The Robots Are Coming – Bullhorn Live 2016

Published on October 26, 2016 | By Mark Badley - Managing Director

Last week I was grateful to be asked by our strategic software partners Bullhorn, to be part of their customer panel discussion at their annual London conference, Bullhorn Live.

Bullhorn Live

Each year Bullhorn chooses a theme for the conference, last year was ‘Back to the Future’ and featured an enormous cake in the shape of the DeLorean, complete with dry ice and flashing lights! This year’s cake was R2D2 and C3PO, and the theme of the conference was Robots.

The evening before I travelled to London and stayed in the same hotel as the Bullhorn team. After deciding to grab a quick beer before settling down I bumped into Art Papas who is the Bullhorn CEO. Art is a really great guy, I have enjoyed his keynote speeches for the past 4 years and I really enjoyed having a drink with him and sharing ideas about the future of recruitment.

The following day Art’s keynote speech focused on Robot’s and the future of the employment market. Art raised some very interesting topics, the one that has had me thinking the most since is ‘which professions will be replaced by Technology in the coming years’. One of the slides contained data similar to the image below which was created by ‘The Economist’;
There are hundreds of charts like the above which can easily be found on google images and you can probably find one with your own profession featured. Of course this is all speculation but there is an underlying logic.

The professions that I have been considering the most since Art’s speech are Procurement, Supply Chain and Recruitment. Supply Chain is the most obvious area of technological development. Driver-less cars are already on the roads in some countries and it seems inevitable that all areas of transport / logistics will wish to take advantage of the benefits of replacing drivers with technology.

The warehouse of 2016 already looks vastly different to 2000 when I started in recruitment, Art showed footage of humanoids stacking boxes on shelves, so another 16 years could see warehouses virtually unmanned. A human of course has to train or program these robots, and oversee productivity, but could technology be the biggest input to a growth in unemployment? It is a question that is worth asking? After all, the businesses replacing jobs with tech will still need consumers to have an income!

I find Procurement more complex, since I have been recruiting Procurement people I have witnessed significant advances in the profession, from Centralisation to Category Management, E-Procurement, Outsourcing and Offshoring and a strategic focus on SRM to name just a few. What is evident when I meet clients is that systems are becoming stronger and elements of the process have been automated. Many of the best Category Manager’s that we represent started their careers as Analysts. I wonder whether significant improvements in reporting tools will limit the need for Excel wizards, maybe we will need to find a new way of developing the next generation of procurement professionals.

Recruitment is also very interesting. LinkedIn has itself already proven to be a disruptive technology to the agency community and has helped organisations increase direct hiring. The fact that agencies have grown in-spite of social network powered connectivity does demonstrate the value of human expertise and both clients and candidates preference to have a recruitment consultant to mediate, particularly at offer stage. Interview coaching and offer management are two competencies that I feel would be very difficult automate.

What is definitely on the way is App based temporary recruitment, companies such as Coople, jobandtalent, jobstoday and Tabs offer a service not dissimilar to Uber, essentially on-demand staffing. The most appropriate use of this platform is shift work for one-off shifts. It lends itself well to unskilled production, security, nursing, driving and hospitality type roles. It is hard to imagine the first come, first serve nature would be attractive for longer term or strategic hires but if these platforms take off, it is not unfeasible that they would attempt to develop and target broader employment markets.

I am myself the father of two children who will be part of the workforce of the future. I spend a great deal of time with my children and their friends. They are extremely IT literate, rightly or wrongly my daughter could unlock my phone at 2 years of age and select her favourite app. My wife and I try to limit how much time the children spend staring at a screen and focus on their interpersonal skills. I hope that this gives them both an advantage in life. In order to flourish, I believe they will have to know how best to utilise technology and be best at the things that the Robots can’t do.