Ironman or Terminator?

Sinead Hourigan, President of RCSA and Queensland Director with Robert Walters.

It’s no secret that top performing recruitment and staffing professionals of the future will strive to continuously innovate and embrace technology, in order to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in their service delivery for clients and candidates alike. There is a constant flow of information out there about how artificial intelligence and digital disruption are going to automate so many jobs thereby making many positions that currently exist redundant.  

This type of wholesale societal change is not new. It has been happening for many years now; in fact since the onset of the industrial revolution when mankind really started to understand our capability to harness energy for our own material welfare.

The recruitment and staffing sector seems to be undergoing our very own ‘industrial revolution’ at the moment and it’s important that we spend some time reflecting on the elements of our roles that are well suited to automation and those that will continue to require that human intermediary. With such a large focus on the need to enhance our technological transformation as an industry, there is a real risk that we may lose sight of the very reason both our clients and candidates need us.  

What seems to be missing from many of the discussions about the future of our sector is the growing importance of continuing to focus on building our interpersonal skills as the need for human interaction continues to grow as quickly as the technology in our digitised society. Technology and building stronger interpersonal skills are two core areas that need to go hand-in-hand, it’s no longer an and/or situation. 

In my day-to-day discussions with clients, candidates, consultants and leaders at all levels of the supply chain, there has become a voice growing louder in our society which argues that our focus should not just be on the tech, the development of which is inevitable, but more on the development of people and their capacity to interact meaningfully with one another. Only by developing this capacity will a recruiter and the company they work for be truly sustainable into the future.

In a recent industry presentation, executive coach, author and RCSA PEARL Mentor Dave Clare, posed the question: Should we fear technology replacing humans in business or embrace it and empower humans for more meaningful work? 

“There are two schools of thought,” he said. “Is technology allowing us to become Ironman, or are we allowing technology to become Terminators?

“Ironman fundamentally is just a suit of technology…Tony Stark is a human powered by technology. Terminators on the other hand… are technology that seek to eliminate the need for humans altogether.

“Do you want to wipe out the humanity, the soul of your business? Use technology to terminate humans?

“[Or] do you want to unleash the soul and humanity of your business? Use technology to empower and increase the capacity of humans?”

Clare explains that in the case of Ironman, Tony Stark is just a man who is able to leverage the technology around him “to do critical thinking with more accessible data and allows him to make smarter and faster decisions for the greater good”.

I believe it is imperative that we NEVER lose sight of the fact that a good recruiter will use the technology available to become a better human intermediary and we must never lose sight of the specific role our industry plays in the supply chain. No doubt technology will continue to change the way we work, but we have the choice to either allow the transformation to be driven by technology or be driven by our engagement with technology to allow precious time in our daily interactions for more meaningful and deeper relationships with all of our critical stakeholders.

Recruiters of the future will need to be career counsellors, advisors, coaches and negotiators. 

And to be all of these roles, and more, we need to think more like Ironman where he leverages technology to make him a better and more effective human – a super human in fact.  I for one am looking forward to the opportunity to testing my superhuman recruitment skills, but I guess first I had better build the suit!

 

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