SumTotal Blog

Kurt Ballard (2 Posts)

Kurt Ballard

Kurt Ballard is VP of Global Strategic Initiatives for SumTotal Systems. He has been a leader in the HCM and Talent Management community for more than 20 years. Having been both a successful entrepreneur and a F500 leader, Kurt has a unique perspective when it comes to developing and deploying human capital challenges. Through his work with executive clients, primarily at large global companies with complex HR and Talent challenges, Kurt gained valuable insights that he shares with organizations of all sizes to help them, and their people, reach their full potential.

The Digital Transformation and the Future of Recruitment Management

The Digital Transformation and the Future of Recruitment Management

The digital transformation of recruiting is not a new trend; however, while some people are fully engaged in this disruption, others are not. Why did some anticipate that technology would become deeply integrated into talent acquisition and job seeking and others miss it?

In her book, The Signals are Talking, futurist Amy Webb writes, “smart thinkers get trends wrong because of present-day bias and because they fail to think outside of their usual frame of reference.”  Did these organizations continue to think about talent acquisition as filling an open position rather than recognizing that it is a tool to engage with top talent and attract future employees and leaders?

To ensure your organization is fully engaged, and is not falling victim to this mindset, let’s break down the five ways digital transformation is shaping the modern workforce.

#1 Social is not going away


Social networks changed the way companies recruit and employees search for jobs. Social media sites Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are now mainstays of recruitment while new social networks like Amino Apps, Raftr, and Hype each has millions of followers by providing alternative platforms where people share all types of information. In the latest CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers and HR professionals, over 70% of employers now use social media to screen candidates before hiring.

The drawback to using social media for hiring is obvious, and there are legal risks for employers to consider when viewing the online profiles of potential candidates. A profile picture can reveal race, gender, age and other attributes of individuals that can potentially influence the sourcing process, leaving candidates exposed to a recruiter’s bias. Granted these same biases will appear in a face-to-face interview, but at least in that scenario, the candidate was selected for an interview; in the other situation, they never make it past stage one.

#2 The power of personal branding 


Most modern workers have an online social presence, a digital footprint that works as a personal brand. Typically, this online presence is a positive thing as recruiters reward job candidates who demonstrate excellent communication skills, project a professional image, display creativity and share background information that supports their professional qualifications.

Some companies are reconsidering their use of social media information in candidate screening due to legal concerns, while other companies refuse to hire people without an online presence.  Several recruiters I spoke with said they are less likely to call someone in for an interview if they can’t find that job candidate online.  For job seekers, this means the personal is no longer private. It is incumbent upon the individual to review their digital footprint regularly to ensure the image projected is the image you want the world to see. Your data is being captured, read and stored in the cloud for all to see and it’s never going away, even if you think it was deleted.  If you think something could be questionable or inappropriate to post, it probably is. A good rule of thumb is only to post materials that your grandmother could read without getting the vapors.

#3 Current employees spread the word


Each month hundreds of millions of people use Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  According to Facebook, 1.37 billion people visit the social network on a daily basis.  Imagine harnessing that kind of sourcing power to help recruit talent.  Savvy recruiters already know that building their employer brand is an integral part of a highly effective recruiting process, but imagine the potential of harnessing current employees spreading their positive experiences within their social networks? Most people trust their friends and connections more than a company website.  A review, positive or negative, shared by an employee can reach thousands of people in an instant.  Think of the impact a company review on Glassdoor can have on your talent pool and recruiting efforts.

To tap into this invaluable resource, begin by encouraging your employees to spread the word about company openings, offer employee incentives for referrals, and, importantly, build a positive culture that will attract people and inspire positive reviews.

#4 Mobile candidate drop-off


Job seekers today live on their smartphones, barely breaking eye contact with their screens long enough to interact with other humans. They are technology natives who communicate with nimble consumer-grade apps all day long.  Global strategy consultancy Kelton, reports that 86% of all active job searches begin with smartphones. When these candidates are exposed to an outdated mobile recruitment experience, it goes something like this:

  • Click on a job that interests them and gets sent to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
  • Once in the ATS they must search for the job again by scrolling in a job list page. When they find the job title they click to review the details of the role again.
  • Next, candidates are prompted to create an ATS login with password and password reminders.
  • At this stage there’s usually some pre-screening or knock out type questions presented.
  • If the screening questions are successfully passed, the candidate is finally given a job application to complete.

Does this sound like fun?  Imagine trying this on a smartphone on a lunch break or in a coffee shop.  Most job seekers leave after 3-4 page scrolls and clicks.  And yet the reality is this experience is the norm for many companies and job seekers alike.

Why candidates “drop-off”?

A leading global hospitality company recently conducted a review of their mobile recruiting program and found a direct correlation between the amount of information they requested from people in their application process and the applicant abandonment rate.

You need this information, so what can you do?

The trick is finding the balance of sharing enough about the company and role to keep people engaged while capturing the candidate data needed to have a follow-up – all without driving them away. One recruiter I spoke with recently used the term “Goldie Locks” applications that offer not too little, not too much, but just the right amount of information to get the job done.  For him, the sweet spot was requiring only two to three clicks for an online application and providing between 300 – 1500 words of company/role information for most jobs.  Much more than that tends to increase the drop off rate too early in the exchange.

#5 Use analytics to drive mobile engagement


We use data analytics to examine where people drop-off corporate marketing websites, so why are we not using them for recruitment opportunities?  Learning what path job seekers take to find your company’s site and where they abandon the online application process provides invaluable user-experience insights, one of which is to provide a better roadmap to attract, engage and retain potential future employees. Too many companies still have recruitment processes that evolved around traditional recruitment processes (think time-to-fill metrics) or are constrained by technological limitations of outdated HR systems.

I recently interviewed an experienced corporate recruiter at a global software company who told me, “I’m spending more time keeping my system updated than sourcing or interviewing candidates.” To get an understanding of where things stand at your company, view the hiring process from the job seeker’s perspective. Apply to one of your company’s open jobs on a smartphone and fully experience the process from start to end.

Digital transformation is disruptive, and it is radically changing not only the way people look for jobs, but also how companies recruit to fill open positions. Today I’ve only touched on a few topics; there is so much more to explore including using video, biometrics and machine learning to encourage, screen and review candidates.

As technology further evolves, we shall continue to see the way we hire shift. The only concern is what are you doing to ensure your hiring process continues similarly?

Want to learn more? Join us on May 6th for our 5 Ways to Digitally Transform Your Precruitment Process webinar.




Work Is Changing – Are You Prepared?


Just a few years ago self-driving cars, medical robots, and autonomous databases were thought to be futuristic endeavors. Now they are a reality. Tesla has just sent a roadster into space, and this is only the beginning.

We live and work in one of the most exciting and challenging business environments that has ever occurred. Technology is causing unprecedented disruption at a pace that is accelerating daily; this digital transformation is changing the world as we know it.

Just how will our personal lives and our business lives be affected by these radical changes?

Over the coming weeks, I plan to answer by examining how current talent management processes are being disrupted and changed by technology and digital transformation.

The Skills Gap and Why You Need a Talent Supply Chain

In recent years experts have debated the current skills gaps and the impact felt by organizations as they retool their business models to get closer and more aligned with their customers.  Such workforce innovations are leading to the disappearance and potential extinction of many current jobs, while new jobs are beginning to emerge.  A 2014 Oxford University study forecast that over the next 3-5 years 47% of current jobs would disappear. 

Today we are right in the eye of this workforce storm, and many of the predictions are becoming mainstream. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, long-haul truckers, cab drivers and even teachers should all brace for change.

Already technology, in the form of computers and bots, is analyzing and comparing massive reams of data and making financial, medical, and process decisions more efficiently and accurately than humans.  This automation of decision making will impact salaries and careers. Income gaps will increase between those employed in highly specialized fields and the soon-to-be-displaced workers seeking new ways to earn a living. Like every other significant shift in society, there will be winners and losers as the nature of work pivots. Blacksmiths of the past and today’s computer programmers will share the common experience of the impact of societal shift and technological transformation.

Many of the new jobs emerging in this gig economy are likely to be in more specialized areas such as data science, mathematics, architecture and engineering. Knowledge, skills and abilities will be re-prioritized as competency models evolve to the tasks and activities of these new jobs. Already we are seeing a noticeable trend towards organizations implementing inventory management techniques to reduce costs and improve flexibility to have more time to focus on their customers. Yet, many of these same organizations lack a systematic approach to managing their skills inventory and talent supply chain.

What can organizations do to prepare?

The Senior VP of HR at footwear retailer DSW told me that he encourages his team to take stock of their competency inventory to reveal any gaps related to skills, experience or work styles that will impact their ability to fill roles in the next 12-24 months. Lincoln Financial Group, a Fortune 250 financial services company, conducted a job analysis study of a key business analyst position – not as the role is defined today, but as the job will be defined 3-5 years in the future. This study meant they could build a capability map detailing vital foundational skills and the use this information to populate internal career pathways. In other words, they looked at what they will need and then looked at what they must do to serve this need.  This forward-thinking will be a strategic advantage in the future.

Why it is Even More Important to Pursue Lifelong Learning and Development

While we’ll lose some jobs, others will continue to be created by advancements in new technology.  The downside though is that companies are only now beginning to assess their ability to develop these new skills and the news is not good.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 67% of employers reported that they are concerned about the growing skills gap. Further, workers feel unprepared for future roles with just 1 in 5 saying their professional skills are up to date.

What skills are needed?

While bots and machine learning can automate some analytic skills, the demand for interpersonal skills, particularly the very human qualities of empathy and cooperation, will grow as disruption by technology is less likely to happen here. What we will see is that workers who develop these highly desired interpersonal skills will be in high demand and will, therefore, command higher salaries in the coming years.

One of the best strategies for someone to stay relevant, or in demand, is to establish a continuous learning mindset and a willingness to reinvent themselves.  Today it is easier than ever to do this as learning content is readily available.  Learners should pursue a combination of social skills with analytic skills that make them easily adaptable in an ever-evolving workplace.

Why Adapting to the Changes is Key

While the ultimate impact of this technological disruption and digital transformation on the future of work is unclear, what we do know is that the effects will be profound. In the meantime, there are 3 proactive steps available to help us get in front of this wave.


As organizations continue to analyze their skills inventory and evaluate their talent supply chains for future needs, individuals should take stock of their cross-functional knowledgebase.  The ability to re-invent ourselves will play a vital role in the future of work.


For those already in the workforce, it is critical to evolve new skills through constant on-demand learning and development to retrain themselves and expand their versatility.


Government and education agencies can also play a role in developing students not yet in the workforce to meet the future needs of potential employers.  Policy and curriculum transformation is well behind the evolution of technology, although there are some advancements beginning to appear.  Mercy Health Systems currently work with their educational partners by providing foundational information about what essential jobs they will need to fill in advance of the actual openings.  This education-vocation collaboration helps schools prepare students to fill roles when they graduate.  Aligning the needs of employers and the educational institutions that feed the talent supply chain ensures that critical skills will be available for open opportunities in the future of work.

The best prepared, most versatile and adaptable workers will fill the desirable jobs of the future.  Digital transformation will continue, and we need to be open to new ways of thinking.  Adapting to change and preparing for the future of work will make the coming years exciting and full of opportunity as technology continues to transform our lives and jobs.