Set up for long term agility in hiring. Organizations can’t expect today’s labor shortage to solve itself; rather, staffing needs to change to adapt to the market to remain competitive. Recruiting teams need efficient, agile, responsive recruitment and hiring technology to deliver a winning model for hiring performance today and in the future. This includes AI and predictive analytics to enable data driven hiring decisions and the tracking and measurement of outcomes necessary for continuously improving hiring.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Eric Sydell.

Eric Sydell, PhD, is an industrial-organizational psychologist, seasoned entrepreneur, and consultant with more than two decades of experience working in the recruiting technology and staffing industries. He currently serves as executive vice president of innovation at Modern Hire, where he oversees all research and product innovation initiatives. An expert in AI, machine and deep learning, psychometrics, and their practical application in hiring, Sydell is the coauthor of the new book Decoding Talent: How AI and Big Data Can Solve Your Company’s People Puzzle, published by Fast Company Press.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

In college, I thought I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but a professor named Eileen Nelson knew better. She sat me down and explained the job in stark terms, and helped me understand that industrial/organizational psychology was a much better fit due to the emphasis on business. She was absolutely right and I think of her clutch steer frequently!

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

As we have already seen take hold in many different industries, automation will continue to replace task-oriented jobs, and increasingly more complicated ones as well. Roles that involve creativity, complex problem solving, and social skills will be the last to be automated. Virtualization will continue to improve and become more common, and workers will be less and less tied to physical office locations. As the past two years have proven, many employees can work from anywhere and at any time of day and remain engaged and productive.

The pandemic has tested “standard” organizational practices, and new workstyles and patterns have emerged to benefit a wide range of life circumstances and choices, including working mothers, marginalized talent and/or health-compromised employees, and those in different geographic areas. While hybrid work itself is not new, new remote work and automation technology will continue to evolve, paving the way for greater flexibility and more employee-centric workplaces than ever before.

An interesting and fortunate outcome of artificial intelligence (AI) technology is a greater societal focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I believe that some of the early, highly publicized missteps with AI helped the world to see how poorly-developed AI could actually exacerbate existing biases, and this has led to a powerful focus on ensuring greater fairness. One way this has manifested recently is in the shift from talk of whether a candidate is a culture fit, to talk of whether they are a culture add. Rather than focusing on workforce homogeneity, why not focus on rounding out the perspective and skillsets of your team?

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

With the advent of modern AI, data analysis capabilities are positively staggering today. With proper data collection, organizations can understand vast amounts of human data that was previously unusable. But much of this data is not properly managed for aggregate analytics. Companies need to develop plans for how to better capture, organize, and store important data so that they can reap the benefits of AI-based analytics.

As with any other AI business application, the results are only as good as the data being fed into the analytics engine. This requires a concerted effort from top-down to ensure the data, not just within the HR systems, but the entire organization, is clean, trusted, and structured in a way that allows machine learning to do its job. No doubt, AI has the potential to make HR practices better, but organizations should be careful not to get too enchanted with the promise of this technology before getting their data houses in order.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

I think the traditional working world is evolving to be much more virtual and gig-oriented. While employers are adjusting to this by implementing new hybrid and flexible work models, employees will also need to adjust to this reality by finding human connections and camaraderie in other parts of their lives.

AI promises great efficiencies for companies, but it can also have a dehumanizing effect, as is likely with increasing use of “algocratic orchestration”. As a society, we need to be careful to harness AI to improve the human condition, not just make companies coldly efficient users of human workers. As more organizations adopt these advanced technologies, they need to be cognizant of how and where they can be applied in ways that improve the human condition while avoiding uses that may dehumanize the workforce.

Modern scientific hiring techniques can help organizations hire candidates more likely to succeed in their unique environments. This includes hiring candidates that have the same values and want to be fully invested in the organization to contribute to its long-term success. Applying AI in the hiring process can provide huge benefits here. Hiring teams can now automate the interview evaluation process to determine job fit; they can measure a candidate’s work outlook and potential, and even predict how long they will stay in a role. These are all measures that can be easily applied to help businesses make smart and lasting hiring decisions that will benefit the organization. Simultaneously, AI-based hiring processes offer candidates a hiring experience that will help them make the right decision in whether the company is right for them.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Clearly, there has been an acceleration in cloud-based virtualization technologies that enable collaboration from home. While some companies are beginning to require workers to come back to the office, the virtualization trend will not abate. During the pandemic, many employees decided they do not want to go back to the office, and yet there are also downsides to being fully remote, such as decreased communication and understanding. This can have a negative effect on work satisfaction and innovation.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

It’s no secret, one of the biggest changes over the last two years has been the adoption of more flexible hybrid work models. And this will most likely never go away. As many employees have come to appreciate the flexibility this shift has presented, such as less commuting time, more family time, etc., employers realize they need to adapt to these desires long term, and also have the right infrastructure in place to make it work. This includes better internet access and seamless logins through the cloud rather than having to go through VPN servers to collaborate and share files with co-workers.

Another advantage to having this more flexible hybrid model is the opportunity it opens up for neurodiversity in the workplace. There are many people who may struggle with the traditional employment environment but who have valuable strengths they can bring to organizations. Many require flexible schedules and work-from-home arrangements to accommodate, for example, sensory sensitivities and co-occurring dyspraxia, which interferes with commuting. The future of work with more flexible models makes it increasingly possible for all people to find gainful employment.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Technological automation can help to shepherd an era of abundance and encourage more leisure and wellbeing for humanity. But for this to happen in a way that benefits all, governments need to ensure that the spoils of these technologies are doled out equitably. This discussion needs to transcend politics so that those on both sides of the aisle can work together in recognition that we are in a transformative time for a civilization that can lead us closer to utopia.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

For companies to be successful, retain employees, and win the war for talent, it’s vital that they recognize the importance of mental health and wellbeing among their employee base. There are a number of technology tools on the market that can be deployed in this area that encourage mindfulness, for example. There are many companies that enable virtual coaching, like BetterUp, that help people grow personally and professionally while also learning how to gain satisfaction and empowerment at work. From my perspective as a psychologist, at the core, organizations need to treat people like people, not robots or parts to be continuously and coldly optimized.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

Historian Frank Snowden suggests that pandemics hold a mirror to society: “Epidemic diseases reach into the deepest levels of the human psyche. They pose the ultimate questions about death, about mortality: What is life for?” Without a doubt, the pandemic has had an impact on the way people view work. Society hit a pause button and everyone had a moment to step back and ask themselves, “Is this really working for me?” As a result, many decided they would move on and/or look for ways to make it better, such as working remotely from distant locations.

The future of work requires a new business mindset and new approach to what work looks like. Many are still stuck in the idea that the only way to run a company is to have people on site. They may not trust their employees to do the work when they’re not in the office or they’re worried they will lose the culture they spent so much time building. But the bottom line is they have to adapt their work structure and policies to more open and flexible models or they will run the risk of losing high-quality workers.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.) Nonfiction to add in Modern Hire’s 2022 Hiring Trends here.

Set up for long term agility in hiring. Organizations can’t expect today’s labor shortage to solve itself; rather, staffing needs to change to adapt to the market to remain competitive. Recruiting teams need efficient, agile, responsive recruitment and hiring technology to deliver a winning model for hiring performance today and in the future. This includes AI and predictive analytics to enable data driven hiring decisions and the tracking and measurement of outcomes necessary for continuously improving hiring.

Focus on hiring for potential over current skill. Unquestionably, technology today advances faster than ever before and as a result, existing skill sets become outdated much quicker than in past decades. To combat this, organizations are wise to focus more on candidate potential than current skill. Job-relevant competency-based assessment tools using advanced technology can help employers narrow the candidate pool quickly to those who will be able to learn and adapt to meet the challenges of your organizational future, while also having a more positive impact.

Create real-world candidate experiences in the hiring process. By combining the right technology with human touch, recruiters can create personalized hiring experiences that effectively represent their organization. Giving candidates a realistic preview of the job enables them to be informed and engaged in the process, promoting a positive hiring experience, and encouraging employees to be their true selves. This includes providing job relevant information as opposed to games that don’t clearly connect to the job, and personality tests that aren’t predictive of on-the-job success. Organizations that paint an honest picture of the job are more likely to hire candidates who will stay for the long haul.

We will see continued adoption of AI tech. Forward-thinking hiring teams are already using AI-powered tools to anticipate hiring needs, identify internal opportunities, reduce hiring costs and turnover, and measure the progress of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In 2022, AI-equipped hiring solutions will be essential to enabling data-driven hiring decisions and for tracking and measuring outcomes necessary in the ever-changing job market. Recruitment teams will look to advanced, science-based AI solutions that include predictive analytics, automated interview scoring, and natural language processing to further boost new-hire performance, retain employees, and increase efficiency. These tools will be the clear differentiator for delivering ROI.

Reduce bias in hiring. Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion will continue to be a significant priority for companies this coming year. However, while nearly all companies are making this a priority, there are clear steps organizations can take to improve DEI outcomes in 2022, including expanding candidate sourcing, hiring for diversity effectively by utilizing pre-hire assessments that mitigate group differences, and using data-driven selection. AI hiring technologies that demonstrate a human-centric approach significantly reduce bias and help organizations avoid the unintended consequences of adverse impact while also maximizing hiring through efficiency, predictive analytics, and candidate engagement. This combination of capabilities is the key to meeting the challenges ahead.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

The quote I have on my desk says, “Knowledge IS the product”. I don’t think this is an actual quote, but a phrase that helps me stay focused on the value that we try to provide for the world. It’s not about fancy tools, cutting-edge AI, or glitzy marketing. At the end of the day, what matters most is that we are using our capabilities to help the world make better, fairer, more informed decisions using the scientific process.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Well, why not go all the way to the top? I would love to sit down with Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh to discuss how our government is preparing our workforce and organizations for a future of work that is so very different from what we all currently know. While we haven’t invented a working crystal ball yet, there are clear trends impacting us, including virtualization, decentralization, the lingering effects of the pandemic, and AI-based automation. We can and should plan for these developments so that we can ensure an equitable, innovative, and productive future for all Americans.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

[email protected]

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.