This was the headline of a New York Times article published in late June: “Can an Algorithm Hire Better Than a Human?” It got the attention of many in the staffing and recruiting industry.
However, the story is not a new one—“synthetic
validity” has been characterized as the Holy Grail of
business academics for more than 50 years.
Google, for example, has long been using
Consider the Disruptive Results
metadata and algorithms as part of its employee
selection and development processes. Prasad Setty,
who heads Google’s “people analytics” group, has
said: “Our mission is to have all people decisions be
informed by data.”
What is new and what could be alarming for
some, according to the Times article, is the growing
number of start-up companies that are developing
new ways to automate and improve talent sourc-
ing, screening, and hiring processes. What do you
think? Is this an opportunity to leverage technological
innovation? Or is this a serious disruptive threat to
staffing, recruiting, and workforce solutions firms?
Before anyone gets too angst-ridden, it’s important
to consider all of the technological innovation that
companies like CareerBuilder and Monster have
brought to the staffing and recruiting space over
the past decade. In addition to being disruptors of
traditional classified advertising, these companies
were also once viewed as staffing industry disrupters.
As it turns out, they were—but in beneficial ways.
Both of these ASA corporate partners have helped
develop innovative and more efficient ways to source
and screen talent. And both continue to develop
and incorporate new algorithm technologies into
their client solutions.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Chris-
tensen, who literally wrote the book on disruptive
innovation, says the innovator’s dilemma is choos-
ing between holding onto an existing market by
doing the same thing a bit better, or capturing
new markets by embracing new technologies and
adopting new business models.
Disruptive innovation is, of course, about new
things taking hold in the market and displacing
once dominant ones. Classic examples of disruptive
innovators include Google, Amazon, i Tunes, Skype,
Netflix, Twitter, and Uber.
Expect Even More Disruption
Many believe the mother of all disruptors is just
around the corner. The predictions are that advances
in artificial intelligence and robotics could result
in the elimination of 30% of current jobs over the
next 10 years, and 45% of current jobs by 2035.
However, in a recent podcast hosted by Stephen
Dubner—co-author of best-selling business book
Freakonomics—MIT economist David Autor
asserted that widespread disruptive automation
isn’t necessarily bad. Note that 40% of the American workforce was involved in farming at the turn
of the 20th century; today it’s just 2%. Meanwhile,
countless millions of new jobs have been created by
a disruptive technology platform that’s only about
20 years old—the internet.
Dubner, the opening keynote speaker at Staffing World® this year, contends that succeeding in
today’s business world requires unconventional
ways of thinking (a.k.a., thinking like a freak)
and problem-solving. It requires letting go of the
artificial limits that hold us back—and the fear of
admitting what we don’t know.
I am firmly in the anti-Luddite camp of those
who believe that embracing innovation and leveraging disruptive technology will result in the creation
of more and better jobs and will enable the staffing
and recruiting industry to create and provide more
effective total talent supply chain solutions.
We’ll see if Dubner says that’s thinking like a
result in the creation
of more and better
jobs and will enable
the staffing and
to create and provide
more effective total
talent supply chain
The Voice of Staffing
By Richard Wahlquist, President and CEO
Freaking Out About Disruptive Innovation