Polymaths Will Become the Next Leaders in TA & HR


My impressions from SmartRecruiters HiringSuccess 19 event in SF

What makes HiringSuccess 19 different from other conferences I’ve been to is that it’s all about practicality and usability. No one talked high level, no one talked theory. All the speakers shared their daily experiences and their know-how.

One thing is evident (to me, at least…) – The People Executives who will lead us into the challenges of this ever evolving future of work are polymaths. By that I mean, individuals who have a wide range of expertise and experience, not necessarily in and from the HR industry. Those leaders have a very wide range of tools in their tool box. They are strategic, yet people-centric, data-driven and are ready to innovate and re-invent. They are very aware of the changing environments and are constantly working to adapt. Such leaders are Maia Josebachvili, Head of People @Stripe, Beth Steinberg, Chief People Person @Zenefits and Kelly Rew-Porter, Senior Vice President People Services @Equinox Fitness, who took part in the panel “Inside the mind of today’s chief people officer”.

“…Polymaths possess something that monomaths do not. Time and again, innovations come from a fresh eye or from another discipline. Most scientists devote their careers to solving the everyday problems in their specialism. Everyone knows what they are and it takes ingenuity and perseverance to crack them. But breakthroughs—the sort of idea that opens up whole sets of new problems—often come from other fields….”
Edward Carr

Bill Boorman came up with a brilliant idea for a debate – A team of 4 HR professionals versus a team of HR Tech reps ((Actiview (VR solutions), Pymetrics (neuroscience games) and David Bernard, AssesFirst (Personality assessments) ). The discussion re-asserted the fact that the dialogue between HR Tech and HRs still has a long way to go. Both are simply speaking different languages. I am still not sure what or how will connect the two…. The conversation was more about what is happening NOW, is what we are seeing AI or is this machine learning. While this is very important and valid to talk about, I believe the state of narrow AI today cannot be taken out of context. We don’t get angry with children who cannot think like adults, but we know that one day they will become adults. Same with AI. This is a JOURNEY. We are witnessing stage 1 of the “modern AI”. HRs were caught up in issues such as “candidates won’t want to talk to a bot”, “nothing can be better than my gut feeling” etc. Some applications can already prove ROI. Some apps can already share with you, as an HR, data you are not able to process as a person and insights you were not aware of.
This conversation needs to take CENTER STAGE in more ways than one.
Perhaps this urgency is only in my mind?….It was definitely not echoed in the “corridors” of this event. It was just another topic, was not given center stage, as I believe it should have. Recruiting and HR automation is happening. If you will not be prepared as an HR leader, you will have to deal with a team that is not ready for the challenges the future is bringing. There is no question about it and awareness today, also of what there is out there, is extremely low.

Inclusion & Diversity was the topic that ruled the conference.
Everyone is talking about it, everyone seems to be doing it (or at least, trying to..).
However, it saddens me that it seems as if “Inclusion & Diversity” has become a “2019 trend”, when it should become an irrefutable common practice.
Regardless of what may become “diversity fatigue”, I am adamant there could never be too much talk about this topic and we should definitely seize this precious moment of AWARENESS and milk it to the maximum.

In another session, Steven Davis from Broadridge shared that he took out the quantitative elements out of his recruiters compensation structure, as he wanted the recruiters to focus less on the numbers and more on the human side and act more as an advisor than a transactor. What a bold decision! He was honest to point out the upsides and downsides of that decision. To clarify, they measure TTF, diversity fills, diverse slates (and look for correlation), avg no. of candidates presented, internal mobility and more.

So “recruiting for culture fit” is no longer what we are doing… We are now recruiting for candidates who are willing to commit themselves to company values…Basically, when you really think about it, if you recruit for culture fit, you can’t comply with Inclusion & Diversity, if that is your goal (and it should be…).

I was also happy to find out that “inner mobility” is finally getting the attention it deserves. There is so much more awareness to that as well, followed by a sense of satisfaction by both the rec team and the employees.

The lack of candidates in specific industries and the war on talent has brought on the practice of recruiting employees that don’t necessarily fit the exact JD. “Find those who are not far off and coachable. They are not less talented, but differently talented”. Yes! That was always my rule when I did my sourcing.
Opposing this practice is the fact that nowadays time spent in the company shortens, so companies are looking to hire those employees that will become productive ASAP….
Who said this would be easy?…
Which brings up the topic of retention….

Kelly Kew-Porter from Equinox delivered an engaging presentation on how Equinox’s brand experience brings all talent acquisition and retention together. Their mantra is ” In everything we do, we create the possibility for people to maximize the potential within themselves”.  Their values are clearly expressed. Result: Retention numbers going up.

The information shared on the panel discussing their personal experiences and insights on integrating technology in TA and HR, I will share, in whole, on a seperate post 😊

Kudos to Optimizely for coming up with a great idea to boost the SR platform – Professional managers who are becoming bottlenecks in the recruitment process will be able to have a quick look at their “notification center”, sort of speak, and see immediately what kind of actions the recruiters are waiting for them to perform. While all the other ideas in the hackathon were great, this one stood out and the 4 judges, Tim Prohn from KellyOCG, Steve Fogarty from Twitter, Hung Lee from Workshape.io and myself decided unanimously, this was a great idea and addressing a real pain.
Congrats to Candidate ID, winner in the startup category – Yet another prize for this amazing startup all about innovating talent pipelines. Try it!!

In conclusion, this event mirrored very well what’s going on today in People Management, for better and worse. I believe we need to step up the conversation on learning and the level of understanding on how to deal with the upcoming gap of skills. Y’all have a good grip on people matters and on what it means to be human in HR. It’s time to start having more fierce discussions on how to get ready for an era of humans and machines working side by side, without being apologetic about it.

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