Artificial Intelligence vs. Human Touch
You might have read that the world is currently going through the fourth industrial revolution. Unlike previous revolutions, with automated physical processes, this one is driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Among other things, artificial intelligence will automate cognitive tasks, in large part by recognizing patterns that aren’t evident to the naked eye. This not only drives algorithms and directs what posts from friends come up in your Facebook feed, but it is also transforming the business world. As an example, modern companies can make precise decisions quickly thanks to access to more comprehensive, AI-driven analytics solutions.
However, data is still only the second-most-important resource available to companies. At the end of the day, people remain the most important resource. That's one major reason why data is not a substitute for the human touch, especially when firms are searching for the right candidate for a critical role in the organization.
You still have to have one-on-one interactions with people to truly get a sense of their skills and assets. There is no digital tool or automated formula out there that can assess, or even talk to, prospective employees. In fact, when you get to know people, there's a lot more depth than what a search engine or keyword-driven searches or algorithms can give you.
I've personally discovered this from interviewing more than 10 CFO executives on a weekly basis over an 18-year period. That’s 9,360 CFO interviews! These conversations help me identify “A” vs. “B” players, but also give me the confidence and understanding of how to match the right CFO with the right private equity firm opportunity.
Hiring is more of an art than a science, and technology cannot replace this process. The same concept holds true with sourcing candidates. We're always searching for and building a pipeline; it's something we do every day.
The assumption is that executive recruiters like me utilize tools like LinkedIn to identify candidates for our searches, but actually, the platform is used more as a communication tool to initially engage someone in a safe and secure way. We identify candidates through our network, search experience, industry expertise, and even old-school research on companies. LinkedIn is only as good as the data that's in there.
Data-driven decisions are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Algorithms and machine-based decisions can perpetuate bias, due to flaws in the underlying data or the algorithm itself. Humans still need to manage and oversee machine-related decisions — and companies must be rigorous in monitoring "machine-related" decisions to make sure they are reasonable.
Trust me – it’s hard to identify the right balance between technological tools and human intervention. In the end, human touch allows us to develop authentic, long-lasting relationships, which is one of the main reasons why I love my profession.
[Related: Tired of Talking About Diversity?]
Heather Johnson is a partner with Chartwell Partners.
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