The future can be a bit of a dirty word in recruitment and in many of the industries we serve. To many recruits – especially those in labour intensive industries – automation looms like a reaper.
But the future is coming, and logistics, mining, warehousing – everything will see more automation as time ticks on. Even in recruitment, AI has been improving our lives for years now. So, what does the future hold for work and industry in Australia?
smartAI co-founder and Onboarded founder Raj Soni has been working on the tech side of recruitment for over 20 years, and in general IT since the late 90’s. In 2015 he branched out on his own and has since founded three separate IT companies, ranging from IT consulting to smart AI solutions. We sat down with Raj to get to an expert’s opinion on where tech is leading us.
Where are we sitting technologically after the last 2 years?
Raj: “COVID has probably taken us 10-15 years ahead from a technological point of view. Negatives aside, the pandemic has forced everyone to move ahead, and instead of resisting technology, we’re planning and looking forward. During the pandemic, adoption of new systems and technologies had to happen overnight, and there’s no desire to go through that again”.
Are people afraid of the next big shift? Is there a level of prepping that you see companies doing?
Raj: “The tech transformation has been big – gone are the days where we can just rely on human capability. Whether it’s unforeseen influxes in volume, world events or simply the scale of work that industries are churning through right now, technology must be there. You’ll see people prepping their systems across the board regardless of COVID 2.0 because we’re reaching a limit on human productivity.”
We’ve worked with Raj and both his smartAI and Onboarded systems, but we had to ask ourselves when diving into the realm of automation and AI, how does this fit in with what we believe? If people and relationships are at the heart of everything we do, how can we justify automating certain aspects of recruitment?
Simply put, it’s about finding the right people quickly, matching people to places and being responsive and respectful to a large volume of applicants. That’s not an easy task when a human is responsible for 100% of the process.
How can AI and automation help us make people matter more?
Raj: “It’s a funny thing to talk about improving candidate’s experience and a personal touch, while putting machines in the middle. It’s actually a question we get a lot, but you have to look at the flip side of it. Candidates don’t need someone on the other end of the phone to ask them their screening questions, they need engagement at the right time. If you’ve applied for a job, you wouldn’t want to wait 2 to 3 days to hear whether you’re in or out. With smartAI if you’re not right you know right away.”
AI and automation fit naturally into structures such as recruitment by automating some of the more labour-intensive tasks. Raj describes these as high-volume tasks that, when automated, allow for a personal touch and frees a recruiter for more important, skill focused parts of their job.
Of course, this extends to workers across Australia, but speaking from a recruiter’s point of view, when a lot of the admin tasks are taken care of, we can focus on relationships and people. At Zoom Recruitment this takes many forms, but one of our most exciting is our completely inhouse call team. Without outsourcing like many other companies in the world, we enable a level of personal care that both clients and candidates appreciate, and we’re able to do it because every person at Zoom are able to upskill beyond admin and CV sorting.
This outcome goes on to illustrate what an increasingly automated world could look like, with Raj and many others insisting that technology will simply change the type of jobs we have, rather than replace us.
Everyone talks about upskilling – what does this actually mean?
Raj: “Talking from a recruitment perspective – If you think about what a recruiters’ job is, they’re really good at interviewing people, digging deep and finding the right person for the right job. If you ask a recruiter what their day consists of, they mostly talk about admin, CVs, systems, and other tasks that drain their day. When you take away the admin and allow them to upskill, the opportunities for engagement, the quality of work, it all rises.”
Should we be afraid of losing our autonomy in an increasingly automated world?
Raj: “When uranium was found, and they learned to split the atom, it was intended to generate energy. We turned it into a bomb. In the same sense, it’s not technology or progress that should be feared, but we should be wary about what humans use technology for. I’m an optimist and can see a bright future with AI.
We’re only at a very basic level of AI and automation, where could this path lead us?
Raj: “I wouldn’t be surprised if within the next five years, we’ll see the training and inductions in VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), with people working on engines and machines and simulations, getting trained remotely and efficiently. I wouldn’t even be surprised if people are doing it in Nathan’s office while applying for a job”.
Raj paints an optimistic picture of the future, and he should, as one of the minds responsible for shaping it. All we know for now is standing still is rarely an option for humans, so we’ll keep moving forward and aspire for a better, more productive, yet more purposeful future.