opinion piece

People, not process, is what matters when introducing technology in recruitment

People, not process. WEC’s Vice-President & Chairman of the Blockchain task force John Healy explains what matters when introducing technology into recruitment and what WEC members are currently working on to transform the experience of workers and recruiters.

Published on 5th October 2021

Technological advances have afforded many opportunities to improve the hiring and employment experience for both workers
and companies. Key to the successful introduction of any new technology is to ensure that it focuses on the experience of the
people interacting with it, not on the specific process itself. For us, in the private employment and recruitment industry, this
means that digitalisation must bring benefits that add value for individuals, companies and society.

It is important to take a human-centric design approach, placing the people using the technology at the very heart of any innovation. There is little point in designing a piece of software that works efficiently but which provides the end-consumer with a horrible experience that they will be reticent to repeat. User-friendly technologies that leverage new, emerging digital platforms have the potential to revolutionise the recruitment and employment process for everyone involved and improve the way in which we match supply with demand in labour markets around the world. Let me explain.

The Covid impact

The arrival of the Covid pandemic in early 2020 served to shine a light on some of the challenges that labour markets face in pairing workers with work. When the crisis hit, there was a mass loss of jobs in communities throughout the world as many sectors closed completely. However, at the same time, there was a comparable demand for new jobs with different employers. Many of these jobs required skills that were very similar – for example, people who previously worked in manufacturing jobs could be retrained to work in factories producing PPE. Later, workers with experience in the hospitality sector were wellsuited to work as guides in vaccination centres. The difficulty that governments, employers, and public and private employment agencies experienced in moving people from one sector to another was a clear illustration of the level of friction that exists within labour markets. We were not able to make work transitions happen as smoothly and as swiftly as we needed – and this was damaging for everyone concerned: individuals found themselves without work and income; businesses were finding it difficult to operate because they were not able to secure the workforce they needed to meet new market demand; and governments had to earmark significant funds to social support in order to keep families and communities afloat. This was a zero-sum game and caused a massive sense of loss.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We have the chance to use technology to smooth out the process of connecting people with work and to also speed it up considerably. One area of tech that is receiving a lot of attention right now is digital wallets. We have seen a real interest in these from economies around the world recently as they have embraced digital apps as a means of tracking the vaccination status of their citizens. Digital wallets are trusted, secure and easy to use. Most of us have already accepted them as a normal part of the process of ecommerce to facilitate our online purchases – and the whole area has boomed over the past 18 months as a result of lockdowns. We all recognise digital wallets as a necessary part of modern life and indeed the New York Times has described the Covid-vaccine app as the must-have accessory this summer.

Connecting people
While digital wallets are already widely used as a means of transacting commercially, they also have the ability to connect people with work quickly and efficiently – and this should be top of the list for their further expansion. Indeed, International Labour Organisation (ILO) director general, Guy Ryder, has challenged our sector to set standards for how this emerging technology can be leveraged for the good of all, not just any of our individual members. He judged that as so many people either enter, or re-enter, the workforce through private employment agencies, our sector was perfectly placed to take the lead and we have. The World Employment Confederation (WEC) has created a blockchain taskforce, which I am honoured to chair, where we have gathered leaders in our industry to work together to solve the problem.

Our work to-date has shown that digital wallets have the potential to take make a quantifiable difference by taking a full two weeks out of the process of connecting people with work! We need to agree on operational standards and ensure that they can be adapted to local needs. The standards should adhere to some basic principles: Data privacy and trust are essential, systems must be interoperable across the ecosystem, not exclusive, and as work is delivered locally the operational standards for using digital wallets will need to be set locally with communities coming together to agree how they can improve work prospects for all.

At WEC, one example to highlight is our partnership with Velocity Network Federation. Velocity’s network of members shares our common interest and is actively building the capabilities that will transform the experience for both workers and hiring companies. The process is user-friendly and ensures a positive experience for all those who utilise it – claiming credentials, having them verified, and choosing to share them with the relevant parties, at the relevant point in time. Identity, work history, education, certifications and licenses – all of the information that must be verified before engaging a worker. Leaving the human element of defining the right ‘fit’, conducting a personal interview and coaching an individual on their career goals, or a hiring manager on labour market conditions as the priority for the parties making decisions, rather than the bureaucratic steps needed to meet regulatory compliance. In matching people with work digital wallets offer a win-win situation for everyone: a smoother and faster application and hiring process for both workers and employers and efficient labour markets that afford governments high levels of participation with the result that they reduce their social security payments while increasing their tax revenues.

The fact that the information contained within a blockchain or digital wallet remains first and foremost the property of the individual is a key element as it heightens trust and consumer confidence in the system. In a year where the annual Edelman Trust Barometer revealed very low levels of trust in employers I would hope that the use of such technology could help to build and maintain confidence in organisations. As with so many technological innovations and advances, the rise of digital wallets has been further fast-tracked by the Covid crisis. We now have the opportunity to make it a reality and to run with it for the benefit of people, society, employers, governments – and most importantly for the future of work itself.

First published by Global Recruiter, August 2021

WEC has created a series of video case-studies illustrating the use of digital wallets for both workers and hiring companies. They detail the process of claims, verification and issuing. Check out the stories of Marko and Michelle!

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