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Ep 381: People First Automation


Recruiting automation via conversational AI is proving to be an effective way to help solve some of the unique challenges in today’s talent markets. But how are employers actually using it, what benefits are they getting, and how do they manage the balance between humans and machines.

My guest this week is Victor Gaines, Senior Vice President, Talent Acquisition at Aveanna Healthcare. Aveanna has been using automation technology to vastly increase efficiencies in its recruiting process. Victor has some exceptional advice and insights to share on choosing and implementing technology, as well as some fascinating thoughts around the future of recruiting.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Talent acquisition challenges in the home care market

• Working at scale when speed is a critical issue

• The role of technology in creating internal and external efficiencies

• Building an engaging candidate experience with automation

• Being people first

• Balancing technology and humans

• Advice to TA leaders on evaluating and buying technology

• What to look for in vendor partners

• Screening people in rather than ruling them out

• The future of recruiting

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Interview Transcript

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Intro (51s):
There’s been more of scientific discovery, more of technical advancement and material progress in your lifetime and mine and in all the ages of history.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 5s):
Hi everyone. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 381 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Recruiting automation via conversational AI is proving to be an effective way to help solve some of the unique challenges in today’s talent markets. But how are employers actually using it? What benefits are they getting? And how do they manage the balance between humans and machines? My guest this week is Victor Gains, Senior Vice President, Talent Acquisition at Aveanna Healthcare. Aveanna has been using automation technology to vastly increase efficiencies in their recruiting process.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 46s):
Victor has some exceptional advice and insights to share on choosing and implementing technology, as well as some fascinating thoughts around the future of recruiting.

Matt Alder (1m 57s):
Hi Victor, and welcome to the podcast.

Victor Gaines (1m 60s):
Thank you. Honored to be here.

Matt Alder (2m 2s):
And absolute polite to you to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Victor Gaines (2m 7s):
Yeah, of course. So, my name is Victor Gains. I’m currently the Senior Vice President of recruiting at a company called Aveanna Health Care. I’ve been here for about two years now. I guess, generally speaking for what it’s worth, I’ve been recruiting for a long time. And have had some really cool opportunities to lead recruiting and sometimes even talent management at companies like McKesson, Bio-Serv, and Comcast prior to coming here. And then just to give a little bit of context for what Aveanna is because most people haven’t heard of it. So, Aveanna was formed about four and a half years ago through the merger of two existing pediatric home care companies.

Victor Gaines (2m 51s):
And so, at this point, we think of ourselves as a diversified home care platform. And we specialize in providing skilled and unskilled care to a wide spectrum of patients from pediatric to senior patients. And we provide that care in their homes. Right now, we provide care to about 45,000 patients across 30 states.

Matt Alder (3m 15s):
Now, I can imagine the last sort of 18 months to two years, it’s probably been particularly challenging in your market. Tell us a little bit about the recruiting challenges that you’ve been facing in the last year or so.

Victor Gaines (3m 30s):
Yeah. You know, like so many companies, I think our biggest challenge right now is that the supply doesn’t meet our demand, right? So, my teams hire about 10,000 caregivers annually across the US. And, you know, it’s challenging is that is, I think we probably gladly hire two times that number, right. If the market could supply it. And probably being honest, if we could absorb it into our existing processes in terms of hiring, and credentialing, and onboarding, and scheduling those caregivers. We’re also impacted by what’s being referred to as the great resignation.

Victor Gaines (4m 13s):
So, we’re seeing a lot of turnover both in our clinical population and in what we call our operations population, which are the folks who help us sort of run that business and make sure that caregivers are scheduled with patients. I think the last thing that we’re experiencing, and especially as a result of COVID in the past 18 months is the sheer of competitiveness of nurse hiring. I mean, it’s been wildly competitive as long as I’ve been doing it. But COVID really turned the dial up to 11 on that competitiveness. So, you know, you’re looking at things like hourly pay, and sign on bonuses, and relocation offerings, and you have health care facilities offering.

Victor Gaines (5m 4s):
We call wartime differentials for like COVID units and high-risk areas, and everybody is offering new perks. And it just makes it increasingly difficult for us to compete for top talent. And really being able to do that and maintaining the margins that any business needs to be able to operate. So, yes, the past 18 months have been quite challenging for us and probably for the home care space in general. Probably for healthcare overall.

Matt Alder (5m 33s):
And I would imagine that you probably working at scale very, very, very quickly. Is speed an issue for you?

Victor Gaines (5m 42s):
Yes. Speed is an issue. You know, the caregivers because of the competitive market, they have a lot of opportunities that are coming at them. They almost don’t even have to go out necessarily. And look, they’re just, you know, landing in their laps. And so, you know, the first person in and the first person to the finish line is going to win. So, speed is critical. Speed is paramount. And when you’re hiring caregivers, it’s the speed of getting folks through that application process. It’s the speed of getting them through that traditional candidate evaluation assessment selection decision process. And you have this credentialing body of work that you have to do, where you have to verify licenses, and clinical caregiving skills, and reference checks, and all these other different sorts of things.

Victor Gaines (6m 28s):
And so, there are a lot of factors that essentially conspired to slow down the process when the speed of that process is absolutely critical.

Matt Alder (6m 39s):
And I know that you’ve been using technology to help deal with some of these challenges. I mean, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it? And what the sort of outcomes have been?

Victor Gaines (6m 48s):
Yeah. You know, so we look at that market. Some of the things that we were just talking about, right, and trying to extract the maximum amount of talent from a very tight market. You know, we have to look at ways to create efficiency. So, we started looking at technology to create these incredible efficiencies, both internally, like within the recruiting teams and within the business, and externally to help us do exactly that extract more clinical talent from the market faster and with less wasted effort. So, you know, we looked at technologies. You know, one of my favorite technologies is Paradox.

Victor Gaines (7m 28s):
And we’ve implemented a number of their modules into our process kind of from beginning to end, really. But I was looking at some metrics probably late last week, and we realized that the business segments where we’ve introduced some of this automation, right. And then, so we introduced automation and we then, we kind of powered it on the backend with centralized support or sort of a standardized support model. By the way, you would probably think that a centralized support model would be a given, but not always in this industry. In this industry, you have a lot of people who to think, you know, they know how to run recruiting, even though they’re not in recruiting.

Victor Gaines (8m 12s):
And the idea of this of, you know, call all hands-on deck, right all the time has really great appeal in this industry. But at any rate in those businesses where we’ve implemented the technology suite and our full support, we have actually doubled our efficiency. And we anticipated improvements right across a number of different metrics. But we were absolutely blown away to realize that the efficiency had fully doubled in that space.

Matt Alder (8m 42s):
Talk us through the experience for candidates. How does that work with the automation that you’ve put in?

Victor Gaines (8m 55s):
So, there’s been a couple of different tools. Since like that the, I guess at a high level, what we’re seeing and where these changes and these technologies are positively impacting the candidates is, you know, we’re now able to screen faster, right? So, resumes come in, they get automatically evaluated. We have chat box that can engage with them. We can accelerate that top talent to the front of the line and automatically scheduled those folks to have conversations with recruiters for example. We have reduced our reliance on slow and unsophisticated selection methodology.

Victor Gaines (9m 36s):
So, you know, another example is we went sort of from a pen and paper test to a digital knowledge assessment. We can move folks through the process with less reliance on long, boring, repetitive interviews. We feel like our hiring decisions at the end of the day, because now they’re backed by a little more than sort of, you know, gut feeling. We feel like those decisions are valid and reliable. We’re hiring faster. And I think for the candidates, you know, they have a vastly improved experience because they can go from expressing interest in a job to having a conversation, regardless of whether that’s what the person or a chat bot within a matter of minutes.

Victor Gaines (10m 28s):
And they’re getting hired and credentialed in, you know, let’s call it 50% less time, which means they can get out and start delivering the care. That’s what they’re here to do, right? And they can start getting paid faster. So, get a tremendous benefits all around by inserting technologies and a technology stack in the right place, or in the right places in the hiring process.

Matt Alder (10m 52s):
One of the debates that we’ve been having as an industry is this kind of balance between technology and automation, and humans doing recruiting. And I think that, you know, you’ve put really, really clearly there the strong benefits for candidates in terms of speeding up the process, and everything that comes out of that. Having done that, I mean, what’s your sort of view on the human versus automation when it comes to recruiting and talent acquisition?

Victor Gaines (11m 21s):
So, we’re recruiting, right? We are a People First function. And as much as we appreciate technology, I think, you know, as a function, probably as a society, right, we still love and value our interactions with people. And, you know, I think I’m . I think it’s entirely possible to implement a process that could probably take you in to end without having to actually interface with anybody. But I don’t see us being at that point anytime soon. It, well, maybe to be fair. I think at least for a number of professions, and nurses, and caregivers, I think are probably, in my mind, I would advance to the top of that list because they do what they do especially in our space with what we call a servant heart.

Victor Gaines (12m 9s):
And they dedicate their lives to caring for people in need. And I don’t know that they would be entirely comfortable making a life altering decision, like, you know, “Should I accept this job?” without having some meaningful human interaction and conversation. So, I think what we’re doing in our philosophy around the technology is we’re using it to fast forward to the good part of that process, right. Which is again, where we can sit down and have a conversation about the job responsibilities, about a day in the life on the job, about the environment or the ecosystem, about what an offer looks like and what an offer might mean for them.

Victor Gaines (12m 56s):
So, I don’t think the technology can eliminate. I don’t even think there’s any risk of it eliminating that human interaction if somebody was concerned that that could happen. But I do like the way you said it, because it has to be a balance. I think, again, use it to speed up the process and then interject that human experience at the right time to drive for the right outcomes for everybody who’s involved in that process.

Matt Alder (13m 22s):
There are a lot of employers out there who are looking at technology at the moment as a way of solving recruiting challenges. You know, whether that’s speeding up the process, or making it more efficient, or improving communication, whatever it might be. As an organization who’s sort of successfully been through this process recently, what would your advice be to the TA leaders who are listening in terms of evaluating technology, working out? What kind of technology they need? Where it should fit? Getting stakeholder buy-in? All those kinds of things. What would your advice be?

Victor Gaines (14m 1s):
You know, you have to advocate for process. You have to advocate for what you know is right in the recruiting process. I think a lot of organizations, whether intentionally or not, will exert pressure on the recruiting team and on the recruiting process to make it operate in a way that makes it perhaps easier, or maybe the word is more convenient for the organization. So, for example, an organization will always be willing to insert additional steps in the process, additional documents in the process, additional interviews in the process.

Victor Gaines (14m 43s):
When maybe those particular steps don’t add to the efficiency. So, I say to advocate for efficiency and embrace the resources that can help you achieve it. And technology is certainly one of those resources, right? I think about calls that I’ve had, I mean, as recently as last night. I think that the market is absolutely teaming with solutions. Some of them great, some of them may be not so great. And if your experiences like mine, each of those solution providers are teaming with resources who are hungry to sell those solutions to you. And I think it can be overwhelming, right?

Victor Gaines (15m 25s):
You know, I could probably pull up my voicemail now and try to count how many voicemails I have. Pull up LinkedIn to see, how many messages I have.? Pull up my work email and see, how many emails I have? And how many of those have been filtered to spam already, right? And I think that’s a lot for somebody to try to filter through when you’re trying to make a decision about what can help. And I think it’s important that you find a trusted resource who can help you to navigate the market, and identify the most appropriate solutions so that you don’t have to go out and test drive every single product. Because you wouldn’t have any hours left in the day.

Victor Gaines (16m 7s):
So again, you know, be confident in driving for process efficiency. Be comfortable with the fact that technology can help you do it. And then find a resource who can help make you comfortable with the amount of technology that’s in the market, so that you can land on the right stack to support your business in a way that is not disruptive to day-to-day business operations, and is not disruptive to the candidate experience.

Matt Alder (16m 34s):
You obviously mentioned there the amount of vendors in the market, and just generally the amount of noise that’s happening around recruitment, and HR technology at the moment. What do you look for in a technology partner in terms of what are the sort of the key things that you look for that mean they’re going to be, you’re going to work well together?

Victor Gaines (16m 58s):
Yeah. I think the technology partner that is becomes into the conversation and doesn’t want to convince you that they are a hundred percent confident that their solution can work for you. Right? And this has been sort of a newer learning for me being in the home care space, because it’s so unique versus other spaces that I’ve been involved in, even compared to other healthcare spaces. And some solutions just simply cannot work, or wouldn’t be right here. And so, I think having a vendor who understands, “Hey, we might not know what you do. But tell us what you do, and let us consult with you and help you make a decision.” I think a vendor who’s comfortable saying, “Hey, we might not be right for you.”, is a very positive sign and a very mature way of thinking about it from a provider perspective.

Victor Gaines (17m 52s):
And I think a provider who is investing significant dollars in R&D, and sometimes you find those, in my opinion, you find those providers is sometimes the smaller companies who haven’t been picked up by a bigger company, or haven’t been acquired by a bigger company, or maybe even haven’t been picked up by a VC firm where they’re still trying to figure out how to create the most exciting technology possible, the most disruptive technology possible. And I think finally, you as an individual probably have to go into it saying, one solution might not be my solution for a lifetime, right. It might be a little bit like I’m a car guy compare a lot of things to cars in that experience, but it might be akin to leasing a car where you go out, and you get your technology for a couple of years.

Victor Gaines (18m 41s):
A couple of years down the road, a smaller company might have a new agenda. They might be in the middle of being acquired. You know, who knows what’s going on. They might’ve fallen behind the market. And it’s okay at the end of that point to go look at other vendors, right, and push your existing provider to say, “Hey, what else can you do?” But I think that provider who’s open to that conversation and is comfortable with that approach, again, it’s a very mature sign. And it’s a good sign that you’re going to have a very productive relationship with.

Matt Alder (19m 13s):
I suppose, that brings us nicely onto the final question. We’ve sort of already talked about the balance between humans and technology. As you said, that there are lots of potential disruptive technologies kind of on the horizon. Well, what do you think the future looks like if we were doing this interview again in say two years’ time, what would we be talking about?

Victor Gaines (19m 42s):
I think one of the areas with the greatest potential, highest impact areas is probably in frontline hiring like, right. I think about recruitment automation technology. Again, going back to this car idea, right, and is similar to the idea of automating production vehicle manufacturing. Where you get the most bang for the buck is automating those highest volume bodies of work, or the highest volume activities in your process. And what I like to call the high volume, low value activities are even better for this. But the highest volume activities benefit the most from automation right now. And I think if you start to look at frontline hiring where you have to move a very high volume of job seekers through the process to get the volume of hires that you need, I think you could use automation and digital assessment technology to start figuring out how to screen more people into the process versus trying to rule people out of the process.

Victor Gaines (20m 44s):
And so, for example, I think a lot of companies that hire entry-level frontline talent probably hire a lot of that, right? And they probably have several different groups of jobs. And if you could use those sorts of technologies to say, “Okay, we’re hiring for the competency in these cases, not skill.” And these jobs may not be differentiated by the skill required, but they might be differentiated by the competency required. So, in other words, they’re differentiated by having — there are candidates who are built differently, right? And who are good for different types of jobs. And if you can leverage your technology to identify how your candidate population is built, and then you can direct them to jobs that are going to be a good fit for them based on valid and reliable scientific data, you’re helping the business higher faster, and you’re helping that talent get into the workforce faster and into more meaningful work.

Victor Gaines (21m 43s):
And I think it gives them a lot of opportunity to develop, right? You’re eliminating potential bias in terms of how you’re placing them. You’re getting them into roles that are going to develop them for the future. And they are going to be the future of your workforce in a given company. They’re going to be the future of the workforce for our country and our global economy. And I think this is a way to get them the skills and the experience that they need to lead us into the future. And I think that’s where you’re going to see technology potentially having a game-changing impact.

Matt Alder (22m 16s):
Victor, thank you very much for talking to me.

Victor Gaines (22m 17s):
Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. I look forward to connecting again.

Matt Alder (22m 23s):
My thanks to Victor. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show.

Matt Alder (23m 15s):
Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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