Welcome to our video series, The Experts. In the series, we interview staffing and recruitment leaders to hear their perspectives on industry trends, lessons they’ve learned in the careers, and their leadership philosophies.
In this clip, Jason Leverant, President and COO for the AtWork Group, discusses artificial intelligence and its potential to disrupt the staffing industry. Jason talks about the commoditization of staffing, and the issues around margin pressure and stresses on human capacity, as well as the opportunity for AI to materially effect change and mitigate those challenges.
How is AI already impacting the staffing industry?
Jason Leverant: That’s a really interesting question because AtWork, our company actively takes advantage of AI and we’ve actually been on a lab demo run to try to integrate AI in our recruitment and sourcing activities. The whole thought process is can we use this technology to help exponentially increase the effectiveness of our recruiters? And so that’s these tools that we’re seeing coming down the pipeline. AI is effectively able to help recruiters reach, expand, and engage with talent. They’re able to do so much more with less and I think that’s where we’re going to see the impact of AI on the industry. But actively, we’re seeing it baked into ATS software solutions that are being released to the market, standalone options, even IBM is getting into the game with their Watson product. There’s actually a talent component that you can go out and purchase if you’re at the enterprise level. You’re seeing AI infiltrate all activities that we do in the staffing arena, primarily on recruitment.
What’s the biggest opportunity for AI in the future?
Jason Leverant: I think the continued growth of AI is going to impact and really be used as a tool and resource for recruitment. I’m still not sold that sales is going to be impacted by AI, except for possibly client selection. I think the future is going to be really impactful on the recruitment aspect of it and really being able to bring in more qualified, credible, potential candidates and allow your recruiters to spend their time more wisely versus going out and sourcing, trying to identify hundreds of candidates and trying to pull those one or two hidden gems. The software is going to be able to help bring that hundred down to a more manageable number and then allow the recruiter to do the real work and make that magic happen. I think we’re still a bit off from seeing recruiters effectively going extinct. It’s a bit far for that. It’s a bit forward thinking. But today though, it’s definitely a phenomenal tool and as we continue to see it grow, it’ll just get better.
What are the biggest risks of not taking AI seriously?
Jason Leverant: I think it completely has to do with how effective you want to be in your role. Obviously, everyone’s getting squeezed by their clients to perform faster, to get better people, to do more with either the same bill rates, the same resources or potentially less. And you see margins getting squeezed as well at scale and as the industry is trying to break free from the commoditization, it’s still there. So rates are still our discussion. Rates still are problematic and there are issues there. So we have to get more efficient. We have to be able to operate more effectively, to be able to be faster, and more nimble. And as humans, there’s only so much capacity that we can really carry or maintain. So we have to leverage technology.
And right now it’s relatively cutting edge. It’s very forward thinking. There are a few players at different industry events that are primarily AI suppliers. There is really just a handful less than five that I’m aware of that are actively going to market today and selling a product that is an AI solution or an automated-type solution. There are chatbots and software add-ons to the different programs that are out there today, but true AI, that type of technology will make recruiters so much more effective and efficient. It’s there for you. We’ve actively tested it and have seen how faster and more efficient it can make you. We’ve seen the reach that you really have.
If you go back to caveman days, you’ve got a group of cavemen and they needed to nail something in a tent stake. They picked up a rock and they tried to bang it in and it worked really poorly. So it took more and more caveman to hit the tent stakes in. Then one caveman realized if I strap a stick to it, tie some leather and it into a hammer, I can go twice as fast. The improvement of that tool ultimately developed into the regular hammer.
And today we have pneumatic hammers and all these fancy hammers that you can nail things more efficiently and effectively with. But just because that tool–and here’s where I tie this back to AI–used in the hands of humans made carpenters more effective, did the demand for carpenters decrease? And I would challenge anybody to go talk to one of our counterparts in the skilled trades staffing arena and ask if the demand for carpenters is any less than it was five or 10 years ago. The answer is no, the demand is tremendous for people with those types of skills. They can’t find enough people but it doesn’t make any sense, right? This is the most efficient tools you could ever imagine. They can do so much more with less, but the demand for the people is still there. So if we think about it that way, we have to adapt to these technologies. If I went to a job site as a carpenter and I brought a stick with a stone strapped to it, I’m not using automation and AI and my staffing arrangement, how are they going to look at us? We have to adapt. We have to evolve our business model to stay with the times, to be committed, stay competitive, and really outplay our competition.
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Interested in hearing more insights from Jason? Join us this June at Engage Boston for three incredible days to learn from some of the brightest minds in the field, network with your peers, and discover how to more effectively engage clients, talent, and leadership.