvious benefits to remote work, such as not having to sit in traffic, there also subtle changes and trends happening the sector.”
One of the biggest post-pandemic, working from home (WFH) trends recruiters are seeing is semigration: “Everyone has realized that if you can work from anywhere with an internet connection and produce the same output, why not live in the Caribbean and work for a financial house in London?” asks Reid. “The big question for companies is, if you’re paying a senior investment banker in the middle of London a big salary because living in central London is expensive, why not pay for the same skills at the half the price to someone living in South Africa? The value that you represent to a business is no longer tied to the location that you sit in.” The fact is that there is a global shift happening where potential employees are choosing where to work and that is no longer based where they live. “It’s all driven by fast, ubiquitous internet access and communications and underpinned by technology,” says Reid. “Software runs in the cloud. Even verification and onboarding software can run in the cloud,” says Reid.
One of the main challenges recruiters faced during Covid-19 was onboarding hybrid workforces. Over and above maintaining a company’s internal culture, HR was tasked with verifying new employees online. Reid warns that verification software that relies on two-factor authentication (2FA) is outdated technology. The extra layer of protection used can easily be intercepted by fraudsters because any critical information sent works alongside mobile number or via an app on a device. “What happens when you need a new SIM card or get an upgrade? It’s not always so easy to be tied to a phone,” he says. “A better confirmation method is biometrics because your face is what is being followed, not your phone.”
A cloud-based biometric identification management system means that verification is possible on any device that can capture a photo (unlike fingerprint readers that require special sensors). During a quick biometric verification process, a company can retrieve all the information required to onboard a new employee without them ever having to step inside the business. “With biometrics, there’s a 100% guarantee that you are who you say you are and that’s incredible. You can use any device, anywhere in the world, to prove your identity,” he says. “And it unleashes a huge capacity in HR because you don’t have to set up a time that is convenient for two people, even if it’s a video call. The complexities around onboarding can be easily automated if a trustworthy process is in place.”
In South Africa, unemployment is rife which means that recruiters are often bogged down by applicants – many of whom don’t fit the criteria for a job. “Technology is helping in this space too and there are a number of AI-driven start-ups that can go through CVs to pull out relevant keywords to filter applicants that can move onto the interview stage. This is where automation and AI come in,” adds Reid.
But for Reid, automation isn’t special. He looks at it the same way he would any other type of technology. The personal computer, for example, has automated writing memos by hand or calculating a balance sheet. “The starting point is always automating the things we currently know so that they can go faster. HR should be about spending time with people, not processes,” he says. “Process so often gets in the way so if we can use tech to take away paperwork, you can focus on higher value work.”
While many people are concerned that artificial intelligence (AI) will make their roles obsolete, in Reid’s experience, it actually elevates a job into a higher level. “Somebody who was capturing pieces of paper can now be talking strategy. And HR is no different – if you’ve got an HR clerk who was spending several hours a day capturing paper CVs and documentation, they can now spend that time with people, discussing what their aspirations are and how they help in the business. Then it’s the perfect application of a new technology.”