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Reinforcing recruitment at the workplace - Matt Alder [Interview]

Reinforcing recruitment at the workplace - Matt Alder [Interview]

Shruti Pawar
November 1, 2023

About Matt Alder

Reinforcing recruitment at the workplace - Matt Alder [Interview]

Matt Alder is the producer and host of the 'Recruiting Future' Podcast. He is a technology enthusiast, who helps organizations plan for the future of work. He is a well-established keynote speaker and an extensive writer. He is the author of the book, “Exceptional Talent” and his second book is to be published later this year. A greatly sought after mentor for new companies, we are happy to invite Matt Adler to our interview series.

Aishwarya Jain

Reinforcing recruitment at the workplace - Matt Alder [Interview]

We have the pleasure of welcoming Matt Adler today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with automation and AI technologies.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 15,000 visitors and publishes around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.


Welcome, Matt. We’re thrilled to have you. 


It's a pleasure. An absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.


Our pleasure, Matt.

So if you could tell us a little bit about The Recruiting Future podcast. If you could tell us also about your journey. What inspired you?


Yeah, absolutely. So I started the Recruiting Future podcast five years ago. Partly it is an excuse to buy a geeky technology like this microphone that I'm talking to you on.

So what happened is, I started it as a side project and my main job at the time was working as a consultant to employers on intel acquisition innovation, which is something that I still do. I have a number of clients that I still work with.

As part of my research, I was talking to lots of people around the world to find out what was going on in their business, how they were using technology, their view of the future, the kind of challenges that they were having as employers and how they were solving those challenges.

And I just really wanted to do my research in public and bring those stories to a bigger audience. So I started a podcast, as a side project on. That's probably what it was for the first 12 months. But at that point, the audience, they're growing exponentially.

I get over 30,000 listens a month now, and it just became really, really clear that actually the podcast was my main job and is very much my main job now. 

So I publish two episodes a week. I'm looking for the very best stories from around the world, of talent acquisition professionals overcoming challenges. I also do a workaround in the broader HR world.

So other aspects of the employees, the employee life cycle, like engagement and onboarding. And those kinds of things on and I also look to pull in voices from outside the industry.

So I think one of the issues that I feel we have as an HR and in the Talent Acquisition industry is where we can be very, very inward-looking and whilst we are very good at sharing stories amongst ourselves, we're potentially not that good bringing outside ideas and seeing what's going on in other industries and bringing that into our industry to move the industry forward.

So one of the things that I do is I'm always looking at thought leaders from other industries. What's going on in their broader marketing world? What's going on in other sectors and bringing those people into the podcast.

So I had a number of fairly famous business authors who have been on the show, and I'm just looking for ideas that can help move HR and Talent Acquisition forward. So with the support of my fantastic sponsors, the podcast is probably now 80% of my job.


That's wonderful. It's nice to have a channel for voices that need to be heard and for people to become more aware of what's happening in the recruitment and talent acquisition world and really congratulations to you for doing such a great job.

There have been a lot of opinions about technology helping in the hiring process, how much technology, automation, and global hiring should be involved in the hiring process, according to you?


Yeah, it's an interesting question, and it's something that I've really been tracking for 20 years now. So before I did the podcast, before I was a consultant, I worked in the recruitment marketing sector. I ran digital teams for two big recruitment marketing agencies.

So way back in the year 1999, I was looking at how technology was affecting various aspects of the recruitment process. So it's been fascinating to track it over that 20 year period. I think we're at an interesting tipping point. Now there are lots of things that technology can do. There were still things that technology can't do.

"I think when it comes to technology we're at a tipping point because I sense that the debate in the industry is about to change."

So over the last few years, the debate has very much been about machines replacing humans or software programs replacing human recruiters or human people in H.R. you know, whatever that is and it’s been a very binary conversation of, that will never happen or that's bound to happen on.

I don't think that there's been enough grown-up useful debate about what actually happens. What I'm seeing now is companies are really working on that balance between what machines can do and what humans can do and how they can bring the best out of each other. And that's the debate that we should be having.

I think, as an HR industry, Talent acquisition industry, we need to be much smarter about how we use technology in everything from recruitment marketing to communication, that there are ways that technology could be used in a much smarter way.

I think sometimes we focus on the wrong things. So in recruiting, for example, there's a lot of focus on using technology for allowing machines to make decisions about whether people are good for jobs and, wherever you kind of stand about the debate, there are lots of other things.

What technology could be used for that isn't used for in that process at the moment. And, It's an interesting tipping point in terms of what we're going through now with the global crisis that we're living through on a day to day basis because there's a lot of focus on what happens next, and what type of position, in particular, will look like as we emerge this, wherever our new normal is going to be. And I think there are some interesting conversations.

I've got a podcast going live tomorrow, which is an interview with an HR director from a law firm, and certainly, in the UK, the legal industry has always been seen as quite traditional and not very no forward in embracing technology.

And I asked him a question about how you know the fact that all 300 people who worked for a law firm and now working from home something they thought would never happen and never be possible. But they actually managed to just sort it out on a weekend.

What you get is interesting, you know? And he said that they're in a position now where lawyers are having to work on video, something they've never done before.

So when they look at their talent acquisition moving forward, they're gonna use a lot more video in it because they feel that the audiences they're talking to are gonna be more comfortable, you know, they'll have got over their reticence of using it.

And I think that's interesting because I've actually done some research and seen research about what candidates feel about technology in the recruitment process.

And there's always lots of talk about, people going for jobs don't want to be interviewed, selected by a machine or going to some automated process or do video interviews.

So I think it's interesting. I think we’ve kind of emerged to a future where speed and automation become the watchwords in HR and recruiting and technology's gonna enable that.

So it's an interesting time in the technology debate, and I think that things will perhaps move quicker than they might have otherwise done.


Absolutely. It's that the balance between tech and human intervention that really needs to be figured out.

But do you think things like ChatBots, Do they really, increase efficiency especially, the trade recruitment period, wherein your kind of filtering a lot of candidates and they have to go through thousands of applications. And there's also the question of candidate engagement.
So, generally, candidates are very anxious about coming to know about their results and ChatBots can quickly kind of give them the result, after a few screening questions. Do you believe in that concept?


Yeah, absolutely. I think the thing to think of here is always the strategy, so technology is never the answer in itself and I've seen a number of employers in the UK companies like Google and Costa Coffee and lots of other employers globally use chatbots brilliantly in the process amounts because they've really nailed down the strategy of what they're doing.

What is this chatbot for? What are its limitations and where it can really have value to the experience they were giving and you're absolutely right people going through the recruitment process or thinking of applying for a job.

They want information at the moment. Universally across the world, employers are very bad at providing that information and keeping people kind of up to date with what's going on particularly, and anyone who's recruiting on a scale or receiving lots and lots of applications.

So I think that the smart use of chatbots is to give people information to help them make a decision about whether they want to apply for this company and to keep you in the loop in terms of what's going on to ask the simple questions.

I think we're gonna see an absolute boom in the use of chatbots. But there has to be smart, strategic thinking behind it. You can't just use it for the sake of it, because it's just not gonna work.

"I think we're gonna see an absolute boom in the use of chatbots. But there has to be smart, strategic thinking behind it. You can't just use it for the sake of it, because it's just not gonna work."

So, I'm encouraged by some great examples and use cases that I'm seeing. And I hope people move forward in that kind of vain.


So since you're talking to a lot of people on your podcast, what is it? What's the pulse that you get from them? Are they fearful of the future or are they positive about it? With the use of more tech now what is the general viewpoint?


I think it's very difficult to say right now because lots of companies are in panic mode. Lots of companies have furloughed their talent acquisition teams. But from the people that I am talking to, I do sense that they're going to be looking very carefully at the technology that they use moving forward.

I have had some brilliant, interesting conversations outside recruitment, talking to some people in the employee engagement space, and actually technology for employee engagement, absolutely critical at the moment with whole companies working from home.

So, it's difficult to make precise predictions about what's gonna happen, because, let's face it, no one could have predicted that the whole world would be stuck at home at the same time. Even a few weeks ago.

But from the conversations that I'm having, people are thinking very carefully about the technology they use moving forward. I think that it's maybe not even so much about what's happening right now because you know it's exceptional circumstances. It will be for a limited amount of time, probably longer than what people hope, but it will be. It's almost kind of what happens next. I think that it's inevitable that we'll be into some kind of global recession.

How long does that last? I don't think anyone, anyone could effectively answer that question at the moment. But whatever recessions happen, having lived through a few of them now, what happens is, talent acquisition has to move faster. It has to be innovative. Many of the problems that we were having before this crisis, will still be there. So, persuading people to move jobs and join your company, will probably be even more difficult in some sectors.

Whatever happens, we'll move into a period where speed and innovation are going to be really important. And technology has a huge part to play.


Absolutely. I think these are very uncertain times, and we really would have to kind of test the waters to understand what the mindset is. I think recruiters are also very cautious at this point in time.

And do you believe that there would be a sudden splurge of a number of applicants, the talent coming into organizations, right? I mean, they would be so many candidates trying to fill one position.
So, do you think that this would kind of completely change the way we recruit? Will we have to change the strategy around it?


I think it varies. Obviously, there are organizations at the moment who are desperately trying to recruit people, say in the UK, for example, the supermarkets are desperate to recruit drivers. So they can up their online delivery.

You know, health care obviously has huge needs at the moment. Also, there are lots of other companies that are continuing to recruit and look for the best talent during this crisis.

I mean, in terms of what happens with recruitment afterward, I think it's very difficult to say. I think that a lot of companies will reshape the way their workforce looks and what they do whether that's embracing e-commerce, or whatever that might be. 

So I think it's difficult to speculate because it will be different in different industries and it will be different in different countries. But I think that anyone expecting recruitment in, let's say January 2021 to be the same as recruitment in January 2020 is gonna be sorely disappointed. It will definitely be different. And that's about the only certain thing I can say.

Anyone expecting recruitment in, let's say January 2021 to be the same as recruitment in January 2020 is gonna be sorely disappointed.


Right. Let's just shift the focus from the pandemic.

Generally speaking, how do you believe, what's a great employee experience according to you? And how must people kind of look at it in terms of tech? Well, how do you create a really engaged team? Or how do you create a very good employee experience? 


Yeah, I think the key thing here, and this is something that we looked at in our book Exceptional Talent. I co-wrote that book with my good friend Mervyn Dinon. I’m writing another one called Digital Talent at the moment. And also in some of the research that we've done. So we did a big piece of research into talent experience towards the end of last year.

But the same thing comes through all the time. It's the fact that you have to think about the experience from the point of view of the employees. So you know their experience of recruitment and their experience of on boarding and their experience of engagement and training, and off-boarding.

You know that is a single experience of a single journey during their time at that employer and the disconnect is the way that employers will deliver that journey. It could cross numerous departments which have different attitudes to the quality of the experience that they give, it might cross lots of different technologies that don't necessarily work well together and that's really to do with the traditional way the organizations have structured and how they've brought technology and now they think about things, and I think that the company is really getting this right.

The companies here are focusing on this as a single journey for a human being or a group of human beings. And how do we reduce the friction in that? And how do we make sure that the experience we give them is the same as the perception of the employer brand we gave them when they wanted to join?

Actually, how do we make sure when they leave the company, they're advocates for that company. Maybe they might return as employees one day. Maybe they might recommend the company as an employer to, you know, their friends and their network or just being advocates for the company in the business, the business that it does.

So it's really important to look at it as a joined-up journey, and I always go back to what I say, it's always key to think of the strategy right before you think of the technology.

"It's always key to think of the strategy right before you think of the technology."

So it's joined-up, journey, and how do technologies support that and you know, that might be about using a single system or it might be using the best of breed systems for each of those use cases but making sure they're integrated superbly. And are giving a very consistent experience to the employees.


So it has to be a seamless experience so that it creates a sense of continuity. That’s not broken. Or you're gonna have a bad experience, right?


Yeah, absolutely. And, I've countless examples of this, a very close friend of mine got a job somewhere last year and the recruitment experience was absolutely first class. It was just absolutely exceptional.

He was working a three month notice period, and the onboarding experience during that three months was absolutely abysmal, with him constantly having to phone the employer to get reference numbers and all that kind of stuff.

But when he joined the company, he really enjoyed working there. But there was that dip in the experience that made him question his decision to join that company.

Other people in his position may have withdrawn their application or immediately thought you know, they started the job with the impression, that this company isn't really for them and maybe they'll only stay for a short period of time.

So it's all of those. It's all of those stages and just being consistent in the quality of experience that's given and I’m really doing this from a kind of user-centered design point of view.

It's like, what is the experience like for the people who are experiencing it and very often the people planning and designing the experience? So, yeah, I think it's very important and I think it becomes even more important as we move forward as we use more technology. 


Right. And then I think it also becomes essentially that even if you kind of reject the candidate, you know the quality of experience that you give to the candidate to explain to them that you know why have you been rejected, will also be important because, as you said, they will be advocates for your brand.

And if you give them a good reason why you got rejected and they will be happy with that experience. And that would create a really good brand, even for the employers, right?


Yeah, I completely agree to that. And it's an interesting discussion, and again, it's a discussion that isn't perhaps as in-depth and sophisticated as it should be.

So on one side of the discussion, you can sit there and say, 'every single employer should give quality feedback to every single candidate' and some of them do too. And on the other side of the debate, you have overworked HR teams and recruiters saying,' wait a minute, we had 5000 applications for this job'. There is absolutely no way we can do that.

You get this kind of polarized situation, which I think causes the problems that we have in candidate experience where one group of people saying everyone should do this, but not really saying how and then the other group of people saying, we absolutely can't do this so we're not going to look into it.

So, I think the companies here doing this well are kinda thinking about practically actually, what could we do? And it might be a chatbot. It might be moving some of the kind of software-driven assessment to earlier in the process that could give people, some kind of automated feedback or it could be just about, you know, prioritizing that in the workflow.

And it's very different for every company and every industry. And I think having a polarized conversation about it doesn't help. But, in the last few years, I have seen lots of companies addressing this seriously in the volume business, chatbots, and automated communication obviously.

The technology is developing on a month by month basis and I think that there's definitely a part of the answer.


Absolutely right.

And when it comes to our content marketing strategies, when you want to deliver success and you want to create a great employer brand, what are the most key points to keep in mind when you are, you know, developing that strategy?


So you know that the first and most important key point, which I feel I say time and time again. But people still don't do, is understand your audience, so you know a large organization will have a number of different audiences that it's speaking to.

Understanding that audience, understanding where they are, understanding what motivates them, understanding what's going to emotionally connect with them is important because when it comes to content marketing, even business to business content marketing and employment content marketing an emotion is always key. Emotion is the thing that drives action always in content and in storytelling.

"Emotion is the thing that drives action always in content and in storytelling."

So you really have to understand your audience to understand what's gonna resonate with them. So I think that's part of it. The second part of it is always about the stories that you're telling is not just about giving very bland information about the employment experience. It's about bringing that to life and bringing the people who work there to life and listening to their stories and hearing the human aspect of that and in a very authentic way, in a way that's believable.

So I think it's understanding the audience and understanding how storytelling works are the things that probably get missed off the most when people are thinking about content for talent acquisition. I think the other important thing is to think about the format. So lots of different formats available and understanding the best way to use them is critical.

So whether that's video or audio or the written words, What are the particular nuances of each of those formats? What one of their advantages is one of the disadvantages are. How do you deploy them in a way that's gonna help you tell your story and help you not just resonate with your target audience but motivate your target audience to take action?


Right. And you said that it has to be authentic. What companies often do is that they do not portray themselves as really how they are. And then there is kind of a glitch in the experience of the candidate because they expected something of the organization, and they had a different pitch in that mind. But really, the company does not portray that genuinity.

So, how do you stay authentic? What are the different sources where you kind of portray yourself and make good quality content visible?


I think that authenticity is kind of really important. I think there is another aspect of that at the moment, which is a lot around how companies all over the world are responding to this current crisis because they're real winners emerging. There were kind of real losers in terms of companies, sort of behaving in an unethical way or a way that doesn't really sort of chime with the times.

It's always a tough one because there are good or bad things about every employer's experience. And I think it's also kind of understanding that there is a balance of places, where people will find the information. 

So, getting content into the channels where people there are consuming it is also very important, but also kind of understanding that people will be doing other research and, you know, looking at things like review sites and trying to get a complete picture about what it's like to work for an organization. I think it's kind of important that organizations realize that they can't be all things to all people.

"I think it's kind of important that organizations realize that they can't be all things to all people."

There will be aspects of their employment experience that do not appeal to certain people who are within their target audience.

And I think that is a good thing because it means that the people who joined the company, understand the experience and are more likely to stay in and provide value for that organization.

But it's a difficult thing for companies to do. And it's been difficult for kind of the last sort of 5 to 10 years. But I think it's that understanding that you can't be all things, people. It's just not possible.


Yeah, that's very difficult to kind of always keep it staged as such. And, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Lastly, I'd like to ask you, Matt, if you've any other important sound bites that you'd like to leave our viewers with?


I think that the most important thing is always around experience and one thing that I really hope comes out of the current crisis is more compassion in the recruitment process. More kind of understanding of what people who are going through the job-seeking process are actually going through and kind of supporting them with the right information.

Also just really looking very, very carefully at the bias that there might be in the recruitment process. And what those biases look like and how they can be overcome. Because I think that notion of quality, that quality experience, and empathy and eliminating bias, where it can be just sort of critically important.

And I think that the employers that do that, are gonna be the employers, that really create a lot of value for themselves moving forward.


Absolutely, that is really, really important to treat people with compassion and equality, and not have any bias around this, be more inclusive. Those are the things that a lot of people are now coming to know, especially because of the crisis, because they did really kind of connected to each other now and value people now. So that is important.

Definitely. And thank you so much for that message. But it was wonderful talking to you, Matt. I really appreciate your time. And I had a lovely conversation with you. It was really, really a learning experience for me. So thank you so much.


My absolute pleasure.

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