Video conferencing and VoIP technology has made it easier than ever to talk to people halfway across the world. Yet, the first ever decline in global mobile voice usage occurred in 2013; a trend that is likely to continue.
US-based stats reveal one in four people socialise more online than in person, and one in three would rather text than talk on the phone.
In business, new research reveals that this digital-only approach could hold companies back, especially in recruitment.
Companies are reportedly risking their employer brand by becoming less emotional in the hiring process. Without voice or in-person interaction, the quality checking process may be compromised, as is the brand communication.
Research by global talent acquisition and management firm, Alexander Mann Solutions revealed that while digital channels make it easier to contact wider talent pools, many businesses are failing to use these platforms to truly engage candidates with the brand.
Most opt to take the approach of contacting the many in the hope of finding the few.
In its 2016 Global Recruiting Survey, the recruitment firm found that only 5 per cent of recruiters pick up the phone to reach new talent, with the majority preferring online communication over a call. This approach has led to an increase in spamming activity. 72 per cent of candidates tend to ignore this type of contact, and may lead to applicants perceiving these companies negatively.
Adam Shay, director of consulting services, at Alexander Mann Solutions explains that while digital is the way forward in talent attraction and management, there is a real danger of falling into the trap of behaving like a robot rather than a person. “We cannot forget that the end-to-end journey a candidate takes when searching for a new job is an emotional one, and that there still needs to be a level of human interaction and personalisation in order to truly engage and attract the future workforce.”
Early this year, a billion-dollar Silicon Valley start-up, Automattic, revealed that it does all its hiring without meeting talent in-person. Automattic relies on a remote network of employees, with around 400 people working at the start-up from the comfort of their home, wherever that may be. Considering how heavily the business relies on remote workers, CEO Matt Mullenweg has set aside a $2,500 budget for these employees to design their home offices, in addition to the technology they need to do their job.
The company’s unique culture works for its trendy Valley start-up image. Automattic doesn’t believe in emails or meetings, relying on intra-office chat and regular company meet-ups in various locations across the world to keep the teams connected and social. Naturally, when hiring, Automattic aims to find the kind of people who would fit into that work lifestyle.
When hiring, Automattic starts from the top. The CEO screens all applicants before it even reaches his HR manager’s desk. The next step is a Skype chat, so that applicants can respond when they can, regardless of the time difference. This interview process involves a casual chat-based Q&A, with link and screen sharing to help the company’s HR view portfolios and see the applicant’s work.
After this step, the applicant is invited to participate in a trial project, for which they are paid for their time and not given a deadline. According to the company, this allows applicants to work on it on their own time, while holding their current job. During this period, all communications are over private blog, never the phone.
Once the trial project is successfully completed, the applicant is approached by the CEO for a final chat. The whole process is phone-free, chat-based and still incredibly effective.
According to Automattic’s former hiring manger, Dave Martin, this system just works for the start-up.
“By keeping things 100 per cent text, and 100 per cent asynchronous, I don’t have to worry about trying to schedule a day/time to chat (which can definitely be a pain across timezones),” he writes in his blog.
Martin explains that this form of interview comes as a huge relief for interviewees, who have the benefit of replying as and when they can. “It also frees me up to work on other things in the meantime. I can have up to five interviews going at any one time without any difficulty, while also working on other stuff in between. It ends up working out really, really well.”
While this solution may be perfect for businesses that rely on remote working and virtual teams, and roles that are primarily “behind the scenes,” businesses and jobs that are client-facing, may still require in-person interviews.
According to Alexander Mann Solutions’ Shay, digital mediums are a great time-saver for employers and recruiters, but can’t fully replace the human vetting process. “As we digitise the content that a candidate consumes, we should be mindful that we’re replacing traditional interactions, such as face-to-face networking and telephone interviews, that are felt,” he explains. “We must find ways not only to retain this feeling online, but also capture how people are feeling as they progress through our digital recruitment process.”
We may know why this is crucial, but the ‘how’ remains to be seen.