Friend, Foe, or Frenemy? The Impact of Emerging Technologies on Talent Acquisition

Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love that it enables quick access to information, allows for swift communication, and speeds along processes, but I hate that it sometimes feels difficult to keep up with all the changes. Like others who work in talent acquisition, I look with some trepidation at the emerging technologies that are about to take our business by storm.

Chatbots, automation tools, and an increasingly socially connected world are just the latest movements to change talent acquisition. The way I see it, these new technologies are either going to be our friends or our foes.

Or perhaps there is a third option.


Oracle's HR in 2017 report is one of many predicting that technology can make routine work a lot less painful. It cites one industry innovator who says that the prospect of robots taking over some of our work is less scary than the prospect that they won't. Translation: We will all finally be freed from repetitive, time-consuming, low-value tasks as automation becomes more widespread.

For instance, chatbots are on the rise. This form of truly "intelligent" and interactive artificial intelligence (AI) is capable of fielding and answering many questions. Chatbots are surfacing in a wide range of applications, including HR.

Imagine if a chatbot could answer routine questions like "How many paid days off do I have left this year?" or "Is Halloween a statutory holiday" (I think it should be!). Instead of fielding these repetitive and routine questions, HR pros could let chatbots handle them while dealing with more strategic issues that have a greater impact on business success.

Innovative technologies could also help make us more effective employees by delivering training and development platforms, according to CEB's Key Imperatives for HR in 2017 report. Employees now have access to customized training that is adapted to their needs, learning styles, and areas that have been identified for personal development. These training platforms can even eliminate the middleman: Rather than waiting for the corporate trainer to schedule a session, employees can access virtual trainers on demand. This empowers employees to take more control of their personal and professional development.

Oracle also predicts that AI could lead to less bias in hiring. For example, AI can parse resumes without injecting into the process the unconscious biases we may have against things like education, age, or previous employers. In this ways and many others, the rise of robots and other technology could, ironically, help us finally put people first.

Finally, there is a growing appetite for using technology to gather feedback from candidates and employees. My colleague at Alexander Mann Solutions, Laurie Padua, recently discussed this in a blog post for HRZone. Padua, who leads our technology and operations consulting team, sees how technology will soon allow real-time feedback to become a reality. By using this kind of data, companies can deliver more positive and engaging candidate experiences than ever before. We are already experimenting and have enjoyed early successes with AI and robotics to support our customers.

From creating actionable data based on employee surveys to advancing employee engagement initiatives and providing real-time feedback on every action taken by a worker, advanced technologies can serve as valuable tools to improve efficiency in HR processes from onboarding through to the exit interview.


The flipside of AI and other automated systems is that some jobs will likely be eliminated. The person who supports your corporate trainer with scheduling and logistics may find their role is made obsolete by tech that manages the administrative side of training. The same goes for the folks who field those routine HR questions I mentioned earlier. Just as the advances seen in the industrial and personal computing revolutions disrupted the careers of many, technology is about to have a major impact on our profession.

Evolving technologies – from social media to automated processes like those found in applicant tracking systems – have added complexity to the talent profession. Recruiters must now also be marketers and salespeople, promoting their roles and organizations across platforms and channels. Before, it was as "easy" (I know, it was never truly easy) as posting a role in the local newspaper or advertising on a job board and hoping for the best. Of course, this complexity is ultimately beneficial because it yields better, more targeted results and enables talent professionals to focus more of their time on value-added initiatives.

While technology may help combat unconscious bias, how will it handle the even more intangible facets of hiring, like assessing cultural fit or a person's work ethic? I agree with most observers who believe that some degree of human judgment will always remain necessary in recruiting. These emerging technologies aren't set to displace talent professionals anytime soon, if ever. So, while they may not be full-on enemies, we'll have to 'go along to get along.'

Which leads me to the third option.


You know that friend you love to hate? Or hate to love? Your "frenemy," so to speak. (By the way, they probably feel the same way about you. It's all about deciding how much you need each other – and what for.)

I predict this is actually the most likely outcome of all these emerging technologies. With the adoption of any new innovation comes disruption, and with disruption comes discomfort for those impacted by the change. But there are also strides forward – some good, some bad, but ultimately, not completely one or the other. The key is to be equal parts adaptable and selfish: understand that the change is here and figure out how it can make you a better performer.

As the Oracle report argues, it is unlikely that the widespread adoption of these technologies will be instantaneous. Rather, progress is much more likely to be cautious. Some early adopters – both companies and individuals – will figure it out and succeed, while others won't and will revert back to old processes until they're ready to dip their toes back in the water. Both will have to decide just how much risk they're willing and able to take.

I recommend you find a guide for the journey. In my personal life, it's my millennial son who urges me to try new apps and to experiment with different technologies, including my new Peloton bike. In my professional life, it is the innovation team at Alexander Mann Solutions. They are exploring, applying, and recommending these advancements in an effort to drive out waste, improve efficiency, and most importantly, free up HR professionals to focus on their strategic imperatives.

The key for the talent function in any business will be to prepare for this change with an open mind and to make sure each member of the team understands how they need to adjust to evolve and move forward.

Susan Cooksey is vice president, solution sales, at Alexander Mann Solutions.