Are UK recruiters fully embracing automation?

Recruitment agencies in the UK are increasingly aware of the importance of automation in the recruitment process, but many are yet to fully embrace it.

According to Bullhorn’s 2018 UK Recruitment Trends Report, a 29% of firms rank automating and accelerating recruitment placement processes as one of their top three business challenges. Even so, only 16% list actual implementation of automation technology in their top three business priorities for the year ahead.

Just over 1 in 5 (22%) recruiters stated they are not sure of the value of automation. It follows that 30% don’t use automation at all during the recruitment process, and 40% don’t use it during the prospecting or client engagement stages.

How can this ambivalence toward automation be explained?

A slow rate of adoption

When it comes to adopting automation technology, the recruitment industry is just starting out. Despite being widely available, not even simple and efficient tools, like real-time email replies to job applications, have gained much traction – yet.

Our research identifies one possible reason for this: 41% of recruiters fear that as automation increases, their job prospects will diminish. Fortunately, this concern does not apply to all firms. Nearly a third of recruiters (30%) believe automation will, in fact, create more jobs, while 29% are on the fence.

Regardless of where recruiters currently stand, there is no doubt that automation is set to transform the industry in the near future.

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Enhanced efficiency and engagement

Most recruiters are very familiar with administrative work and have to contend with a lot of routine tasks to keep the recruitment process moving. Back-office and invoicing work, while often repetitive, is also crucial to ensuring a seamless experience – for both the candidate and client.

Automation can take care of this basic administration. It can help speed up tasks such as sourcing candidates, replying to applicants, organising meetings and inputting data into the firm’s CRM system. Recruiters now have more time to focus on relationship building and strategic, profit-generating work.

How to encourage automation adaption

Recruitment leaders need to carefully consider how they incorporate automation into daily business operations. There may be some initial resistance to adopting new technologies. Here are three important steps to use as a guide during the adoption and implementation processes.

1. Educate and communicate. Employees need to be involved from the very beginning. People don’t like change – especially the unknown. Leadership teams need to demonstrate how automation will make employees’ working lives more productive. Dedicated training programmes and workshops are crucial: users need to know how to maximize the features of automation as soon as the new technology is implemented.

However, training alone is not enough. Employers need to encourage communication amongst staff to ensure a smooth adoption process. Employee feedback is very helpful in determining how automation can best add value to the organization.

2. Define what automation will be used for. An agency’s systems and processes are as important as its staff. When adopting new technologies, management needs to keep disruption to both people and processes to an absolute minimum.

Agencies must check that all staff, candidates and clients are not only aware of the new technology – but comfortable using it. They need to be clear on how automation will and won’t be used during different stages of the recruitment lifecycle.

It’s crucial that management teams clarify with their teams the role of automation in the way recruiters work. It does not replace the need for recruiters or absolve them of any accountability or responsibility. In fact, it helps them do a better job of focusing on the centerpiece of the recruitment profession: building strong relationships with people.

3. Track progress and measure results. Once the new technology has been successfully implemented, it’s time to start tracking performance. Regular check-ups that track and measure progress against pre-defined metrics are important.  Agencies need KPIs in place to assess the benefits of automation for their specific business needs and determine the return on investment.

These KPIs will depend on a firm’s business model and objectives. For example, 40% of our survey’s respondents are interested in automation in order to increase their efficiencies, while 38% want to increase engagement. To be better at either, or ideally both, firms must get to grips with how automation can alleviate their administrative burdens and increase their profitability.

It’s still early in the days for automation, but its future importance in the recruitment technology space cannot be understated. Awareness of the potential benefits of automation is high among agencies, but adoption and actual implementation remain slow. There is a clear opportunity for trailblazing agencies to take the lead and benefit from being early adopters.

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Peter Linas

Peter Linas
Peter Linas is international managing director at Bullhorn.

Peter Linas

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