Tech Addresses Post-pandemic Talent Challenge

By Peter Bithos, CEO of SEEK Asia

Job markets around the world are experiencing a great deal of disruption these days as businesses wrestle with the long-term repercussions of COVID-19.

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We first saw a rampant loss of employment at the peak of the pandemic, but the tides have turned following the global economic recovery. On one hand, employees are benefiting from “The Great Job Boom” as there has never been a better time to look for a new job and negotiate for better roles. On the other hand, businesses are struggling with “The Great Talent Crunch”, unable to fill the huge hole left in the labour market and increasing demand for top talent.

According to data from SEEK’s JobStreet and JobsDB platforms across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, the total number of job ads has surged by over 30% during the region’s recovery phase between June 2021 and May 2022, compared to the same period in the previous year Meanwhile, the number of job applications has only increased by 5.5% year-on-year. This indicates that while there is a strong hiring appetite, it is also increasingly challenging for organisations to fill vacancies.  

Here in Malaysia, various industries have also been facing hiring challenges. Based on our Job Outlook Report that was release back in June, the top Malaysian industries by job ads volume finding it hardest to recruit are Manufacturing, Computer/ IT and Retail/ Trade.

Meanwhile, candidate imbalance on our Malaysian platform which infers the specialisations that are hard to recruit include healthcare, hotels/ restaurants together with marketing and sales.

So, what can businesses do to deal with the intensifying competition for talent and win the talent war? The answer is technology. And this comes as no surprise in today’s highly digital world.

Hire fast and hire right with a large database and Artificial Intelligence

In the pre-Internet era, businesses would simply put up a “Help Wanted” sign on their windowpane, advertise in newspapers, conduct walk-in interviews, or rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to hire workers. Today, we see companies posting job ads on their websites and social media channels and hope for the best. That might get you in the talent game, but you won’t necessarily be winning it because the rules of the game are constantly evolving.

When there’s a war for talent, it’s crucial for employers to have direct access to a large and diverse candidate pool. The hard truth is that employers cannot hire the right talent if the candidate pool is too small. This might seem like a daunting situation for many employers, especially smaller-sized businesses that don’t have the resources or access to a large candidate pool. This is where technology comes in. 

Recruiting in its traditional form can be a time-consuming, inefficient, and costly process. With the rise of digital technologies, hiring has become more streamlined, which not only serves employers of all sizes but also candidates looking for jobs that match their skill sets.

At SEEK, our platforms connect millions of candidates with job opportunities, and we leverage the data from these interactions through innovation and AI capability to enable us to match candidates quickly with all relevant job opportunities.

Our search engine, Smarter Search, has improved the relevance of search results to help candidates find the right opportunities faster and has contributed to a 20% increase in job applications per candidate session. The Smarter Search algorithms learn which jobs have higher relevance for candidates by applying AI and candidate preference to improve accuracy and continually learn new patterns and trends. For example, if a job seeker searches “kindergarten teacher”, AI would enable our platform to surface similar roles where titles vary such as “early childhood teacher”.

Posting a job ad is only the first step to gaining job seekers’ attention, but employers can take it to the next level by proactively reaching out to the right talent who may not be actively looking. Our Talent Search function enables employers to access and search for SEEK Profiles and connect with candidates using data from candidate profiles and search algorithms to identify candidates who may not otherwise have applied for their open roles.

For companies that deal with a large volume of applications, utilising application tracking systems (ATS) by HR solutions providers can help make the hiring process easier, enabling recruiters or the talent acquisition team to spend more valuable time with candidates and hiring managers. Powered by AI and skill matching functionalities, these systems allow organisations to shortlist qualified candidates in their talent pool and match their best talent to current job openings quickly.

Transform HR to a strategic function with tech solutions

Successfully hiring a candidate might mean you have won the battle, but the war for talent doesn’t end there. It’s equally important for organisations to focus on retaining their employees when there’s tough competition out there.

First, we need to free up HR departments’ bandwidth by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. This could be done by leveraging tools by HR solutions providers, such as ATS, human resources information systems (HRIS), payroll solutions, and digital assessments. 

The three misconceptions that SMEs in Asia commonly have are that HR software are only useful when they have a large number of employees; it is costly to adopt the software; and that it is a complex and time-consuming process to set up these systems or change providers. However, that isn’t the case as there are many providers that are offering digital solutions that cater specifically to SMEs, allowing them to transform their internal HR processes and take away the burden, cost, and time of regular administrative tasks.

This enables HR staff to spend more time on strategic initiatives that are more valuable to the company, such as developing career progression pathways and investing in employee learning and training, which can help attract top talent and retain people.

We believe that technology should not take the “human” out of “human resources”, but instead provide solutions that help HR to focus on other important issues.

A strategic priority here at SEEK is to deliver on our Employee Value Proposition, with quality training being a core component. That’s why we’ve recently partnered with Go1, the world’s largest professional learning and development platform. The intuitive Go1 platform hosts over 150,000 courses from renowned education providers, empowering our employees to upskill and reskill at any time. SEEK staff from any geography can access content on-demand and tailor their learning experience across content styles, course durations, and skill levels.

Taking HR to the future

At the end of the day, it’s not just about leveraging technology for the sake of it. Rather, it’s about shifting the mindset of companies and HR departments to think digitally especially in today’s rapidly changing employment landscape. When HR embraces the agility that comes with technology, they can start doing what they do best, and take it to the next level.

To stay ahead and win the talent game, organisations will need continuously evolve and innovate, to keep up with the latest trends and tools that will push their boundaries to greater heights.

Peter Bithos is CEO of SEEK Asia, the holding company for JobStreet and JobsDB

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