Every HR and TA leader is incorporating technology into their strategy, understanding the benefits of a tech-enabled hiring process. In fact, according to Aptitude Research’s recent study 44% of companies invested in new solutions in 2020. The rapidly advancing TA tech market offers a myriad of solutions to enhance the recruitment experience, including artificial intelligence, consolidated platforms, and unique point solutions. From removing bias in recruiting to creating an effective candidate journey, tech has the ability to help solve some of the problems you face every day.

Elaine Orler headshot

To get a better understanding of key developments in the TA tech market, Elaine Orler, Cielo Senior Vice President – Technology Consulting, shares some top talent acquisition technology trends to consider as you seek to advance your strategy and deliver value to your organization.

Talent Acquisition Tech Trends for 2021

Q: What are the HR tech priorities for 2021?

Elaine: There's a lot of ambiguity around what 2021 is going to bring, especially from an HR perspective. It has everything to do with COVID-19, the economy, and change. I think there will be continued consolidation in the technology space. We're starting to see more organizations gravitate toward a holistic approach, whether that be on their Human Capital Management system (HCM) or another platform. We will also continue to see organizations adopt technology to support the hybrid working environment. In general, we're going to continue to see technology at the forefront. We figured out in 2020 that people can learn technology quickly. Those that didn't have to normally for their job have now adopted technology to support how they do their work or where they do their work. This only leads us to more opportunities to better solution workforce technology as we go forward.

Q: What do you expect to see in terms of mergers and acquisitions?

Elaine: I think the larger companies are putting a lot of pieces together to make sure their all-in-one enterprise solutions are more effective. We're also going to see more acquisitions within the talent acquisition tech space. And I have also started to see more strategic partnerships as smaller players are coming up with ways to be a consolidated play or consolidated partner. Some are cross-selling, others are cross-sharing. There are a lot of point solutions out there that could benefit more from having a deeper relationship with a product that isn't a competitor but could leverage that customer base in that relationship going forward.

Technology Adoption & Candidate Experience

Q: What does the focus on technology like chatbots, RPA and AI, those that remove human interaction out of the recruitment process tell us about how companies are thinking about the end-user experience?

Elaine: It has a lot to do with the best-facilitated experience. How can we make sure that we're getting the most effective relationship established with those candidates through the use of technology? The candidate is the focus but the company gets benefits too. A bot is navigating the candidate to the application information they needed, to the careers page they’re looking for, it is facilitating their job search, their interview scheduling and so on. Organizations benefit by candidates having a positive tech-enabled personalized experience and they get efficiency and time savings on behalf of their TA team.

Q: Do candidates care about having more technology to enable their hiring process?

Elaine: There are still going to be candidates that are frustrated because they just want to get to a human being. We're creating a different experience to avoid having to connect with a human, but based on hiring volume and where a candidate is in the process – it may be the right answer. As you get further into the hiring process, there does need to be someone’s phone number to answer questions. If the candidate wants to, they should be able to talk to a person.

AI Matching & Its Impact on DE&I

Q: How does AI get smarter about matching candidates without introducing bias into the process?

Elaine: Al forms two categories: 1) The most generic of senses, the Robotic Process Automation, navigates through a series of questions and answers to take you to your destination. 2) Then there is an AI form of all the data collection and knowledge, the true intelligence piece, providing you intelligent results back.

Due to the young understanding of this technology, I don’t believe we are close to being able to stay free of bias when using AI matching. I think companies that are developing these products have the understanding that bias could be introduced and are looking for ways to mitigate it, but I don't know that we have a full grasp of what it might look like yet until there's enough data that we can analyze both ways. We should look to the world outside of the TA space to see where we are with sophistication and lack of bias. There are other products that don't relate to TA that are starting to solve for this a lot better. We're on the path, but we have a greater risk in 2021 of exposing the bias more.

Q: Because most of the data is historical right now, do we need to utilize data collection and analysis to get less bias?

Elaine: How we do bias becomes a behavior of doing the reverse, for example elevating diverse candidates over those that aren't diverse. Within that action, we are introducing a whole new bias to the process. Therefore, they're frontloading the slate with more diverse candidates. The pendulum swings as far to the other side as it can. Since we now have to hire diverse candidates, we have permission to exclude those that aren't. In the end, we need to make sure everybody has a fair and equitable chance at the opportunity. There are major risks with frontloading the slate with more diverse candidates. The need to be diverse and the value proposition to the business to do it are all the right things to focus on. However, the shortcuts that are capable of today are dangerous.

Q: How and who do you start a conversation with at an organization about bias in AI?

Elaine: My best word is agnostic. When it comes to talent – you can always present best and fair versus being tilted. It becomes a concept that you won't change the outcomes just because there's a different altered request. There is a lot to be said in staying true to who you are and staying true to what you believe the right values are. Companies will come back around to those pieces, and the more you can defend regularly that the value proposition is “let the results be what they are because a fair and consistent process was done.” If you tilt that pendulum just a little bit too far one way or another, you're biased. Your bias toward or biased against the goal is to stay down the middle, just be fair and consistent.

Platform vs. Best-of-Point Solutions

Q: There's always been this pendulum swing of the platform versus best-of-point solutions. Where is the pendulum right now?

Elaine: The pendulum is truly at both extremes and nowhere near the middle: we’re seeing either best-of-point solution bolt-ons and also consolidated platforms. It is polarized in my best description. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this polarized in the 20-plus years we’ve been doing this.

Q: There are HR platforms that dominated the marketplace and evaporated so much of the point solutions. Do you foresee something similar happening in the TA space?

Elaine: Every time a function of HR starts to say I'm part of sales and marketing and not core HR, it means more bots and more point solutions. In the realm of what's important from HR technology – payroll, performance, learning & development – talent acquisition doesn’t always fall at the top of the list. But much like sales and marketing don't have to use the same system, it's that flex between HR and TA where the evolution and the change are going to continue to happen. I still see point solutions being created, then being partnered, then being merged, then creating another platform, and then starting all over again.

Q: Are tech investments being made independently within the HR function?

Elaine: In many cases, the head of TA is making all of their own point solution decisions, then pushing for integrations into the bigger HR tech ecosystem. There are chief diversity officers that are making more decisions with talent acquisition, it’s a stronger partnership. Heads of diversity do care about the candidate experience and what's happening through that process and how the company is perceived. I see more and more of the buying committees where there are other HR stakeholders involved in the assessment and the decision that includes DE&I leadership, or HR business partners. They may not have direct responsibility for recruiting, but it does impact their teams or their strategy.