Recruiting and retaining the right talent is crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage in business. As with most processes during the pandemic, companies have had to adapt their recruitment procedures and to use the tools available to keep their recruitment on track.
Before the arrival of Covid-19, the main recruitment trend was a move towards high volume recruit via digital means. The pandemic has accelerated this and, according to Max Armbruster, Founder and CEO of Talkpush, call centers and BPO companies have been building up towards hiring most of their volume completely online for the past few years.
“This was considered not to be feasible for some countries that had low internet penetration, like Guatemala, El Salvador, and even Jamaica. Before the pandemic in those markets, most activity would still happen face to face, at events, recruitment centers and career fairs,” he says. Many BPOs would set up shop in retail locations that had high traffic and high footfall figures. Another significant channel was employee referrals.
An Accelerated Shift to Digital
High-volume employers in the retail, BPO, and staffing industries were already moving towards digital channels before the pandemic struck. But digital channels were adding only an additional two or three percent to total hire figures each year. During 2020, things really picked up; they had to. Some companies went from 20% online hires to 90% in the course of one year. “This trend is almost irreversible. In comparison to traditional talent acquisition strategies, the cost per hire is significantly lower for digital, once you have figured out how to deal with really large volumes,” Armbruster explains. “The ability to scale up from 100 candidates to 1,000 quickly and easily is important when pivoting towards a completely online candidate journey.”
The challenge lies in delivering a good candidate experience at scale. This means responding to people fast and not keeping the best candidates waiting. Armbruster says that in an increasingly competitive recruitment marketplace being able to snatch up the best candidate before a competitor is crucial. “An immediate response, whether positive or negative, can help candidates have a better experience and move on if needed. Automation helps companies respond to people faster, increasing your conversion rates; it is a magic bullet that will help you recruit the best candidates first,” he says.
Much of the focus on the use of automation in BPO is centered on maximizing budgets. While this is a benefit of digital recruitment and automation, it isn’t the core advantage according to Armbruster. He says good recruitment is candidate centric: the major benefit is being able to offer a quality experience and positioning yourself as an employer of choice.
Human-Centric Automation: Because Nobody Wants to be Hired by a Bot
Conversational AI technology came of age in the last five years and is now able to handle 95% of candidate inquiries coming in. “We process 10 million conversations a year right now and the number is growing. Having an AI that learns means that every time a candidate asks a question that the bots do not recognize or cannot understand, it is logged, so that the next time they can recognize it better,” says Armbruster.
While AI is key to directing traffic better, the combination of using recruiters with automated workflows designed by those same recruiters delivers the best results. There are assisted parts of the candidate journey, where human intervention from the recruiter is necessary, and unassisted parts, where the candidate is processed automatically. For those portions, the recruiters are generally the designer of the experience, so in both cases their input is critical.
“Recruitment solutions that allow the seamless handover from bot to human are crucial to a successful automation deployment,” Armbuster explains. “In this way companies can offer the high touch approach of a human interaction, while the automation can handle high-volume, standardized processes in real time, powering recruitments through the most aggressive hiring ramp-ups, which are very common in this industry.”
Recruitment and HR solutions using conversational agents are likely to evolve to address other aspects of the process going forward, whether for data collection, candidate onboarding and document checking, or more sophisticated deployments in career counseling. While the pandemic has certainly accelerated the move to digital, the post-Covid-19 world is unlikely to regress to conventional recruitment approaches. More companies will soon embrace what automation has to offer this dynamic field.