The war for talent rages on (if it ever stopped), and with competition for the brightest and best candidates fiercer than ever, – as featured in my previous blog where I turned the spotlight on Internal Mobility – access to sourcing technology can be a key differentiator in terms of efficiency, reach and speed of hire. However, even at a time when experts are speculating that artificial intelligence could theoretically press the delete key on humanity, even the most advanced talent management technology platforms have some limitations to their capabilities.      

The human brain is capable of functionality that is beyond the understanding of the world’s most prominent experts in cognitive neuroscience, and we cannot replicate what we do not understand. Computers cannot (yet) see the context, connection and patterns that humans can, despite crunching vast amounts of data at speed. However, ‘machine learning’ – the AI algorithm that learns from data and improves over time – has made it possible for programmes to feign emotional intelligence.

The incredibly complex analytical capabilities of the next generation of talent management software means that automated screening processes go far beyond digitally ticking boxes on a shortlist index. Today’s sourcing intelligence uses big data to aggregate specialist skills and thinking to identify – and even engage with – key talent. These live talent pools ensure that candidate sourcing strategies are backed by insight, using advanced candidate relationship management technologies.

Automated searches are programmed to ensure that users are sourcing, and engaging with, candidates who are not only qualified but also interested and available – or QIA. These programmes predict availability and automatically engage with potential candidates to promote the company’s EVP and strengthen interest. Analytics can even determine traditionally ethereal qualities such as ‘passion for the brand’ or potential cultural fit – all without the need for human intervention. Despite the profuse capabilities of contemporary solutions however, technology cannot be revered as the ‘silver bullet’. There are still touchpoints at which the ‘human element’ remains vital.

When sourcing qualified and available candidates is automated, the battleground becomes EVP and ensuring interest. Cultivating relationships, particularly with passive candidates, requires a level of emotional aptitude beyond the remit of machines to successfully engage with this group. Even Google’s head of Artificial Intelligence, John Giannandrea, recently went on record to say that the “holy grail” of AI is a computer system with human-level intelligence, capable of understanding language and context.

Furthermore, although technology can take us so far in strategic workforce planning, ‘gut-feeling’ can take us over the finish line in terms of making a hire. Big data and machine learning may, for example, tell us that 98 per cent of candidates with certain profile markers will move on from an organisation within the year. However, you may have stumbled upon the one individual that does not conform to the data and who will provide substantial value to your business.       

Ultimately, while technology can be a great enabler in creating a solid shortlist that is firmly aligned with a role’s core competencies and a wider strategic workforce plan, there really is no substitute for human instinct when it comes to keeping key candidates warm or making a final decision.   

While we now have the capabilities to create a learning brain, we cannot create a heart and soul. And as any HR professional will know, it is the human element of the role that provides not only the most challenges and frustrations, but also the greatest rewards.  

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