This is a long-ish article about three things:

  • How the economy is changing
  • How talent attraction as currently practised is pretty much over 
  • Why we need to re-think how we find and recruit talent for the future

You can see me present some of this content to the Candidate Experience Talent Board Awards in two five-minute videos on Facebook here and here.

It’s over. Recruitment based on talent attraction marketing, hiring processes designed around you not them, godawful candidate experience and all that jazz. It’s basically done. The economy is changing, advertising is dying and talent has different expectations. It might still work for you and your business to do it this way, but you’re on a deadline now.

Here's an overview of what’s changing and why and how you can prepare for the big change that’s coming.

At the moment, it feels like the war for talent is on. Skills are scarce, wages are starting to rise, unemployment is low. Firms are scrambling to recruit good people.

But the reason unemployment is low is because wages are low. This means it’s cheaper to hire people than it is to invest in smart new technology. Eventually that technology will come online and change the sort of work we do and how we hire people.

And we’re not just talking driverless trucks and self-checkouts.

Goldman Sachs has automated half of all the processes involved in taking a new company to the stock market.

Small car insurance claims can be processed entirely by intelligent machines.

Radiologists are at risk of replacement by similar technology.

Lip reading technology is more accurate than the best human.

There’s a hotel in Japan staffed entirely by robots.

Software exists that is quicker, cheaper and far more accurate at reviewing contracts than junior lawyers.

They just haven’t been replaced yet because wages have been affordable.

Project management software exists that not only hires and briefs the freelancers, but learns how they do their jobs so it can replace them later. Soon they’ll be sharing that information in the cloud and learning from each other.

Good luck keeping up with that.

Oh, and now Google seems to be developing a sophisticated machine that is built with a series of neural networks based on a human brain.

It’s early days, but I don’t fancy my chances.

Now this might not be entirely bad news. Jobs will evolve rather than die. Law firms are looking to hire people with broader, consultative business skills, for example. The economy will change. But it's the nature of work that will change significantly. And we need to change the way we find and hire talent.

As jobs in the middle of the economy get replaced by machines, more and more talent will move down the value chain. This creates what economists call a labour glut. Lots and lots of people chasing increasingly flexible work.

Here’s economist Tyler Cowen’s summary of the changes we can expect.

“Overall, these job market trends are bringing higher pay for bosses, more focus on morale in the workplace, greater demands for conscientious and obedient workers, greater inequality at the top, big gains for the cognitive elite, a lot of freelancing in the services sector, and some tough scrambles for workers without a lot of skills.”

Tyler Cowen

And as Ryan Avent has pointed out, this applies to people in professional jobs as well – think about those radiologists and contract lawyers.

That all has two big consequences. First, marketing will be more and more important, and less and less effective. Second, talent will work more flexibly and have looser relationships to businesses.

In a world where advertising effectiveness is already on the decline, and trust in marketing is getting lower, this is bad news.

Firms will also work differently. As the labour glut happens, people will work more like freelancers. US cable companies in America no longer directly employ the people who lay cable in the ground. They are contractors. The Uber model, with a strong central core built around a culture, and large loose networks of workers all over the place will start to replace the traditional firm.

People will be working in networks, rather than in firms. And as with Uber, recommendations and ratings become more and more important to hiring people and finding work.

Already we see the rise in the importance of networks. One survey found that 37% of people who apply for a job have a friend or family in the firm they apply to. 

Anthropologist Ilana Gershon wrote a book last year about how people find work in America. She said this:

“When you want your resume to be noticed, it turns out that workplace ties — people who can speak to what you are like as a worker — help white-collar job seekers much more than weak ties do.”

Ilana Gershon

As people become para-professionals they won’t want to spend four months in a slow-moving paperwork-heavy recruitment process.

Still hiring lawyers into prestigious long-term jobs with big salaries with expectations of dedication, long hours and a big payoff in fifteen years? Here’s a platform that is essentially Uber for lawyers.

Still desperate to get social right because unless you’re advertising to people through their social apps you’re falling behind? Here’s a social media app rivalling Instagram and Facebook, which doesn’t do advertising.

So how do you find the right people in this new world?

Marketing today isn’t about advertising, it’s about a great product made available to people who trust you.

So we need to replace talent pools with talent networks. Candidate experience is a dead concept because candidate experience never ends. The talent lifecycle isn’t attract, hire, develop, leave. It carries on. People ought to be off-boarded, kept in touch with, targeted and engaged with once they have left. Treated as a key part of the network.

You need to make the jobs interesting and rewarding, be honest about the culture, don’t try and make the gender earnings gap look better than it is, give people interesting, useful content, don’t just BS about the wonderful innovative magical culture.

In short, keep people close and treat them well, whether they work for you or not. Your alumni are an important part of your network, they probably work for a client or competitor, and as the economy changes they will either recommend you or not – and many of them you want to rehire, for however long, sometime in the future.

So let’s stop tinkering with the current system and start again.

AIA Worldwide can’t reinvent the jobs you offer and the culture you promote, but we can provide you with the technology and the content to keep your candidates, people and alumni closely engaged with your brand, so that you can start developing your talent networks.