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This post was originally published on LinkedIn

What a remarkable time we live in: self-driving cars that take you to work as you relax on a virtual beach with your VR headset, drones flying to your doorstep to deliver your groceries from Amazon, and robots co-writing the next big hit with famous pop artists. Technology is changing the world we live in, paving the way for positive disruption and seismic shifts in the way companies across different industries conduct business. One area that is clearly ripe for reinvention is the talent acquisition function.

As technology relentlessly moves forward, the talent acquisition function must transform to better support the job seeker and each business’s emerging needs for talented professionals. These employees must not only have the skills to do the job, but also be re-entering the workforce to develop the skills of the future. Technology implications around the world, and for people, are forcing us to rethink new organization structures, redesign new ways of working, and redefine strategies to attract talent.

This article expands on my previous commentary, 9 Ways IBM is Reinventing Talent Acquisition, through exploring the concept of upskilling the talent acquisition function and providing insight into the skills needed for 21st century recruiters to deliver the right solutions and outcomes to your organization.

A dynamic world requires dynamic tools and talent. Does your organization recognize the new ways talent can add value to your business? Are your recruiters modernized for the 21st century, equipped with the right skills and technology? 


Talent Acquisition’s shift to a “solutions & outcomes” function

During my 20 years in various talent and recruiting roles for brands like Microsoft, GE, and currently IBM, I have witnessed the talent function evolve multiple times in the way it finds talent and adds value to the business.

In the late 20th century, the talent industry was viewed as a staffing and recruitment function, bringing in candidates using the “post and pray” method where staffing managers simply posted jobs and waited for applicants to apply. In the early 2000s, the industry evolved to a talent acquisition model where recruiters used social networking to engage passive candidates and build relationships with talent networks.

Now, in 2018, the talent industry will undergo its biggest change to date, and the catalyst for this evolution will come from the AI and cognitive era. Talent acquisition has evolved from a “services as a cost” to a “services as an outcomes and product” based function. It is here where talent is found, assessed, engaged, and retained based on the adoption of AI, cognitive technology and formerly invisible data. This drives solutions for both businesses and candidates, ultimately leading to predictive recruiting and higher quality talent.

We are at an inflection point in the digital era where technology is allowing us to do things we never thought were possible in recruiting. These digital disruptors – artificial intelligence, machine learning, facial recognition, cognitive systems and compensation crowdsourcing – will advance 21st century recruiting and change how the talent function supports businesses, clients and candidates.


The skills and capabilities of the 21st century recruiter

The roles and responsibilities of recruiters are changing. Skills are converging. Recruiters have gone from administrators, sourcers, and consultants to digital and analytical sellers who feel comfortable and confident using new and emerging technology.

Augmented with predictive insights and on-the-go access to big data from AI, the 21st century recruiter brings a new set of skills and experiences to discovering top talent. Recruiters, finally, can be “talent influencers” and deliver solutions and outcomes to the business in faster and more impactful ways than ever before. 

Preparing an organization for this new era of recruiting begins with upskilling the talent acquisition function, defining the next generation skills, and asking questions like, what outcomes do we need to deliver to the business, and what outcomes do we need to attract the right talent? New technology like artificial intelligence, along with faster access to big data, not only give recruiters predictability on the quality, performance, and success of candidates, but also insight into where to recruit and how to nurture relationships that are personalized to the uniqueness of each individual candidate. By measuring key dimensions of a successful candidate profile, recruiters can curate a talent quotient of algorithms to measure new KPIs for the process of hiring talent.

Equipping a recruiter with AI and cognitive solutions enables them to:

  • Work faster, limit administrative tasks, and access larger pools of high quality candidates.
  • Make better predictions for performance success.
  • Have more capacity to focus on the core of recruiting: building and nurturing relationships and partnerships.

At IBM, we are upskilling our talent acquisition function through a mix of formal and informal learning using an Agile approach. We created an apprentice program, 1,000+ digital badges earned through online courses and mentorships, and digital credentials to unlock skills needed to become 21st century recruiters.

We identified new roles born from our talent acquisition transformation. Two of these new roles include:

Talent Influencers – This new generation of recruiters have a personal brand tied to domain and industry. They are talent’s choice within the market. They are business champions, sellers, consultants, networkers, and experts in the talent industry. They are digitally and socially eminent, using cutting edge platforms popular with candidates to attract top talent. They act as talent magnets where they’re able to seek out and attract candidates, while at the same time be found by high-quality talent.

Talent Scientists – These “data poets” integrate sourcing, IO psychology best practices, like evidence-based decision making, and technology to seamlessly analyze data, identify top talent and predict success – all in a way that appeals to candidates. In other words, they marry the science of data to the art of sourcing. This enables them to leverage big data and AI algorithms, providing them enhanced decision support to identify and attract the best talent from an ecosystem of data. This continually drives a successful hiring outcome with higher predictability.

Below are three examples of the new skills our 21st century recruiters leverage in their new roles:


#1 – Decision Support with AI

With the focus shifting from finding talent for open jobs to discovering talent who will be successful at a company, the candidate experience must be more personalized. Our recruiters use artificial intelligence to anticipate questions about the company, recommend jobs, and uncover opportunities from skill-matching. In the past, recruiters would look at candidate applications and contact them to assess if they had the skills for the job. Now, with AI, recruiters have better insight into which candidates will have performance success at an organization, and only need to decide how the candidate fits into the culture of the company.

21st century recruiters with this skill can also:

  • Leverage market expertise to identify, develop and acquire best in class talent.
  • Utilize market data analysis to predict and shape industry trends and build competitive advantage.
  • Engage and grow passive talent for current and future business demands.


#2 – Social Selling with Design Thinking

21st century recruiters must leverage their design thinking skills to visualize a candidate’s journey to attract them to a company. It’s not just about PowerPoint presentations that summarize the benefits of joining an organization. Equipped with skills to prototype and visualize the experience, recruiters can bring a company’s story to life. Having social selling and design thinking skills also empowers recruiters to treat candidates as customers and employees as recruiters. The idea of creating a recruiting-first culture at a company means crafting digital messages, mastering storytelling and creating engaging assets that employees can easily push out to their social networks to support the movement of continuous hiring. 

21st century recruiters with this skill can also:

  • Communicate effectively, focusing on the quality of the information to strengthen relationships, enhance clarity, engage and inspire.
  • Connect and forge networks, through traditional and non-traditional channels, internally and externally.
  • Pro-actively adopt modern platforms popular with candidates to engage with the talent pool.


#3 – Recruiting with Agile

Recruiters use Agile methodologies to drive focus on filling top priority requisitions with speed, while providing full transparency, accountability, and predictability. Recruiters can use their velocity of hire and burn down rates to predict the timing and method to fill open requisitions, as well which team members have the capacity to fill them. Agile-infused talent teams can get more done, faster, with increased predictability, to greatly enhance the quality of an organizations’ talent pool.

21st century recruiters with this skill can also:

  • Utilize data analysis techniques and technology to predict and influence.
  • Create new strategies and practices, and proactively look for innovative ideas and ways to improve.
  • Enable improvement and redefinition of innovation and user experience.


Setting up your talent acquisition organization for the future

I feel so fortunate to be a part of the team at IBM focused on bringing the best outcomes and solutions to the enterprise. We are applying that same focus to the talent function through enhancing domain expertise, transforming skills, creating a more personalized experience, adopting AI and cognitive solutions, and integrating Agile methodologies into recruiting. 

Out of this new way of thinking, our team at IBM co-created the concept of the 21st century recruiter and has begun transforming talent across all of IBM.

Some results we have seen so far include:

  • Established the key skills, capabilities and success profiles for next generation recruiters.
  • Upskilled 53% of the organization with the new skills identified in our 21st century recruiting model.
  • Created over 1,000 digital badges for new skills – Agile, design thinking, data analytics, and more – within talent acquisition.
  • Decreased the rate to fill an open requisition from 85 days to 45 days.

This is truly an amazing time. The speed of change has never been faster, and yet, it will never be this slow again. Now is the time to unlock the boundless possibilities of what the talent function can bring to businesses and candidates. The first step to prepare for this change is to invest and upskill the talent acquisition function to better prepare your organization for its larger talent transformation.

Although we’re only in the beginning stages of our journey, we have been experimenting, learning and having fun as we establish new ways to work within talent acquisition for the 21st century recruiter.

What are some skills do you think 21st century recruiting should have? Has your organization begun taking steps to innovate the talent acquisition function? I would love to hear your stories from your transformation journeys!

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