How AI and smarter hiring can boost your business

Published · 7 min read

There are many topics worth discussion at the moment, from GDPR to data security, smarter hiring and beyond.

In this series of Facebook Live sessions, Sage CEO Stephen Kelly will be speaking with a number of the Sage Top 100 global business influencers and asking their opinions on subjects close to them.

Stephen met Steven John, number 45 on the Sage Top 100 list for 2017 and asked him his thoughts on AI and just how important he feels it is to get it right.

Stephen Kelly: “I’m really pleased to be engaging today with Steven John… an absolute expert in recruitment and people development.

“So, Steven, tell us a bit about what you’ve done. You’ve got a massive following, 18,000 followers on Twitter. You’re a renowned expert. Tell us a bit about that.”

Steven John: “Well, my background is technology and recruitment. As a lot of recruiters do, I kind of fell out of university with no real idea of a career path and landed in tech recruitment. I spent 13 years as a recruiter and then more recently had the opportunity to take my professional skills that I learned in recruitment and bring them into a business that’s using AI to help businesses make smarter hires.

“I’m a customer success manager for an AI business called PredictiveHire.

“In terms of what we do, we use predictive models to help businesses make smarter hires so they can identify who might be a better or more likely to be a better salesperson or deliver a better customer service experience to their customers.

“Whatever the metrics or the KPIs that their business is using to understand how its people are operating, our solution can help you understand, from the candidate market, who should we be spending our time with, who should the human beings within our talent team be spending time talking to.

“Because of the model, the algorithm has helped us sift through quiet a large number of candidates. I’m sure you guys get hundreds of thousands of candidates here. So how do we identify those shiny pins in the haystack? So that’s what our models do.”

Using smarter hiring to get the right people working for your business will be beneficial to all
Using smarter hiring to get the right people working for your business will be beneficial to all

Smarter hiring

SK: “Well, I think that’s brilliant, Steven. And obviously, kind of the relevance and gems of this Facebook Live session is to bring it down to all the entrepreneurs out there who are thinking about growing their business, living their dreams, pursuing their passions, and we all know the fuel of that is talented people.

“You mentioned artificial intelligence – AI, machine learning, predictive analytics aimed to make smarter hiring decisions that will really boost your business forward. What is your current experience of where we are on that journey?”

SJ: “I think a lot of businesses are ready. I think more businesses are ready than they probably realise. If I think about the numerous engagements that I’ve had with numbers of businesses, prospects and current clients, the things that strike me as quite interesting are the amount of data that businesses have.

“Surprisingly, some of the businesses who I would have thought would be incredibly data heavy, will have a lot of data on their people, haven’t been quite so. But the good news for those businesses and even the smaller businesses is that there are solutions available in the market that can help many companies get started on that journey.

“Sometimes I am surprised by how other businesses or some businesses invest their time, money and effort in technology solutions, in buildings, in lots of infrastructure and pieces of kit. But what they don’t necessarily do is invest as much money in their people.

“The encouraging thing is there are now lots of solutions available to businesses of all shapes and descriptions that will really help them start to make smarter decisions for their hiring processes.

“The people are the lifeline of the company. The cost of people is probably one of the most.”

SK: “It’s worth noting most of our customers who are in the services business, about 70% to 80% of their cost base is the people they hire and manage. And we believe in people science.

“So certainly, when they’re here, we want to be pretty scientific, but recruitment of them could be as scientific as that so we get the right person with the right skills, the right attitude, and the right competence to be successful.”

SJ: “Exactly, exactly.”

Steven John: "We need to understand that our data is a form of currency"
Steven John: “We need to understand that our data is a form of currency”

The power of data

SK: “There’s a lot of press on sort of scaremongering about personal data. And there’s a lot to be said for that, but where would you guide us in terms of the balance, because the power of data has never been stronger?”

SJ: “For me, data is effectively a form of currency. So we have to think about what we do with our data the same way that we think about what we do with our wallet, what we do with our pay cheques, where we leave our purse.

“So I think that mindset needs to really be driven through the psyche of us as the human race. We need to understand that our data is a form of currency. And if we do that, then we can have a relationship with businesses that is understood.

“I play Candy Crush on the Tube, the last couple of stops before I get off. So for me, I know that that’s collecting data on who I am, my personal email address and my friends, but that’s a transaction that I’m happy to make because they give me a free game that can while away two minute or five minutes. So I’m a willing partner with that organisation.

“The incoming GDPR regulations are great. We as a business welcome it and I really hope everyone that’s using automated decisions and algorithms, and machine learning really embraces these regulations.

“We, as human beings, we’re all fundamentally flawed, all of us. We’ve all got biases, both conscious and subconscious. So actually, if we can use AI smartly and correctly, it will help to start iron out some of our biases, our flaws, and it will really help us be more productive as people throughout all moments of our lives other than work.”

The ethics of code

SK: “I’m picking up all these great sort of soundbites. Data is currency. Data is business currency. And I think broadening that conversation into – we call it the ethics of code.

“Kriti Sharma, who’s led our artificial intelligence and machine learning division, has published the ethics of code. I think we’re calling out for companies like us in technology to take a greater responsibility so that this fourth industrial revolution is used correctly and responsibly.

“Any kind of views that us as an industry stepping into this, can make sure the power of this technology is exploited in the right way?”

SJ: “Yes. I mean I think it’s great that lots of businesses are getting involved in the use of AI, machine learning algorithms. I think it’s the future. You’re right, it’s the fourth industrial revolution.

“For me, if we can have solutions that will level that playing field so that whether someone’s older, younger, black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Sikh, whatever, whoever, and whatever packaging that person comes in, the use of technology, when used properly, with the correct data, will really create a level playing field for everybody.

“If they’re applying for this role in hospitality, or business services, or sales, the use of a well-constructed algorithm will really give everyone a level playing field by identifying the personality traits, the behavioural traits, and the personal information that people are willing to give to that organisation to help them find a better job.

“It’s very much about empowering candidates as well. I think that’s something else that we don’t necessarily think about… and that’s what AI will really help us do, bring advantages to everybody across the entire people spectrum.”

It's worth taking the time to get the right people for your business
It’s worth taking the time to get the right people for your business

Top tips for entrepreneurs

SK: “The really nice thing there, Steven, is we forget that recruitment is all about a matching of a candidate with a company. It’s not just competence. It’s about experience. It’s a lot of chemistry, culture and all those things. And I think technology can absolutely help do a much better job of matching.

“We’re doing this kind of top five tips, CEO tips for entrepreneurs. What would your top couple of tips be for CEOs of companies, especially related to the sort of people science space of recruitment to make sure they get rock stars in their company?”

SJ: “So top tips – get started with data.

“Data can take lots of different forms. I think a lot of people, when you say data to them, they assume that you mean a spreadsheet with 20,000 rows going back five years. But data is just the numbers. It’s the information. So start today and collect the most basic pieces of information.

“So even if you don’t have the budget to spend on an HR technology provider, collect that information because you will find, probably in time, there is a business that will help you make sense of that data and turn what you’ve collected into something meaningful.

“Have conversations with HR technology providers even if you’re not ready to buy so that you know where you could be or where you should be or where you want to be in the future.

“And I think the other thing is, for me, in the people spaces, don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s only by failing that we know we got something wrong so we can try something else.

“So invest time, money and effort into getting the right people and if it doesn’t work out, then learn from that experience and move on.

“And again, find the right HR technology provider that’s got a machine learning loop in their platform, and those failures will help you drive towards success in the future because when you feed that information back into the model, these hires worked, these ones not quite so much, and it will start learning more and more about your business.

“And ultimately, I see a good piece of HR technology, it’s like an unsalaried colleague that does the automation, the heavy lifting, the processes, and the selection, all of the things that our human brains do instinctively, but that doesn’t mean correctly. It will be able to go and find those people who will be much more likely to thrive and have a successful journey with our business.”

SK: “And if I’m here on the live broadcast today and I’m the CEO, and I’m thinking I need to call a recruitment consultant this afternoon, what would be the top question that that CEO should ask the recruitment consultant to be assured that they’re scientific and putting themselves in the CEO’s shoes and how can they help?”

SJ: “I think in terms of selecting a recruiter, really you’re probably looking at the efforts of the recruiter… from the use of technology, I mean it’s looking at the internal platforms that those recruitment agencies use.

“Do they use yesterday’s technology, word counts, CVs? I would be inclined to ask a recruiter: ‘Actually how much time do you spend looking at a CV versus talking to a person?’ Because a CV is a dated document that’s anything from a pack of lies to a complete work of fiction.”

SK: “I think the message, clearly, is artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics is ready for primetime. And in the most important aspect of hiring great rock stars, it can really help business get the right match and get the people that will power them ahead.

“So fantastic and some really good practical advice and tips on the sort of questions you should ask a recruiter.

“Thanks very much for you being with us today.”

SJ: “You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.”

What are your thoughts on the topics of AI and smarter hiring, which were discussed in this Facebook Live session? Let us know in the comments below.

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