Keep up with the latest hiring trends!

The Latest Trends in TA Tech, with Jonathan Kestenbaum

Talent acquisition is constantly changing. What was once considered best practice is quickly overtaken by new ways of working, new strategies, new tools. Now, while all that innovation is ultimately great for the industry and will mean that candidates get a better experience dealing with a company, it can be hard to keep up. The game changers seem to be the technology solutions that ease the age old challenges. But how do you know where to turn? And how to keep up with the latest trends in TA tech?

We sat down with an expert in HR and Talent technology, Jonathan Kestenbaum, the Managing Director of Technology Strategy & Partnerships at AMS, to find out more. Jonathan shared his deep knowledge in this space chatting to us about: how to stay up to date on the latest trends in TA tech, what impact these trends might have on the industry, and how you can take advantage of these insights to get ahead of the game.

TA tech

In this episode:

  • Looking back at the tech that has changed TA.
  • What challenges is the industry looking to solve?
  • Volume recruiting tech vs. professional.
  • What does the future of TA tech look like?

Key takeaways:

1. The business problems that tech is trying to fix are still largely the same. Whether it’s finding a more diverse candidate pipeline, getting a quicker time-to-hire, or improving the quality of hire, the tech being developed is looking to solve these problems. Billions has been invested in this space, but there’s still plenty of room for more innovation.

2. The different personas of hiring make a one-size-fits-all approach to tech difficult. How we attract, engage, and hire an hourly worker compared to an executive requires different tools and processes. The same can be said for a contract worker vs. full-time. There is opportunity within all these brackets to create specific tech which is tailored to the persona. However, volume hiring is also starting to reflect professional hiring as more people want to be bought into a company’s ethos – and tech can let us do this at scale.

3. Tech alone can’t solve diversity issues. There has been huge movement in this space – there is software to hide gaps in employment, redact names, and change the language of job ads. But it all falls short when you get to the Hiring Manager. The next evolution in tech needs to centre on social accountability, like dashboards to show metrics around which groups in a company are hiring diverse talent.

Our guest’s final piece of advice:

We got two nuggets this week:

“Tech is only as good as the people and processes around it.”

and

“The line between success and failure is as thin and malleable as a spider’s web.”

 

Highlights:

  • [3.20] Introduction
  • [4.52] TA Tech Lab and the future with AMS
  • [7.31] Looking back, what trends from 5 years ago are mainstays now?
  • [14.10] What tech didn’t really take off?
  • [17.42] The core categories of TA tech
  • [21.12] Tech and the size of the organization
  • [25.50] Behavior of volume hiring reflecting professional hiring
  • [28.04] Tech and touch
  • [29.37] Emerging tech to look out for
  • [34.40] Tech and DEI initiatives
  • [39.22] What is the core tech stack of the modern TA leader
  • [45.13] The rise in transparency

Transcript:

Johnny Campbell:

Welcome, welcome, welcome. My name’s Johnny Campbell. I’m your host for the next 40, 45 minutes of episode 118 of the Shortlist. This week we’re coming live from Paris where we’re at Unleash, the conference about all things HR technology. I’ve been proud to be involved with Unleash for the last 12 years. Always a great event to see what vendors are out there talking about what tech, what thought leaders are speaking about, what topics to do with human resources, people, talent, talent acquisition, all of the above and more. And it’s a pleasure therefore to invite our guest today who’s been a go-to person for me around certainly talent and talent acquisition tech for the last few years. And if you know him, he’s probably your go-to person as well. Because that’s what we’re going to be talking about. The latest trends in TA Tech for today’s episode.

It’s kind of a funny time. Talent acquisition is constantly changing. 2022 is one of the craziest years for this, right? Starting with such demand, heading into recession and inflation, yet talent still is impossible to find out there, right? What was once best practice pre-pandemic has been overtaken by new ways of working, new strategies, new tools. All that innovation is great for the industry. It means hopefully candidates are getting a better deal and we’re more in tune with what they’re looking for. But with all this different tech, it’s hard for the TA and the talent folks to keep up. It’s hard for the candidates to keep up as well. What should you be focusing on?

If you’re looking at your TA organization, your team, thinking, you know what, at the end of the day I just want to find great talent, bring them into my organization and keep them. What tech should you be looking for? What’s happening? What’s worth looking at? What categories are out there? What are the up and coming vendors? What are people no longer using? What’s merging all this kind of stuff? And to help us make sense of it, I look to welcome an expert in HR and talent technology, Jonathan Kestenbaum, who is joining us from the East Coast of the US. Jonathan is the Managing Director of Technology Strategy & Partners at AMS or Alexander Mann Solutions as you might know them.

Jonathan’s going to be sharing with us today his deep knowledge in this space and talk to us about how he stays up to date with the latest trends and TA Tech and maybe how therefore you could do the same. What impact the trends are having on the industry, what challenges are being solved and how can we take advantage of these insights as leaders to get ahead of the game. Jonathan, it’s a pleasure to have you. People might notice that technically we’re not sitting in Paris right now. We’re prerecording this at a little bit early because we’re probably right now on the floor of Unleash in Paris walking around doing our thing or listening to a talk.

But tell me this, maybe you can in introduce yourself because for folks listening and hearing you for the first time, I think it’s interesting to know your background and where this knowledge and passion comes from, and then maybe what your role is today with Alexander Mann Solutions and why you have this, trust me, it is an expertise in this space.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Thanks for having me. Really excited to be here today. As you know I’m Jonathan Kestenbaum, I’m the Managing Director of Tech Strategy & Partners at AMS. I’ve spent my career evaluating talent technology. I’m actually a lawyer by education. I’m still a licensed attorney. I’ve been an entrepreneur in the HR technology space my whole career. Prior to joining AMS, I founded an organization called Talent Tech Labs. Many of you might know of Talent Tech Labs for the ecosystem infographic we used to publish with all of the talent acquisition technology tools and now Talent Tech Labs publishes a talent management version of that ecosystem. I’ve really been passionate about helping folks find the right job.

I think that talent acquisition, talent management, what’s more exciting than helping folks either find a company to go work for or within that company understand how they could grow, learn, and find the right opportunity.

Johnny Campbell:

I just want to clarify for listeners who are concerned or about to press pause on the podcast, Jonathan is not here to pitch you any talent technology! He’s not here to sell you anything because that is not what this is about – this is about independent advice and opinion on what’s happening. And you may disagree with this opinion, but trust me this, you will not be sold anything over the next 30 or 40 minutes! Jonathan, tell me this, right? First of all, you mentioned Talent Tech Labs that is my go place source for what’s happening in the TA Tech space. Should that still be my go-to source? Where else do you get your inspiration from? For our listeners and viewers, where do you suggest folks go to really understand what’s working, what tech they should be looking at and what’s not working?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Talent Tech Labs is still a great place to go learn about talent technology. We at AMS are actually launching a platform that we call AMS Verified. We’re actually launching at the conference in Paris, and ultimately we’re out in the market. If I learned anything over the last eight or so years that I’ve been evaluating talent technologies, it’s that the technology’s only as good as the people and process you build around it. And so what we’ve been able to do with all the clients that we’re working with at AMS, is start to gather intelligence on how these technologies are working in market really, not just what the technologies do but what they do well, what features are resonating, does it actually integrate with the solution.

And so we’ve built a marketplace called AMS Verified where we’re sharing information about vendors. In addition to Talent Tech Labs, you now have AMS Verified as a solution to start to learn more about talent technologies. I think some of these conferences are great, Unleash being one of them to go and learn and understand and identify new technologies. Where do I learn about technologies? I could tell you that not so long ago, maybe six, seven years ago, I would call vendors to learn more about what they were doing and they didn’t really know who I was or cared to share much information with me directly. What I started to do was write a lot about talent acquisition and talent management technologies.

The more I wrote and shared my thoughts on the market, the more folks started to come to me with more information and be more comfortable sharing information about their technologies. And so I’m now at a point where folks are coming to me with their technologies more than I’m identifying new ones out on the market.

Johnny Campbell:

Before I get into what’s trending today or what might trend tomorrow, let’s go back a bit. Can you look back at the last three, four years, what have been the trends? What are the common themes where let’s say we go back five years, hard for all to remember five years ago, what seemed novel, new, different, five years ago that’s becoming or has become mainstream and just most TA teams use or most folks have a budget item line for X type solution, that maybe wasn’t there 10 years ago? Go back out for the last few years, what has emerged as pretty much base standard not to consider terribly new or innovative anymore before we go into the what’s coming out or what’s trending now.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

It’s a really interesting question, and I think broadly speaking the business problems have been similar. Everyone has always wanted to solve, how do I get more diverse candidates into the pipeline? How do I get a quicker time to hire? How do I get a better quality hire? The technologies that have been able to facilitate that have changed over the years based on the new, I guess technological capability that exists out in the world to support these kinds of initiatives. Also the amount of capital that’s been invested in this space, there’s been billions of dollars invested in the HR space over the last five years, have allowed organizations to build new solutions to solve some of these broader challenges. I’ll never forget, maybe five years ago I pitched the concept of a candidate relationship management system, which made a lot of sense.

You need to engage. Recruitment is a specialized form of marketing. You need to engage candidates pre-apply and get them to fall in love with your brand. We brought the concept to a number of large enterprise organizations and those organizations all said, well, this sounds great, but I don’t have a budget for CRM. And so what the CRM companies did was they said, well do you have a budget for career site building? Of course the organization said yes. And so many of them started with a career site builder and then sold their way into a CRM functionality and now you don’t see an organization without a CRM budget. This has become commonplace. I think there are a number of reasons why different things have happened over the years and technology trends that have driven them.

Just to take a step back to go two steps forward, your applicant tracking system was the system of record, it’s still is the system of record. There wasn’t a lot of technology that’s set on top of that system, even technology platforms that’s set on top of that system seven years ago. Today you have a CRM, you have recruitment marketing platforms, you have matching technologies that integrate. I would say CRM being one of the new systems that now folks have budgets for. Matching is another one. I can’t tell you how many times matching is brought into a conversation over the last couple years. ATS would say, well we do matching.

It’s clear now that actually matching requires a whole different train of thinking than workflow engines. And so you’re starting to see independent matching technology systems. And so I’d say matching CRMs, those are two systems that have kind of came and established themselves in the space as we deserve to be here.

Johnny Campbell:

There’s been a lot of other sthat come to mind, recruiting CRMs was the one that I also thinking of, that was novel a few years ago. Now it’s like you got to have recruiting CRM, it doesn’t make sense not to have one. Video interviewing was a thing that was probably novel a few years ago. COVID made it essential for everybody. And it probably doesn’t exist as a standalone tool really anymore either. It’s to your point, it gets wrapped up in other stuff. So some of this stuff like recruiting CRM stayed standalone, became mainstream. Some stuff came along and it might have gone as a category but it still exists as a functionality of something else. Would that be fair to say?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Yeah. Yeah. And so there’s, broadly speaking another trend has been consolidation. We’ve seen significant consolidation in the space. The way that the system broadly speaking works is, if you’re going to raise venture capital money, you need to be able to validate a 250 million enterprise value to be able to get the returns that those investors want. And so there’s only certain places you can do that. If you look at the 22 or so categories of talent acquisition technology, there’s probably four or five categories where you can build a platform, work that capital. You either build a point solution that gets acquired by a larger platform or you build a point solution and then become a larger platform.

And so we’ve seen a lot of that over the years as these organizations have started to merge one area’s referral tools, those were point solutions and now you pretty much get that as functionality within the ATS or CRM these days. I think interestingly there’s also been point solutions that we all had a lot of excitement about and thought could make a meaningful impact and that in practice didn’t play out the way we thought they would. Two great examples. One would be recruiter marketplaces where you put a bounty on a job and recruiters can submit candidates against that bounty, in theory makes a lot of sense, in practice hard to fill roles that are generally going on to these platforms.

Recruiters that are working the night shift and getting half the fees and then a poor communication channel in the marketplace. And so while they can scale to a certain amount of revenue, they really don’t scale meaningfully beyond that. In a similar capacity share talent networks where you can share talent makes a lot of sense. I have a second, third, fourth place candidate that I vetted went through my whole process but I didn’t hire, can I share them with another company for credits to get access to their candidates? That didn’t really scale because the cost to scale that meaningfully was too expensive, because you have to really stay focused, hyper local. If I’m focusing on New York developers and I’m sharing those developers with other New York companies hiring developers, fine.

If I’m Deloitte and McDonald’s and we are in the same network and McDonald’s is looking for hourly workers and Deloitte’s looking for accountants, there’s no meaningful connection that’s going to be made there. Lots of lessons learned. I think also timing sometimes plays into these things. Now with remote work, maybe it’d be easier to scale or share talent network because doesn’t matter where you work, it’s one dynamic that’s less complicated. I definitely think it’s been interesting to watch these things evolve over time and see how they’ve been accepted. And again, I think sometimes it’s timing and interestingly just on that topic with shared talent networks, maybe now that the location isn’t such a dynamic, they’ll be easier to scale.

With recruiter marketplaces, maybe blockchain will help remove the transparency issue and maybe that will enable those to be more effective. To me it’s been a lot of fun to watch these different ideas come to market in some cases scale, in some cases fail, in some cases pivot.

Johnny Campbell:

You’ve reminded me about many years back how everything was a social media solution, had us post your jobs on Facebook was like a product you’d buy by itself and there were competitors and everyone was producing a version of that. You mentioned blockchain. I remember going to conferences five, six years ago and everyone’s talking about blockchain solutions for recruiting and that was build a product around blockchain as opposed to solve a problem. It’s kind of gone there. I love this idea that there could be 20, 30 categories, but really this four or five big ones. And I want to mention, a guest we had a few months ago, Yasar Ahmad from HelloFresh, he shared with us his team’s open source talent acquisition tech radar, which they borrowed from the tech team in Zalando who use a similar approach to the tech that they use across their business, where he categorized it in four categories.

I’m keen to understand the categories, the big four or five you use because they use in HelloFresh, one corner they’ve got CRM and project management tools. They put that as a kind of group a category. You’ve got your Greenhouse, you’ve got your Phenom, but you’ve also got things like Asana and Jira in terms of just generally how do you manage work, right? They’ve got automation tools. They’ve got recruiting automation, things like Hirevue, they put in Greenhouse IV tool, TextExpander, but also GoodTime, Vizag, InFlight, Pave, lots of different recruiting and non-recruiting tech tools. So automation second category.

They look at interviewing as a category. You’ve got things like Pymetrics, Codility, you’ve got HackerRank, you’ve got SocialTalent in there for the entry training we do at Harvard. But then you’ve got the fourth being talent intelligence tools. So LinkedIn Insights, LinkedIn Recruiter, Horsefly hire tool, Candid ID, Eightfold there rather than CRM, which confuses me. They’ve got these kind of four categories, talent intelligence, interviewing, automation and CRM. Do you have a different big four commonalities? Just to make sure the folks are really understanding what you might consider a core tech before we get into maybe emerging tech. What are your big four or five?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I package things up a little bit differently but I’d say it’s probably similar in nature. Look, you need a system of record, an applicant tracking system. In the contingent world you have a vendor management system. In freelance world you have a freelance management system. I think you’re going to have consolidation within that category of tracking systems. You’re already seeing that happen with Aperture building VMs functionality and Workday buying VNDLY for example. ATS is buying VMSs. I think that’s a category. I think in front of that, if you think about okay, someone applies to a job, they go to your ATS, well what happens before they apply to a job? Well they go into your system of engagement, your engagement system. And so I’d say that your CRM is the basis of your engagement system, but this has expanded beyond CRM these days.

And in some cases includes chat bot, in some cases includes referral tools. It’s all about how do you engage a candidate prior to them, text messaging is another one, prior to them applying for a job. And then I actually think there’s a system of record that sits in front of the CRM, which I’m calling a recruitment marketing platform, which essentially is a system, you’re a career site builder, you’re retargeting, remarketing system, programmatic advertising, how do you engage folks before they even share a form of PII with you, personal identifiable information? And so I think there are three main categories across source to hire there. I think there’s an opportunity to build an analytics, a robotic process automation system that sits across these, ties data together, tracks analytics across them.

I think there’s an opportunity you could create a talent intelligence layer, a matching technology that cuts across these systems, even goes into talent management and helps with upscaling. There’s one more which is assessments in behavioral skills video interviewing. And again, I think that while it could be a category that sits within the selection process, I do think it cuts across because you might want to start to use these assessments earlier in the process. Especially now that they’re mobile, they’re digital, you can collect information so much more quickly than you could before. I think they’ll be embedded earlier in the process than they are now and it’ll be cheaper to do it. I think that it cuts across the process.

Johnny Campbell:

One of the things that I always think about when you talk about those categories and the types of system, sometimes it’s overwhelming, other times it’s like, well, I’ve got more systems than that. And often it’s just to do with the size of the organization hiring. So if you’re an organization doing 500 hires a year, you have a handful of recruiters, you’re going to have a very different tech stack to an organization doing 50,000 hires a year. When you think of tech stacks and even you mentioned consolidation earlier on, is consolidation more for the larger players or actually is it more for the SMBs, the kind of small players as in small volume hiring a year? How do you think about tech when you think about size of organization and the volume of hiring they’re doing?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Yeah, really, really interesting question that I think opens up a lot of other angles here. First of all, we’re seeing a lot of consolidation in the enterprise technology space, but enterprise generally is more interested in buying a best in class solution in each of those areas rather than buying a suite that does everything okay. Where in SMB you’re generally finding suites that do everything okay, because you don’t need to have the level of permissions and functionality that you need at the enterprise level. I would argue that there is a ready more one size fits all organizations for small and medium size businesses than there are for enterprise companies. There’s a thousand examples within referral tools, the abilities you have to refer, all the different things you could do to reward people.

But I think the other layer is, I personally believe that there’s a more complicated dynamic here than just what size company a technology can support. I think we’ve already seen a bifurcation in technologies that focus on small to medium size businesses and enterprise companies. I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful bifurcation in companies that support different personas of hiring, and I think there’s a huge opportunity. What do I mean by that? The process through which an hourly worker looks for a job is very different than the process through which an executive looks for a job. The timing they have to find the job, the experience they need to have, the amount of selling that needs to be done in the organization, the engagement that they need to have with different folks within the company, very different.

The same thing would apply to contract workers versus full-time workers, professional hires. The same thing would apply, there’s other ways to cut that data. And so broadly speaking I think the large majority of the money that’s been invested over the years has been in professional hires and systems that support professional hires. I think that there’s a huge opportunity to build systems focused on some of these other personas. And you’re starting to see some of it with, AMS has identified this issue with some of our clients and so we launched a product called Hourly where essentially we hijack the apply button for hourly workers, because an hourly worker isn’t going to want to sign into an ATS, sign in to a CRM, fill out the application 10 times and then wait two weeks to hear back from their job. They’re working paycheck to paycheck. They want a job.

Where an executive might be willing to go through that process because they have different timetables and they need to be sold more on the opportunity potentially. And so we’re starting to get to a point where the technology has been focused on professional hires and now how can we build unique systems and is there a market to build unique systems for these different personas? I would argue that there is.

Johnny Campbell:

I was at a panel discussion this morning with a bunch of CPOs and CHROs and they were talking about how tight the top market is and the things they’re having to do to go to the market. My head going in tech, this is a 12, 15 year old problem. Tech hiring, engineering hiring, they first started seeing this 15 years ago and then we built solutions, they changed their whole culture and focus. It’s just that it’s finally got to healthcare workers, retail workers, blue collar factory workers, right? I see that certainly there was always a split. Folks would OPO part of their business, the corporate hiring OPO, the volume hiring or just different teams and they’d have different systems running it because they just saw it was very different. One was very focused on going out to the market, selling to the candidates, sourcing them, all these different things.

And the other was just about filtering and assessing and taking a big funnel and making it smaller. And what I’ve seen, and maybe you’ve seen something different or would agree or disagree with this, the behaviors of volume workers are looking more like the behaviors of professional workers. You’ve got to go after them more. You’ve got to sell to them more, chase them more. Do you agree the solution isn’t the same? Because the one on one solutions we had for professional hiring worked, right? The level of salary, the volume of the roles wasn’t quite there. When you’re hiring 100,000 workers a year on an hourly basis, you just can’t afford to have a recruiter sourcing a short list per job. It’s never going to happen. You have to come at it very differently. You have to think about scale.

So when you look at that, Jonathan, first of all, do you think that some of those behaviors are shifting towards volume markers? And what are you seeing as the differences in the technology? The difference in the approach now that call it volume, hourly, blue collar, retail type workers are beginning to behave more like the professional STEM workers were 10, 15 years ago.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I’m just going to answer the second question first, which is, I’ll give you an analogy. When we were bringing CRMs to enterprise organizations five, six years ago, the question was, well why can’t we use Salesforce? We have a CRM. Let’s use Salesforce for recruitment. And the answer was, well, does Salesforce integrate into your ATS? No. Is the process through which a candidate applies to your job the same as the process to which someone buys your product? No. In any area where there’s unique process and unique integrations, I think you can make a business case for a unique platform that is worth X amount in enterprise value. The second question. I definitely think you’re starting to see hourly workers not just want to, for example, be there transactionally. They want to be more bought into the culture, aligned with the ethos of the organization, have internal mobility opportunities.

We’re now at a point where we can learn from a lot of what’s worked in some of these other areas and apply them to some of these other personas. I think technology will enable us to do that at scale. Because one of the challenges is, and this is a question that people always think about, is, okay, well, is technology going to replace recruiting altogether? And the answer in my opinion is, no. This is going to be a combination of tech and touch. We’re always going to use technology, we’re always going to have people to operate these systems. The question is can technology make us more strategic? And I think that is the answer. I think if you look historically at any industry that’s been disrupted by technology, has created more jobs, not less jobs and elevated folks.

And so I think that technology will enable some of the recruiters to do the things that they do for professional hires at scale with, for example, hourly workers that they weren’t able to do before because they now have the resources to give them the time to do it.

Johnny Campbell:

When you go to the Unleash floor today, tomorrow, when we broadcast this will be today and tomorrow, or maybe looking back at HR Tech in Vegas last month, what category did you see or do you expect to see at Unleash that are, what we might call emerging categories that perhaps weren’t their pre pandemic but you’re seeing more of or expect to see more of over the next few years?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Actually I came across a really interesting company at the HR Tech conference and I believe they’re actually going to be at Unleash. There’s been a rise in matching, AI. Eight years ago every technology deck I looked at said big data. Four years ago every technology deck said AI. The challenge now is efficacy bias, compliance. New York is releasing a law where you have to basically disclose first of all that you’re using AI system to evaluate someone as they go through the process but disclose how the system works. These laws are going to get more complex and go global. And so I came across a company called Holistic AI that actually assesses AI technology for both compliance with local laws and bias. And they’re focusing on HR. I think you’ll see a rise in company sensitivity towards leveraging AI and also potentially the use of technology platforms like Holistic AI to assess. This is a new problem that’s evolved.

I think the other trend is you’re starting to see some of these systems focused on these personas as I described. There’s a new suite of technologies called direct sourcing technologies that you’re starting to see. Interestingly they made their way to the HR Tech conference because they’re moving from contract to perm, but direct sourcing is basically focused on contract workers and their systems focused specifically on helping hire contract workers at scale. And in some ways technology is commoditizing the staffing business and making the fees less. And so that’s another area of technology that I’ve seen evolve and there’s some interesting tools there.

Johnny Campbell:

Anything to do with remote working let’s say outside contracting which I think has certainly driven a lot more interest from remote working. Does that remote working flexibility model that’s really emerged strongly out of the pandemic, has that had any implications for the tech categories or the platforms or new vendors out there that you’ve seen?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to specifically the technologies that have emerged due to remote working. I would argue that if you tried to post a job on a job board during COVID, the pandemic, a remote job, some of these job boards models didn’t even allow you to post a remote job. There’s little changes that these systems have made. I have been taking a look at the new technologies that have emerged as a result. I think a lot of the work’s been done in account management tech with, because it’s all about how do you keep remote candidates, remote employees engaged more meaningfully when they’re not in your office. I’m still not sure if this is a temporary change, if this is an acceleration of what was going to happen or if things are going to go back to normal and people are going to go back to the office soon.

I think there’s just lots of complicated dynamics beyond just how people work best that might influence that. We have hundreds of hedge funds invested and private equity funds invested in commercial real estate that’s not being used and the pressures that governments are going to put on folks and companies to make folks go back to the office so that the economy doesn’t crash because of this. I think there’s other dynamics involved in the return. I haven’t seen anything meaningful within talent acquisition around remote hiring that caught my attention.

Johnny Campbell:

One of the big themes that a lot of CPOs, CHROs are speaking about in the last couple years is the ESG movements, right? And the focus by boards on ESG metrics. And I guess DEIs is a sub-component of that, one of the sub-components of that. And I’ve seen, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot more diversity tech. I saw a pitch this week from an organization that provides a marketplace for early in career undergraduates to connect with employers for internship opportunities. And the whole angle is we can find you diverse interns, which maybe four years ago they wouldn’t have the diverse part just it’s just a marketplace for talent. Sometimes it’s a pure tech and sometimes it’s standard tech, but with a bull down on that’s making it diversity focused.

Do you see a growth in that area? And if so, and even if not, do you see any other TA related tech that is going after that ESG challenge that the board level are trying to deal with?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I want to touch on the diversity thing because I think there has been movement in diversity a bit. Diversity has always been top of mind for every head of talent. And there’s been hundreds of technology solutions that have come to market to address different parts of that. Hiding gaps in employment, hiding names, removing all types of bias from the process, changing the text of the job description to better target the audiences you want to target. I’d say for the most part those have all failed to solve the problem of getting more diverse candidates into the organization. Why? Because it all falls short when you get to the hiring manager. And when you get to a hiring manager, no matter how many diverse candidates you put in front of them, if they’re not incentivized and many times legally they’re not able to be incentivized to hire diverse talent, it doesn’t work.

And so what we’ve seen recently is this rise of what I call social accountability. So creating dashboards to show which groups of the company are hiring diverse talent. And so you’re able to hold people socially accountable for the behaviors you want. I learned this the hard way. I was in a room of heads of talent many years ago and I said, look, basically if you think about, I didn’t say it in these words, but I guess it’s kind of what I meant, at the time it’s what I meant, which was like, hey, if you talk about diversity, if you think about diversity, if you tell people they got a higher diverse talent, they’ll do it. And the answer was they won’t do it. You have to create the incentives or the accountability for folks to drive the action you want out of people.

I think at the time I said, if you solve for cognitive diversity, everything will fall into place. And the room was like, no, it won’t fall into place and it won’t fall into place. You have to be thoughtful and purposeful. I think the same thing’s going to go for ESG. You can’t just talk about it, you can’t just say I want to do it. You have to build in the metrics and the incentives within the organization to drive the behavior that you want if you want it to happen.

Johnny Campbell:

We had a great bit of insight from Rick Kelley who’s the managing director of Meta Ireland who joins the podcast a few months ago. He also is the SVP of their global gaming business, Facebook’s global gaming business. And he talked about how he drove 50% gender diversity in his team in a gaming industry which is highly unusual and really high levels of ethnic diversity in the team. And again, what he talked about was rewards for behavior, because of course you can’t in most jurisdictions reward for the outcome because they’re not allowed and that stinks a quotas. But he said they outlined the behaviors they wanted to see leaders exhibit around hiring, promotion, et cetera. They measured those and was the outcome might be that you didn’t hire the diverse talent or don’t have as diverse a team as they’d like, if you displayed the behaviors, you got rewarded and acknowledged for that.

I totally agree with you that it’s complicated, it has to be intentional. There’s many aspects to cover. But let me just move because I’m very conscious of the time. I can’t believe we’ve running through so much time. I wanted to ask you another hours of questions, but let’s bring it down to the TA leader who’s out there. Looking at our budget for 2022, whether you’re a large or small, we can’t get into differences for everybody, what’s the core text that you think a modern TA leader should be investing in? What are the core things you should have in your tech stack and then what are the things that you would look out for? If folks are walking the floor in Paris this week or they’re planning to attend the conference or just meeting with a vendor or deciding which the emails to screen at.

Talk to me about the core stack that a modern TA leader needs, because I don’t think everybody fully knows what that is and has it, even though you and I might say this is core, not everyone does that. And then one of the emerging tech stack items that you think, hey, you should look at these vendors or if you get an email from someone doing this, you should probably have a look into it because it may maybe become important.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

At AMS we have an 800 person talent acquisition consulting firm and we do a lot of advisory work with heads of talent, CHROs on tech stack. I could tell you the one question I always get is, what’s the one technology that’s going to solve all my problems, go away? And the answer is, there isn’t one. The other side of it is, and I hate to be a consultant, is it depends on the type of organization you have, the technology stack that Disney should use because of the fact that they’re a consumer brand and they have more applicants likely for jobs than they do opportunities within the organization. Similar Nike, potentially, their focus is going to be more on matching, sorting through the noise, providing a good candidate experience for those folks, even if they don’t get the job.

Where a random bank in the middle of Idaho, despite their scale might have very different challenges because it’s not about matching through the noise, it’s about, how am I going to use a CRM to engage with candidates more meaningfully to get them to fall in love with my brand? Because we have an awesome brand or even an organization that is in Livermore, California, competing for talent against Facebook and Google but just isn’t Facebook or Google and doesn’t have the benefits that they have. I think, look, everyone needs an applicant tracking system. One of the trends within SaaS technologies has been open APIs. I think the more open your system the more meaningfully it integrates with other platforms is important.

I think a CRM is table stakes these days, engaging with talent. I think matching technologies would be another layer. Again, how heavy you lean on CRM versus matching depends on the industry that you’re in. I think there’s lots of opportunities to create more engaging career sites using video and embedding your employer brand more meaningfully into your hiring process. And again, depending on where you fall at that spectrum. And also it depends on where you are today, what system is your core system today? What gives us the universe of what we could build around it? And actually within AMS Verified, you have the ability to build your tech stack and see how you’re optimized for these different processes. So as a head of talent, not only can you search for verified talent technology, but you can build your tech stack and see how you’re optimized. And so we take things a couple steps further.

I think emerging is going to be, should I use specific systems for different personas? Should I use a special system for hourly? Should I use a special system for contract workers? I think you’re going to see consolidation in that area. Many of these ATSs and CRMs have gotten to a point of scale where they’re like, okay, we got this professional hired thing, now let’s focus on contract hires. Or we got this professional hired thing, now let’s focus on hourly. So you’re going to start to see consolidation here and folks building functionality with the awareness that, hey, it is more complex in those different areas. And so I’d say ATS, CRM, matching, recruitment marketing, another area where I think there’s a huge opportunity. And then analytics.

I still don’t believe there’s a fantastic analytics platform out in the market. As an organization we bring our own to our clients because we haven’t found one that we love enough that we can point our clients to. Despite all of the money that’s been invested, I would argue there’s still lots of opportunity to build new technology.

Johnny Campbell:

What about categories to watch for? Again, you mentioned a couple of interesting areas that you saw already, the analysis of bias on AI driven platforms and I love that, it’s quite Meta, you’re getting into the analysis of other HR tech as a HR tech platform. But anything else that’s kind of-

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I think direct sourcing is a new category. It’s kind of crossing the line between perm and contract, definitely an interesting area. There’s definitely a trend where you’re seeing talent acquisition and talent management merge more meaningfully together, and so you’re going to start to see all kinds of interesting things that come out of that.

Johnny Campbell:

On that last point, I see a bunch of, again, big box retailers for example, and food and beverage companies in the US likes of Walmart, even likes of Disney, hiring a lot of hourly workers who are using edge deployment techniques where they’re giving you your college degree or your high school diploma online for free to enable you to apply for jobs with them. And then when you join, they’ll also keep training you. Walmart have something like 155,000 people on these university programs completely for free who are employees. But you can actually apply for some of these programs before you even join. It’s that merging of talent, it’s creating talent pools so you can solve your TA problems.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

As we think about the technology drivers that drive new innovation, that allow for new systems to be built, one specifically the internet, broadly 5G, connecting folks together more meaningfully is creating a lot of transparency. That transparency is creating a lot more noise. Companies know more about candidates before they apply. Candidates know more about companies before they apply. It’s making it so that I believe the most important thing for organizations to do is to focus on building their relationship with prospects before they apply for jobs. It drives some of the things that you’re describing. What benefits can we provide to candidates that sit in a town pool? How can we build a relationship with them before they apply to a job? One, it will lower the cost of higher. Two, you’re building an advocate within the world of your organization. I think you’re going to see a lot more of that.

Johnny Campbell:

Jonathan, we’ve ran way over. There’s so much more we could have talked about. Let’s do so live in Unleash. And for those who are going to be attending Unleash in Paris this week, Jonathan will be roaming the floors, grab him, ask him his opinion. You’re going to love the answers and get tons of advice. Jonathan, before I let you go though, you’ve given us lots of great advice today. So I’m going to be greedy and ask for one piece more. We ask every guest in the show for one piece of advice to leave our audience with, whether it’s something that you’ve garnered through your own career and experience or something that was handed down to you by somebody else. What can you leave our audience with today?

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

I have two pieces. Could I give two pieces?

Johnny Campbell:

Of course you can. The more the merrier.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

One is tactical and specific to the recruitment space and one is just a piece of guiding advice that I’ve used in my life. So specific to recruitment, if I learned anything, analyzing the technologies that I have over the last eight to 10 years, is that technology is only as good as the people and process you build around it. So you have to focus on optimizing and changing your processes when you bring in these new technologies, you can’t just assume it’s going to fit in and work. That’s a tactical piece of device in the industry that I think is important to think about. A guiding principle for me, something that I live my life by is, the line between success and failure is as thin and malleable as a spiderweb. I really believe that Sometimes you’re pushing as hard as you can and that spiderweb is curved and you can’t understand why you haven’t crossed over that line. But it takes one next thing to do it.

And sometimes it’s just timing luck and everything works out and you cross the line. To me it’s just a really good way to live your life, is just keep focusing on crossing over that line and thinking about, okay, if I just do this one next thing, I’ll get there. And if you keep thinking like that, be it as a practitioner trying to solve business problems within your organization or a technology builder trying to figure out what feature you should build next to or just following up from a sales perspective, I think it’s good advice to live by.

Johnny Campbell:

That’s great advice, Jonathan. One of my favorite podcasters, Guy Raz, asks every guest, how much is hard work? How much is the luck? I think we underestimate just that thin, tiny slice between success and failure. And folks who have, air quotes, failed are just the folks who are on the slight wrong side of that spider web. But it could have been you. And likewise when you have failed, go back again because next time around odds are you could be the other side of that spider web. Jonathan, pleasure to have you here. Really hope you have a good Unleash this week. Look forward to catching up with you in-person and we’ll have you on again maybe to give a rundown of tech in the early new year to see what’s coming in 2023 and what you have your eye on. Thanks for joining me Jonathan.

Jonathan Kestenbaum:

Thanks for having me.

Johnny Campbell:

Pleasure. Thank you for joining us again, as always on the podcast, whether it’s on Apple, Spotify, wherever we get your podcasts or live listening on YouTube or LinkedIn, we always welcome you. We broadcast live every week, every Wednesday at 4:00 PM Irish time. It’s 11:00 AM the East Coast, 8:00 AM the West Coast in the US. Our podcast drops every Wednesday evening. Want to get more of it? Subscribe on Apple or Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts, or check in our back catalog of nearly 120 episodes. We’ve got tons of great content in there. We’ll be back next week, so be sure to join us. Put that bookmark in your calendar to join us live or make sure you’re checking out Wednesday night, Thursday morning, the latest podcast. Until then, take care.

The Shortlist is a workplace, thought-leader focused talkshow that broadcasts every Wednesday. You can watch it live on LinkedIn and on YouTube. Or, why not stream as a podcast after?

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