Optimizing Tech and Data to Recruit Top Candidates

BY Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 20, 2024

With every new wave of tech, there comes the fear that it will make some workers obsolete, but when it comes to artificial intelligence eclipsing recruiters, they needn’t worry, said Steve Bartel, CEO and co-founder of AI-powered recruiting platform Gem. “AI is nowhere close to completely replacing jobs. I think for a long time, maybe forever, AI is going to be more of a co-pilot. My read is that AI is going to really speed us up.”

Bartel, whom I spoke to during a From Day One webinar on how employers are using the latest in AI to make hiring more effective and efficient, says there are two reasons AI will help rather than hinder talent acquisition.

First, companies are drowning in applications. “Thirty percent of our customers are seeing 1,000-plus applicants for a [single] job,” he said. Second, at the same time applications are flowing in by the thousands, talent acquisition teams are being asked to do more with less. “They’re being asked to backfill tons of critical roles. As hiring starts to pick up, a lot of recruiting teams are left under-resourced and under-budgeted.”

For overloaded teams, well-deployed AI can be like a rocket booster for recruiting programs, letting humans do what they do best. Artificial intelligence will automate the most manual and painfully tedious parts of the job: for instance, writing the first draft of an outreach email and even personalizing that copy. It can conceive and deliver candidate nurture campaigns that support long-term client relationships. But it can’t fly alone, nor should it. Ultimately, only people can recruit employees into companies.

“A lot of us got into recruiting because we really care about bringing great people into the organization, we really care about forging amazing relationships with candidates,” he said. “AI is not going to be able to replace the human touch. In fact, it’s going to free us up to provide a better candidate experience.”

Journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza interviewed Steve Bartel of Gem during the From Day One webinar about recruiting top candidates (photo by From Day One)

According to Gem’s own research, 73% of companies today are exploring investment in AI for recruitment automation. A few years ago, the share of employers with such plans was a fraction of that. Directives are coming down from the C-suite, and the imperative is to start using AI–but many still aren’t clear on the use cases or where it’s most beneficial.

At the mercy of vague orders, talent acquisition teams are moving quickly to comply, and they risk making mistakes. The first mistake Bartel sees is not fully vetting a vendor or tech platform; one way to do that is to look under the hood at the information feeding it and the tech powering it.

“A lot of AI demos really well, but when you actually use it in practice, that’s where you run into making pretty silly mistakes, quite honestly,” Bartel said. “Try to run a real trial based on your own data and use cases. Talk to customers to validate that it actually works once you deploy.”

A good recruiting platform also works with your current tech stack. If it doesn’t, recruiters risk cold-contacting current candidates, recent event attendees, or runners-up for interviews. You may end up spamming your existing talent pool, and ultimately damaging your employer brand.

Further, some platforms may be running on outdated information. “A lot of vendors are still on these legacy AI stacks that they’ve invested 10 years into building, but that are suddenly obsolete,” he said.

But recruiters don’t have the time to be bogged down with stale information. “My number-one theory continues to be that recruiting teams are being asked to do more with less and that they’re overworked,” said Bartel. Tech should take a load off the shoulders of recruiting teams. The standard is now a customer-grade candidate experience, and unless talent acquisition is given the room to provide it, recruiting will suffer.

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Gem, for sponsoring this webinar. 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.


The No-Cost Solution to an Expensive Problem: Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is too expensive for businesses not to find alternative solutions. The Society of Human Resources Management reported that it costs up to 9 months worth of an employee's salary to replace and train someone who leaves their position. On a broader scope, it’s a prevalent issue causing businesses to lose a trillion dollars yearly according to Gallup.R.W. Holleman, director of strategic accounts at DailyPay, cautions that employee turnover is equally detrimental to a company’s financial stability and employees' successful workplace engagement. “The cost of employee turnover is not just a concern for HR departments,” Holleman said in a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s Dallas conference. “It’s a substantial burden on the financial health of the company, impacting the productivity of every single employee.” How can businesses stop spending more money, plunging deeper into debt, and begin reducing employee turnover? Holleman highlights a key employee benefit that addresses the leading cause of workers leaving their positions and offers a direct solution. Earned Wage Access: Solving Financial Burden Financial hardship is the leading cause of stress. In 2020, Purdue University cited survey results from CreditWise, revealing that people experienced more stress and anxiety over finances than work.. However, bonuses and pay increases aren’t an immediate solution for businesses nor employees. Businesses taking out more loans increases financial burdens and does not solve the core of the economic hardships of employees: the need for quick pay. Without access to quicker pay, workers must look for other side hustles and careers that provide same-day access to the money they need. “It’s not necessarily how much they have or how much they’ve earned. It’s about the access to the funds when you need it the most,” Holleman said.R.W. Holleman of DailyPay led the thought leadership spotlight in Dallas “The American worker is being challenged like never before to pay those bills on time. They don’t wait. They’re bouncing from job to job. They’re taking on gig jobs.”The solution is to provide Earned Wage Access (EWA), where employees access their pay as they earn it. EWA does not require taking out loans and is not an advance. It is money employees have already earned, making it a cost-effective solution for businesses and an inclusive benefit for all employees. An impressive 95% of DailyPay clients who previously relied on payday loans reduced their use or stopped altogether, and 97% of clients experienced less overdrafting, saving more than $600 yearly, according to research done by DailyPay. Other notable statistics include reducing turnover by up to 73% and 73% of participants citing they feel more confident managing their finances overall.An Empathetic Solution “Think of a time [when] you were at a grocery store. Have you ever had your card decline?” Holleman asked. “We’re managers, directors, VPs, executives–we got our life going and figured it out. But what about others,” he said, citing other life stages like college, where financial security is less common. The strain on all resources when organizations have to replace employees is apparent: advertising, reviewing applications, interviewing, recruiting, onboarding, and training costs money and time. Consequently, the employee workload increases with a loss of expertise from occupied managers, risking customer relations and creating an environment of uncertainty among teams. EWA exemplifies a win-win situation: it provides financial wellness that sustains employees, helping them stay committed and engaged in their current positions instead of taking more sick days or switching to gig jobs entirely for quicker pay. EWA saves businesses from spending around $45,000 to hire and train a replacement for a previous employee making $60,000 yearly.“It empowers them and provides them the flexibility they need over their finances. So they can bring the best version of themselves to work. And in turn, it can help your company be the best version it needs to be.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, DailyPay, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | June 11, 2024

Excellence in Hiring: Designing the Optimal Frontline Employee Selection Process

If a job application takes more than 15 minutes to complete, more than 70% of job seekers say they’ll bounce, according to a 2022 survey reported in HR Dive. This barrier is particularly germane to companies that employ frontline workers, often working against a narrow time-to-hire. Those recruiters have to scale operations quickly, efficiently, and often with little notice. Time matters, and even a small amount of friction can be enough to convince a job seeker to look elsewhere.“Going from three business days down to a one-second communication timeframe was huge for us,” said Carlie Lockey, the founder and CEO of Remarkable People Solutions, a recruitment firm based in coastal North Carolina. Lockey’s business had reached a tipping point: she needed to scale operations quickly, but couldn’t forfeit speed or efficiency. She shared what she learned from the process during a recent From Day One webinar on the optimal employee-selection process for frontline workers.What was she looking for? First, a high degree of automation–Lockey’s staff needs to stay nimble. Second, a high degree of customization–all her clients deploy different recruiting processes. “We needed something that would take a lot of the mindless work off of our hands, provide the best applicant experience, as well as serve each of our clients individually,” she said.Communication, and the speed of communication, was also high on the list for Remarkable People Solutions. The company needed to get its clients communicating with applicants immediately and provide consistent updates on their position in the process.She chose Fountain, a platform for frontline workforce management. It used to take the firm five business days just to notify applicants that they weren’t being sent to the next round. After adopting the platform, Remarkable People Solutions was able to invite top candidates to schedule a phone interview within an hour of applying. As Lockey put it, “the maximum amount of time is saved.”Carlie Lockey of Remarkable People Solutions and Nico Roberts of Fountain were interviewed by Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza during From Day One's webinar (photo by From Day One)Fountain was engineered to be flexible, said the company’s chief business officer Nico Roberts. “We made a decision really early on to allow a ton of customization, so [clients] can hone in on the exact flow that they’re looking for, the experience that they want to tailor, and the target applicant they’re trying to find.”There’s also the matter of bottlenecks that inevitably arise in recruitment cycles, those impediments that prompt so many applicants to abandon the process.Roberts likes to look for opportunities to grease the wheels, breaking it down “day to day, season to season, position to position, state by state, and city by city.” At other times, it’s worth slowing things down. “There might be some markets where you’re getting so many applicants that you want to figure out where the quality is and have those applicants rise to the top,” he said.One way to speed things up is to incorporate text messaging into the application and recruitment process. Roberts said 85–87% of applications that Fountain handles come in via text message or mobile device. The rest are email. “Our number one request is to add more WhatsApp capabilities, so that’s coming soon, and we’re currently building Facebook Messenger capabilities,” he said.It’s not only popular among young workers. Before Covid arrived, Roberts said, text message application users were usually aged 18–40, but that’s changed. There’s no single demographic over-indexing for their text messaging tools. He credits the popularity of delivery apps during lockdowns. “A lot of [people] had to download apps to get groceries and became very proficient on mobile devices.”The trend indicates a frontline worker on the go. “They don’t want to sit in front of a laptop or wait until they get home for a desktop. They want instant communication,” Roberts said. “These folks are applying on lunch breaks or after work. They’re tired, most likely they’re frustrated.  There’s a reason they need another job or a second job or a fourth job. The more barriers you can remove, the bigger success you’ll have with hiring these folks.”Another barrier often overlooked? Talent acquisition isn’t always available when applicants have questions. Fountain has been developing AI bots that keep the recruiting engine running even when recruiters have clocked out for the day. “More than 60% of all applicant questions happen in non-business hours, and [applicants] typically have to wait for recruiters to log back in to help answer,” said Roberts. “But if you have an FAQ bot trained, they can start answering in real time, whether it’s 10 o’clock at night or one o’clock in the morning.”But for every click tech feature one could add to their recruiting cycle, it’s worth asking whether  it should be added. If it isn’t a reflection of your employer brand, skip it or tailor it to suit your employer identity.“The folks that are crushing it have an authentic side,” said Roberts. Where there’s opportunity to connect more personally with applicants–like by sliding in videos of current employees giving advice to prospective workers–employers should do it where it feels natural and true to their brand.“The authenticity piece I think is most crucial, whether you’re scaling up or not,” Lockey said. “If you’re just trying to hire warm bodies–that’s not authentic. You want to hire people for a purpose, to be on a team and make an impact both on your team members’ lives and your clients.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Fountain, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 05, 2024

How Investing in Employee Experience Brings a Positive Return

With all the employee-experience software options to choose from, the idea of choosing one to incorporate into your HR structure can be daunting. And in times of tightening budgets, it can be challenging to make the case for the spending. But according to a recent study by employee experience platform WorkTango, organizations that invest in employee-experience software see a 2-to-3 times return on the money they put into it.The study surveyed 1,077 North American HR leaders, 90% of whom said that knowing which employees are engaged is especially important in an uncertain economic climate. An interested and enthused workforce is a loyal, steady workforce and employee experience (EX) software can help HR managers keep a finger on the pulse of workers’ attitudes, needs, and desires.As WorkTango states in its recent report, “EX investments represent a low risk and high potential reward when it comes to creating an employee experience that connects your workforce across hybrid environments, supports the daily efforts of individual employees, and enables every team member to perform at their highest level.” Ninety-three percent of those surveyed achieved a positive or neutral ROI from investing in EX software.Finding the Right SoftwareAmong the several types of EX software on the market, each has its own unique offering to complement your organization’s long- and short-term strategies and goals. Among those surveyed, 70% prioritized software that helped with performance management, 67% wanted employee recognition and rewards, and 56% needed support with employee listening and surveys.Some employees respond better to certain interactions with organizational leadership than others. WorkTango recommends surveying team members to see what matters most to them, from public recognition to company swag, and then choosing software accordingly. Ideally, you should identify a solution provider that offers several capabilities within a single platform for maximum ROI.Click above to view and download WorkTango's reportAs you make your software selection, WorkTango suggests focusing on the three deciding factors listed as most important among those surveyed: reporting and analytics capabilities, ease of use, and cost. That said, researchers noticed that among the few companies that reported neutral or negative benefits reaped from employee experience software, all named cost as their top deciding factor. It’s important to invest in a quality product, and not just check a box while watching the budget.The ROI on Employee Experience InvestmentsWhat do employers hope to achieve with their investment in employee experience technology? It’s not just about saving money or making the HR department more efficient, although those are certainly added benefits. The focus for many organizations is the return on individual people. The top areas of expected ROI among those surveyed were an increase in employee productivity or performance, an increase in employee retention, and an increase in customer satisfaction.According to WorkTango’s report, it takes time, as well as employee adoption and utilization, to produce positive outcomes. You may not see results overnight, as the employee-experience technology implementation requires a gradual culture shift. Seventy percent of the HR leaders surveyed said that their executive team expects to hear about the impact of these investments within the first six months.It’s important for HR to align on executive expectations for key updates and have a conversation about the timeframe for implementation and what is realistic and measurable. HR leaders should be prepared to report on three key areas: people ROI (employee engagement and regrettable turnover), company ROI (customer satisfaction and performance/productivity), and HR’s ROI (cost savings and team efficiency).The real ROI results are clear: EX software is the smart, meaningful, and financially savvy choice. Out of the 1,077 organizations surveyed who invested in this technology:65% achieved higher employee productivity and performance 58% improved employee retention54% increased customer satisfaction33% saved on costs compared to their previous efforts32% saw a higher employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), meaning employees are more likely to recommend the company31% reduced the total HR time spent administering employee-experience programs31% saw reduced absenteeism17% saw an increase in Glassdoor ratings16% saw an increase in company stock performanceBest Practices for Achieving ROIA few trends popped up among those surveyed who had success with their employee-experience software. These organizations prioritized data-based measurement of the program’s impact over anecdotal evidence, setting specific goals and then measuring against those goals over time to demonstrate value.They also aligned early with executive leadership on what success for EX investments should look like, whether that’s an increase in productivity, retention, customer satisfaction, referrals, positive brand awareness, or a combination of all those factors. And finally, these organizations encouraged and incentivized employee experience platform adoption.The more the platform is successfully used, the higher the ROI.Frequent employee recognition and engagement was positively correlated to company performance, with those surveyed seeing an increase in quarterly revenue. WorkTango’s ROI report states that “supporting employees by investing in the employee experience leads to what we call the compound interest of a great team member: they stick around longer (retention), they produce at a higher level (performance), and as a bonus, they tell others about what a great company they work for.” By investing in the happiness of their employees, leaders are investing in the success, growth, and longevity of the organization.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, WorkTango, for sponsoring this sponsor spotlight. Download WorkTango’s ROI report here.Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on CBS New York, Cheddar News, and iWomanTV.

Katie Chambers | June 04, 2024