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Ep 467: Automation & Personalization

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Anyone who has seen me speak this year knows that I consider personalization the next big trend in talent acquisition. If they get their strategies right, the rapid growth in automation technologies allows employers to offer a bespoke candidate experience at scale. So which employers are doing this well, and what can we learn from them?

My guest this week is Lisa Scales, Head of Talent Acquisition for the UK and Ireland at Nestle. In our wide-ranging conversation, recorded at UNLEASH World in Paris, Lisa talks us through Nestle’s strategies around personalization and the results they’re getting.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The turbulent market and conflicting tensions for talent acquisition

• Scarcity of skills

• Removing repetitive transactional tasks

• Using conversational AI to answer previously unanswered questions

• The power of personalization

• The time, place and wishlist for automation

• Personalized onboarding

• Why automated selection can amplify systemic bias

• Moments that matter, interesting technologies and the deskless workforce

• What does the future look like

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Transcript

Paradox (0s):
Support for this podcast is provided by Paradox, the conversational AI company helping global talent acquisition teams at Unilever, McDonald’s, and CVS Health get recruiting work done faster. Let’s face it, talent acquisition is full of boring administrative tasks that drag the hiring process down and create frustrating experiences for everyone. Paradox’s AI assistant Olivia is shaking up that paradigm, automating things like applicant screening, interview scheduling, and candidate Q&A so recruiters can spend more time with people, not software.

Paradox (40s):
Curious how Olivia can work for your team? Then visit paradox.ai to learn more.

Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 467 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Anyone who’s seen me speak this year knows that I consider personalization the next big trend in talent acquisition. If they get their strategies right, the rapid growth in automation technologies allows employers to offer a bespoke candidate experience at scale. So which employers are doing this well and what can we learn from them? My guest this week is Lisa Scales, head of Talent Acquisition for the UK and Ireland at Nestle. In our wide-ranging conversation, which was recorded at UNLEASH World in Paris, Lisa talks us through Nestle’s strategies around personalization and the results that they’re getting.

Matt Alder (1m 55s):
Hi, Lisa, and welcome to the podcast live from UNLEASH in Paris.

Lisa Scales (1m 60s):
Thank you very much for having me.

Matt Alder (2m 2s):
Well, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. For the very few people who might not be familiar with you and what you do, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Lisa Scales (2m 11s):
Yeah. So my name’s Lisa Scales and I head up TA for Nestle in the UK and Ireland market.

Matt Alder (2m 17s):
Fantastic stuff. It’s been really sort of interesting walking around the show and talking to people and one of the big themes is obviously the very turbulent times that we are going through at the moment.

Lisa Scales (2m 28s):
Yes.

Matt Alder (2m 29s):
And, you know, sometimes the strange impact that’s having on talent acquisition or not in some cases. What does the market look like for you? What’s kind of going on? What sort of challenges do you have?

Lisa Scales (2m 40s):
Yeah, so I think, you know, I’ve been doing, I’ve been in and out recruitment for about 25 years and I must say, you know, the times we’re living in now are probably the most turbulent times I’ve seen. Yeah, probably 2008 was pretty rocky in terms of the, you know, recession and the big crash and everything. But actually, there are so many conflicting tensions that we’re seeing now that’s affecting, you know, the industry we’re in but essentially, affecting human beings, which is, you know, I bore myself, but I always talk about the human being as being the most variable product in the world and we’re dealing with it and, you know, we’re seeing this confliction between these high inflation rates, cost of living and, you know, whether people are sort of vacillating between do I stay in a secure job or do I move because I need to afford to pay my rent, my mortgage, whatever that is.

Lisa Scales (3m 41s):
And so I genuinely, if I had to put an assessment on the labor market, it’s really interesting because we’ve got the highest employment rate that we’ve had, but similarly we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate, but we’ve got a massive workforce that’s left the workforce this inactivity, and I think I saw a stat this morning on the news even about, you know, one in five are of Britains are actually out of work due to long-term sickness. So there is a huge gap. So from a recruitment perspective, what we’re seeing is the scarcity of skills gap is just becoming worse.

Lisa Scales (4m 22s):
And, you know, we’ve lost a whole heap of skilled workers from a Brexit effect. We’ve got the Covid effect and then we’ve got this cost-of-living effect, which has obviously been precipitated by, you know, world events. It’s a really heady mix. If I translate that into what the team are feeling, it’s chaotic because, you know, there are candidates out there that essentially don’t really know what’s going on. So they’re maybe taking a punt of applying for a role that’s probably, you know, paying a lot more, but actually, they don’t have the skills for it. We’re gonna see that I think emerge over the next couple of years where people have jumped because they need to jump, ie.

Lisa Scales (5m 7s):
They’re not seeing the pay increases internally or being recognized, and so they are making that leap of faith. And then you’ve got this almost recession sort of on the horizon in terms of that retraction of companies not hiring. So, yeah, it’s as confusing as anything.

Matt Alder (5m 28s):
Yeah.

Lisa Scales (5m 28s):
And I don’t think I’ve given a straight answer, but I don’t think I can.

Matt Alder (5m 31s):
Well, I don’t think there is a straight answer. You’ve summed it up really well. It is very confusing, lots of conflicting forces and all this kind of stuff. You were doing a talk here yesterday. Tell us about that. What were you talking about?

Lisa Scales (5m 46s):
Yeah, so we partner globally with a business called Paradox and we’ve implemented over the last couple of years automated interview scheduling. And with that comes a conversational AI chatbot that sits on our career site. And so I was talking about, essentially about the sort of, I suppose those three actors in what I call the theater of recruitment, the candidate, the hiring manager, and the recruiter. And not a lot of people sort of talk about that recruiter experience and how we can make sort of, I suppose, transactional, repetitive admin tasks, remove those out of a recruiter’s world and they can do the, what I call the high-value pieces around engaging with candidates, engaging with the organization to understand the needs.

Lisa Scales (6m 33s):
So actually doing recruitment roles as opposed to admin roles. So I was talking about obviously my experiences of having that in a market, but, of course, you know, Nestle has multiple markets and we’ve rolled the product out into sort of 50 countries and into I think 47 different languages. And it’s a huge implementation and it’s fascinating when you look at that sort of phased approach of a global rollout of a deployment of some technology. But I suppose what I’m most interested in are the outcomes, which is, you know, I think over the last year the chatbots answered about one and a half million questions.

Lisa Scales (7m 19s):
And actually, it’s not about the opportunity that presents itself. It’s actually the opportunity lost before of not being able to answer that many questions. So there’s a real plus to it because there is a frightening stat out there of the world global population. I think 98 percent of the global population has had a Nestle product in their lives. And so, you know, if we’re really talking about that candidate consumer crossover, everybody in this building, for example, is one of our customers. And that makes you have a different lens on things when you are dealing with applications, you’re dealing with candidates and it’s a death by a thousand cuts.

Lisa Scales (8m 4s):
You don’t want people having a bad experience with dealing with Nestle. We want people to go into supermarkets and buy our products, so.

Matt Alder (8m 12s):
And it’s really interesting what you say about answering questions that would’ve otherwise been unanswered because in the sort of debates that we’ve been having about automation and chatbots over the last few years, there’s been this sort of train of thought around, well, actually, you know, computer says no, this is making the candidate experience worse. We’re replacing recruiters with algorithms. But actually, that kind of technology is enabling, you know, much greater personalization and a better experience.

Lisa Scales (8m 44s):
Yeah. And do you know what, I do think there is a time and a place for automation and there are points at which I think that it gets a little bit dangerous that it’s selecting people out of processes, but essentially, if you look at it from a sort of very much a “How do we take away some of the things that a machine can do, ie., the low-value stuff,” then to me it’s a no-brainer. And from a recruiter perspective, you know, they’re doing more interesting work. Worst thing, if you ask any recruiter that’s been surveyed, one of the worst parts of their role is interview scheduling, but also rescheduling, the amount of rework that has to happen.

Lisa Scales (9m 29s):
People’s diaries are manic these days. Everything gets changed, highly frustrating. And it is just such a low value. So that’s brilliant. But also from a chatbot perspective, you know, as a candidate, I want to be able to go and ask a question at 10 o’clock at night when I’ve spent the evening thinking about this job that I might want to apply for. And over the last year, through the conversational AI chatbot, the Olivia chatbot has presented 430,000 job roles to people just by that conversation “I’m looking for a job in X location.” Again, there’s the push and pull. We expect people to go onto career site and search for the job.

Lisa Scales (10m 10s):
Well, that relies on them searching well and knowing what they want to do. We’d rather present somebody with a role and say, “What about this in this location?” So I think that definitely has its place, but I think it also definitely doesn’t have a place.

Matt Alder (10m 30s):
If we are looking at automation and personalization because I think that there is a huge trend towards that and seeing that with a lot of technology providers, what would you like to see automated and what do you think shouldn’t be?

Lisa Scales (10m 47s):
Yeah, okay. So good question and probably be a lot of detractors out there in terms of, “Oh, it’s rubbish.” But I’d like to see, I suppose, well, we’ve got other automation that sits across the platform. So in a very long-winded way, I’m gonna say to you what I think. So we have, through our application process and onboarding, we have WalkMe Automation, which basically pulls up windows to give hints and tips as you are applying. So I think that’s brilliant as a supportive automation to somebody’s application process. I think onboarding, in terms of you can personalize onboarding really brilliantly.

Lisa Scales (11m 31s):
And we’re working globally with a business called VFast. We have an amazing portal where you walk into a supermarket, you can explore our brands. So in terms of being able to present information to an individual from that point of view. Now here comes the crux. The one thing that I don’t believe is helpful, and there’s a lot of study going on about it, is the selection process in terms of computers saying no to an individual. And I think people do feel quite abridged when they do get a rejection, having been through automation. And I’m just not convinced.

Lisa Scales (12m 11s):
There’s a brilliant book called Invisible Women, which talks about, actually, nothing to do with recruitment but talks about systems and how they lend themselves to the white male versus any diverse populations, including women. And it is fascinating, even from town planning, how towns are planned out. It’s amazing how a gender bias can affect all sorts of things in our lives. And I really do think that because we’re dealing with that variable product, the human, I think it’s really dangerous to try and put some artificial intelligence around that selection process.

Lisa Scales (12m 55s):
It worries me because I think recruiters should do their job.

Matt Alder (12m 59s):
We’ve talked about the turbulent times that we’re going through and how difficult it is for talent acquisition. What does sort of next year look like? What does the future look like in terms of the strategies that you’re putting together for TA and Nestle?

Lisa Scales (13m 16s):
Yeah. So we’re fortunate that we have a really clear plan of what sort of organization we want to be. And actually, our global CRHO stood up on the stage yesterday and talked about our three pillars as an organization of where we want to be from a people perspective that supports our force for good agenda in terms of us as a business. And, you know, one of the big pillars, which probably is in my world more so than other parts of the organization is, you know, attracting and hiring a diverse and inclusive and engaged workforce. And that’s quite a big statement to make and how does that translate into operational?

Lisa Scales (13m 60s):
We’ve got people to recruit. And I think what next year will bring, we actually conducted an external audit of our recruitment this year from a diversity perspective. And it’s a real eyeopener in the sense of you’re asking somebody to come in and critique your work and it can feel a little, you know, uncomfortable at times because they did a really thorough job and interviewed lots of our population in terms of that with that diversity lens. And I suppose the piece around that is, is lots of recommendations came out and one of the biggest things that we’re going to be doing in 2023 is really helping to support our hiring managers on that diversity journey.

Lisa Scales (14m 51s):
And I think there’s a lot of noise about diversity, but I still think, feet on the ground, there’s quite a lot of fear of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, and the minute somebody says something wrong, the work brigade get on board and start, you know, being very critical. And I don’t think that’s helpful because I think people need to almost have a lived experience so that they can learn. And I think that’s a really good way to learn. So one of the big things we’re doing next year is we’re launching some brilliant tools and there’s a sort of saying that we have in Nestle about moments that matter and it’s not necessarily just give somebody some training because, you know, it gets tucked into a filing cabinet in your brain for six months because you don’t have to use it.

Lisa Scales (15m 43s):
And it’s fairly worthless, but actually doing it at the moments that matter, i.e., I’m just about to go to interview somebody, how can I just refresh myself on some biases? How can I approach this in a different way? So we have almost like a construct of, in the organization, a construct of we are open and transparent in terms of our diversity practices, but actually, what does that mean? And actually really making the organization have lived experiences.

Matt Alder (16m 15s):
So final question.

Lisa Scales (16m 16s):
Yeah.

Matt Alder (16m 16s):
We’ve been at this show for a couple of days now. There’s been some great talks, you know, some really interesting things going on. Wandering around and looking at all the vendors as I’m sure you have or they’ve been chasing you around, which seems to be, seems to be the case sometimes.

Lisa Scales (16m 34s):
Yeah.

Matt Alder (16m 34s):
Are there any interesting sort of technologies that have caught your eye in terms of where you think things might be heading?

Lisa Scales (16m 43s):
Yeah. So I was fortunate to be asked to be on the panel for the startup competition yesterday, and it was an interesting array of startups that presented. But my reflection probably was that I’m not seeing anything that is going to fundamentally disrupt the industry. And I just wonder whether we’ve come to that sort of breakpoint where something would have to change absolutely, you know, a big step change for me to be really excited about something. But I’m probably a little bit like you, Matt, in the sense of we are immersed in this world, so we’re slightly desensitized.

Lisa Scales (17m 27s):
So I think probably if you asked a question to a normal person on the street or a typical, a typical person that isn’t sort of probably as interested from a vendor point of view, I think they’d probably say there’s a couple of apps out there that are brilliant for frontline workforces. So there’s a lot of focus on desk list workforces because I think the world’s woken up to go, actually three-quarters of the world actually don’t sit at a desk. And it’s almost like the forgotten population during Covid. We forgot about the people going into our factories every single day to continue to produce products or, you know, NHS workers going to work.

Lisa Scales (18m 8s):
And so there’s quite a lot of focus on that. There is almost that sort of, there’s those point products that I’m seeing that, you know, they’re great products, they look brilliant, but, you know, my one resounding thing is, is how do you actually get a business to adopt that sort of technology and adapt it well so it’s worth it. So I’m not convinced.

Matt Alder (18m 34s):
Lisa, thank you very much for talking to me.

Lisa Scales (18m 36s):
It’s a pleasure. Really good to see you. Thanks, Matt.

Matt Alder (18m 41s):
My thanks to Lisa. You can subscribe to this podcast on 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 recruitingfuture.com. 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. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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