RecTech Hype Cycle w/ Nathan Perrott
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!! No, seriously Nathan Perrott AIA's VP of Digital Marketing & Employer Brand talks BS vs. reality.
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Chad: It's the hype cycle.
Joel: Let's get ready to rumble. It's the San Diego aircraft carrier outside my window edition of this Nexxt exclusive. Special guest today guys. He's British, so there may be some translation needed. Nathan Perrott, VP Digital Marketing Solutions at AIA worldwide. Nathan, cheers and welcome.
Nathan: Thanks for having me on, guys.
Joel: So many of our listeners don't know who the hell you are. Give us the 140 to 280 character introduction to you and your company.
Nathan: Thanks. So yeah, I work with clients to help them with their employer brand across digital marketing and technology in recruitment space, focusing largely in TA technologies. I work for AIA. We're a global leader in talent acquisition technologies, and we leverage our talent brute tech, our creative and our strategy to enhance clients' employer brands, basically, and try and redefine how employers and candidates are connecting.
Chad: Excellent man. So we're in today because you and I have been talking for a little while about this rec tech hype site.
Joel: Don't believe the hype.
Chad: Believe the Rec Tech Hype Cycle. What the hell is a Rec Tech
Nathan: Yeah, so it started in 2015, and we kind of identified a huge surge in the amount of recruitment technologies starting to pop up. And we were inspired by Gartner's hype cycles and they do a lot of the HR emerging tech type things. But we wanted to focus purely on recruitment technology and help our clients cut through the BS really. And that started by helping them understand the landscape of what's out there, and seeing all these different technologies in recruitment.
Nathan: So, we tried to map it out and used Gartner's hype cycle as a way of doing that. So it's got these five stages of hype, essentially. You've got the first stage, which is the innovation trigger, where everyone's getting really excited about the types of tech that's out there. You have things like chat bots and AI on there for a couple of years.
Chad: I call that the bright and shining stage.
Nathan: Everyone's getting excited about how recruitment's going to revolutionize and then nothing ends up changing. Then you get the peak of inflated expectations stage, which is where the only people really talking about it are the companies that invested in it or the VCs that have invested.
Chad: Yeah, yeah. I call that the bullshit overfloweth stage.
Joel: Yeah, it starts to stink a little bit.
Nathan: That's right. Then you get the trough of disillusionment, where either the tech's failed and it ends up in that, or sometimes it can pop in there and jump back onto the innovation trigger as the tech maybe gets repurposed, or the type of technology gets pivoted, so QR codes being used as a call to action were in there for a bit before Snapchat reinvented them and the like.
Chad: That's the vaporware attained stage. That's what I call it.
Nathan: If we were doing a brand one for this, for the text one.
Joel: Tinder profile pic wasn't quite as good as the real you.
Nathan: That's exactly it. There's a few tech vendors in there I reckon. And then you hit this slope of enlightenment stage, which is where the technology starts to prove ROI in certain use cases. And what we've started to see over the last few years is that part of the cycle starting to get quite long and quite busy, particularly as new technologies are arising, or the type of technology that we identified previously is split out into slightly more niche uses.
Chad: That's the getting your shit together stage. Go ahead.
Nathan: And then you've got the plateau of productivity, which is okay, it's hit mass market adoption. It's proven its case. And most organizations are using it to attract talent in some way. Now, when we first started this, obviously it was only our point of view to start with, and that section was bit bigger than we thought. But as we started to crowdsource opinion and get clients and other tech vendors insight, that actually shrunk.
Nathan: To be honest, even you've got applicant tracking systems on there, but arguably they're doing the job these days. And I think that's kind of the point of this hype cycle, is that not only is there a lot of stuff out there, not only can you not realistically afford to or integrate all of these things together, but there are some things on here that everybody's using that isn't actually fulfilling what it should be. And that's why other band aids are being put on some of these solutions.
Chad: So that number five stage I have is buyer's remorse stage, and we'll cover that. Don't worry about that. But the big question I have is, who in the community is making recruitment tech landscape complex? Because that's what it is. People can't understand what the hell is going on. So, who's actually making it complex? Is it the vendors? Is it the employers not knowing what the hell they should be looking for research wise? Who's at fault here?
Nathan: Yeah, I think it's a combination of factors. I think the job of the recruiter, the talent acquisition professional, the HR generalists, whoever you're talking to, that job has changed somewhat in the last few years to become part technology advisor, or at least assessor, and IT, obviously, are getting much more involved in the procurement process nowadays for HR tech.
Nathan: And then you've got the technology vendors themselves who are probably making this the most confusing because they're talking about things that their tech does, when in most cases, that's not necessarily the case. And it's caught in between the sales and marketing fluff. There's a huge amount of investment in sales and marketing, particularly from the startup side of things nowadays. A lot of that money that they're raising is going into sales and marketing, rather than product development.
Nathan: I commented on this after Unleashed London, recently, when I talked to a few clients who had used some of the vendors there, and some of the prospects, and even some of the tech vendors themselves, who are saying how they've raised some money and what it's going to be used for. It kind of concerned me a bit, because I think the landscape's becoming much more homogenous, ironically, as each tech company tries to diversify more and more, to get more of the landscape, and try and become this one stop shop. One platform if you like. I know you guys have a view on that, the same that I do, which is there isn't going to be a single vendor that provides all of these solutions, and you kind of have to pick what's important to you and understand what's going to make the biggest difference to your talent acquisition strategy before you go and buy any tech that claims to be the silver bullet.
Joel: Well, don't go telling Microsoft and Google that there's not gonna be one solution. But I'd like to switch gears a little bit, because we have listeners who can't see the actual sort of curve and where things are on this, so I want to give some context to what we're talking about on your hype cycle.
Joel: And I was also reminded by a Seth Godin book, for the readers of Seth Godin out there, a book called The Dip, which is a bit like the hype cycle as well. But just for the listeners out there, some context, you have, at the early stages, sort of going up the initial slope, things like quantum computing, smart spaces, augmented analytics. I mean this is early, early stuff that even we've never talked about on the show, probably.
Joel: As you go up there, up the curve, you're looking at virtual reality stuff, you're looking at 360 video, voice activated job search, your voice assistants, and then as the curve goes down, you have at the beginning of, I guess the third stage, where things are sort of starting to be proven. You have chatbots, you have your autonomous stuff, your interactive video. You're moving up the chart here a little bit with social messaging apps, onboarding platforms. And then, as we go into the stuff has sort of been proven, you're looking at SMS messaging, you're looking at an ATSs, you're looking at paper click. Things like that. So, I wanted to give some context to our listeners about where things are right now on your bell curve.
Joel: My question, however, the thing that stood out glaringly to me was, you have QR codes and chatbots side by side. To me, QR codes, unless this is a European thing, QR codes to me are off the chart. They shouldn't be on the curve. And chatbots, to me, are on the elevated, going up the hype curve, to have already fallen and then working it's way up there. So, what are your thoughts on the QR code, where you put them, and where was the thought process in terms of putting chatbots at sort of the down slope and going up the proven curve?
Nathan: Yeah. Let me start with QR codes, because I think that's a fairly quick one. QR codes is like a reentry fee. That was on the trough of disillusionment for a couple of years. And then we started to use them and see them be used a lot with Snapchats specifically, for engaging with early years audiences, early careers audiences.
Nathan: But in China, QR codes are hugely used for WeChat and for engaging out there. And obviously that's a huge audience. So, we think there's potential there in those situations. But I think they were misused. We've seen posters on the Underground here in London with QR codes, and of course you can't use them if you've got no Internet access. In those days, there was no internet access
Nathan: So, it's like a lot of these things. The technology is not necessarily bad. It just gets misused. And that takes me into chatbots, where I tend to call them shatbots, Shit Chat bots.
Joel: Damn it, why didn't we come up with that, Chad?
Nathan: There are a lot of chatbots, particularly in the UK. They're not even chatbots. Some of them are decision tree based. So, the user's selecting a load of menu options, if you like. They're just sort of replacing website, or poor website navigation and hierarchy. Even the chatbots that you do engage with, where some of these startups are saying, "Oh yeah, brilliant. We've now got a chat bot because someone's released some open source code that we can use. We have a chat bot, everybody. Chuck one of these on your career site."
Nathan: They're just not creating a good candidate experience. The
brand is being impacted by a negative candidate experience, and we're very passionate about making sure that chatbots do the job that they're intended for. Now there's a whole range of use. And chatbots is probably the wrong word actually. Maybe it should just be bots now, because there are different ways that you can use that technology, whether it's in candidate engagement, whether it's in candidate concierge to help them through the application process, whether it's job discovery or FAQs. There's a whole multi-use of bots. That alone could probably have its own cycle.
Nathan: But the impact of making sure that you create a great brand experience to positively impact on your employer brand through those things, is very hard to do. You have to have structured data, you have to have lots of it, you have to give the chat bot time to learn, you have to negatively train it as well. I think some of the vendors that are just plugging in these free or open source platforms that are easy to
create decision tree based things aren't necessarily thinking about that.
Nathan: So, my advice to anyone who's looking at a chat bot should really consider how this is going to work from an experience point of view, how it's going to get trained, what's the data looking like that it's going to read the answers to the questions from, because you can't just sit there and think of 20 questions that someone might ask. Really got to think about it.
Joel: I think that's a really healthy counterpoint to probably what we've been getting a lot of, which is high reply rates, high open rates, anti ghosting, magic. Those kinds of things have been surrounded by chat bots. But your contention is that not so much. They're just now on the slope of enlightenment to convince people that they can be a productivity tool.
Nathan: I've seen some really good uses of them. Some good chat bot vendors out there. They really understand the candidate space. They really understand structured data. They understand what they're trying to achieve, and work with a client and/or that agency partner to create a really branded experience. Some people have done them in house. There's organizations in the UK that have done an excellent job, but unfortunately, the majority of people are just trying to "innovate" and trying to get a shiny thing on their career site.
Chad: Exactly. And isn't that one of the big problems, is that a vendor instead of. I mean a company comes to them and they want to talk about the bright and shiny. They don't even know what the hell the bright shiny is.
Joel: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Chad: Exactly. And then a vendor, they go toward their hot button, and that hot button isn't focused on a solution. So, therefore, it's all about the bright and shiny, which is going to obviously dull and fade, which means overall retention of that client is going to be incredibly low, because they weren't focusing on a solution in the first place. What's the gap you're trying to bridge? What the hell is going on?
Chad: So, from your standpoint, are you seeing many companies coming in, many prospective clients and/or clients coming in asking questions that are not solution-oriented but mainly bright and shiny product oriented?
Nathan: Sometimes. Yeah, that can happen and to a point, there might be an argument for saying, if you want to be known for innovation, you have to be known to innovate and to do the PR around it. L'Oreal has done a great job at that over the years. But most organizations can be oversold the dream of what these technologies are going to do for them.
Nathan: My three overhyped from last year where chat bots, AI and CRM. AI's not necessarily in the same bucket as those two, because, in theory, AI could help with chatbox and CRM, but I'm not sure how much real AI there is in those at the moment. But the reality is, particularly with CRM, it's one of those quick reach solutions where I think organizations think, "Yes, we need to move towards a CRM strategy. We need a an in band recruitment marketing strategy. CRM is going to be the technology to do that."
Nathan: They forget about thinking about the strategy, the audience segmentation, the content strategy, how are you going to stop the talent pool stagnating? How are you going to validate it, the resource, who's going to do it? Do we have the right bandwidth? Do we need a sourcing team rather than a reactive recruitment team, as well as, instead of how we're going to switch that balance? Do they have the time and the skills? Sourcing and inbound recruitment, marketing through a CRM is really, really complex and takes a lot of time, and you need great, compelling content. There we go with the brand again.
Nathan: But most people go for the tech, which is the last thing you should do, once you've figured those things out, and we go for the tech, plug it in. I hear this from clients, I hear it from the CRM vendors themselves. "We've got it. We're not using all of its capability." The vendor says, "Yeah, the client's got it, but they're only using 10% of the capability." And think, "Well, no kidding. You've just gone straight to the end, to the silver bullet and it's not worth it."
Chad: Exactly. Well, and that's not a silver bullet. I mean, we see this with applicant tracking systems all the time. We were in a room full of people at Sherman, Nashville, and we asked how many companies are happy with their applicant tracking systems. Hardly any hands went up, number one. Number two, most of those companies or possibly using 5% of the capabilities of those platforms in the first place, so they're not happy with something they're using 5% of.
Nathan: Yeah, exactly.
Chad: It makes no sense to me whatsoever, and they want to start layering new technologies on top of the applicant tracking system that's not working for
them. What the fuck are they thinking?
Joel: Especially considering how much they're spending on some of these solutions.
Chad: Yeah. Especially an applicant tracking system. Fuck me, man.
Nathan: I think one of the challenges that I've identified now. I don't know if this is something you guys have recognized, but most recruitment technology software as a service is obviously going to have a recurring fee, but the way the platforms are built is designed to be maybe configurable to a degree, but primarily it is what it is. Particularly with applicant tracking systems.
Nathan: Whereas organizations that are buying them have very different, very disparate structures to how they recruit, how they approach TA, and trying to find that middle ground between a very rigid SAS platform, and process that you want to, or think is the right process, and trying to make that work with that system, I think there has to be a bit of give and take. It's difficult because do you buy a system that is regarded as a great system and change your resourcing strategy, your TA model, and possibly your head count and the types of skills and talent that you hire to that system? Probably not a good idea, but you might have to go some way to that.
Nathan: Or do you select a vendor that matches your TA model that maybe isn't best in class but it's a little bit more flexible? And I think that's where some of the middle ground vendors might win. But whether that's good for their business or not to adapt and customize their SAS platform for a client, I've heard some horror stories of technology vendors, even big enterprises, ATSs, configuring their platform or customizing their platform for a client to get to a point where they say, "Look, we can't service this anymore, because it costs us too much money, so we're not going to continue."
Nathan: And the client's thinking, "Okay, well now I've gone all the way down this route, I've paid for all this customization, and now I'm going to have to migrate anyway." So, it's a real difficult balance, I think, because we're moving into this software as a service powered tech model.
Joel: Hey Nathan, I'm curious about, to be morbid, the death toll of this whole hype cycle. And I'm wondering where job boards might fit on this curve, and even going further back to newspaper ads or print. What happens once you plateau and then things fade? What are your opinions on that?
Nathan: I think some things get reborn. So, job boards are going through that kind of identity change at the moment. What are they going to be? And that's why the likes of some of the job boards are buying tech, or acquiring tech to try and diversify or get a different piece of the TA Tech Landscape. So, whether job boards exist as they do today or not, I think we can guess what might happen.
Joel: So it's your recommendation that a business should always try to be somewhere on the hype curve to always be viable or relevant?
Nathan: Yeah, and I think you've got to be looking at the innovation trigger, as well, because you need to be pushing boundaries and looking at some of this emerging tech to see how it can play. But I think some of the challenges in... Todd, VP of Innovation and Labs it at AIA globally, he's been looking at the HR tech investment landscape for a number of years now, and he shares that information with us.
Nathan: Two, three years ago, we were looking at quite a low average brand of investment, which wasn't really significant to secure the longevity of a technology business. But that has significantly increased over the last few years, which shows a bit more of maturity in the space. It's probably more now, what's considered smart uneasy. You've got people investing in the technology that have heritage and background in HR recruitment technologies.
Nathan: So, I think there's definitely a change happening, but it is a significant amount of money so that AI can truly be adopted in recruitment, or blockchain, or even quantum computing. And I can't even explain what that is. So, I just know it's a bit better than AI. I think some of these things will be reborn. I think some will drop off. Will we need search engine paperclip marketing with the growth of programmatic? But that's having its challenges at the moment.
Nathan: We're having this constant battle at the moment in digital marketing of data privacy and ownership of data, and not being targeted. The platforms like Facebook battling for ad revenue, not wanting to piss the advertisers off, but at the same token, they're getting pressure from governments and from users that they want more protection of the data. So, now Facebook has reduced its targeting again and again over the last year or so, to a point now we say, "Well, is it as effective as it was or what the promise is?"
Nathan: Yeah, exactly.
Chad: It's not, it won't be. And I take a look at job boards. So, let's take a look at job boards real quick, before we talk about what's going on with targeting Facebook and how they're kind of setting a bad precedent, I think, for the industry. Is that there's a ton of investment that's being poured into job boards. I believe the reason behind that has nothing to do with our current technology, it has to do with the data.
Nathan: Yes, absolutely.
Chad: And also the information and the opportunity, not to mention the revenue streams they already have in place. So, to be able to pivot a revenue stream into something entirely new, obviously that's not easy from an adoption standpoint, but it's easier to do that than try to build an entire revenue stream from the ground up. Right?
Chad: So, I think that's one of the things that we could be seeing with, hopefully, successfully, or maybe not so much in some cases from a job board standpoint, but from Facebook, they have data, they have shit tons of data. But I really think they are making a very bad decision in not focusing on policing and cracking down on bad actors. They're saying, "Well, we'll just take tools away and make this targeting really just like everybody else's." Where they had a hell of an opportunity just to kill the market, much like Google, but now they're waiving it away. Do you think that'll come back, or do you think now that they've gotten rid of it, now that shit ain't come back for Facebook?
Nathan: I think it's a difficult one to call because I think the Facebook platform is, as we know it, facebook.com, I think that's going to suffer. I think it already has from a user base. The network that's behind it, the advertising network and Instagram's its holy grail right now. Whatever it really, truly unlocked with WhatsApp could be a key to its success in the future, but its advertising network with in game advertising's hugely successful, and can be extremely relevant. How that will play out in the future, I don't know.
Nathan: Just coming back to your future of job boards, I mean there's a number of job boards in the UK, particularly, some of the big ones, actually, and I mean traditional job boards rather than aggregators. The candidate experience is absolutely horrific because in this need to gather data, they're making candidates go through this interstitial login platform, where you click to apply for the job, you fill in this registration, you think you've applied, and then finally it sends you through to the actual ATS, where you need to click on the apply button again.
Nathan: How is that creating good candidate experiences? It's not. Part of my job and my team's job's to look at that whole experience. I can tell you now, looking at the source data from all our clients' sources of applications and hires and traffic that job board, they're not up there. We've got organic search from Google. Even Bing in some cases. You've got Indeed still very successful, and Google's jobs is one of the most emerging areas now. And I think you combine that with what the big three firms of Google, Facebook and Microsoft are up to at the moment, and you're looking at a place where, do you know what, it's going to be really difficult for job boards to compete.
Joel: Nathan, show recently presented our TA tech. Video and voice were big topics of conversation. We heard how much search is done through video, how much of the Internet consumption will be video going forward. And of course we see large platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, et cetera, YouTube, sort of being the backbone for a lot of that. But what is your opinion in terms of, say, video and voice assistance becoming a thing in your hype chart and some of the startups that you're seeing in those areas?
Nathan: Yeah, I mean video has always been big, but I think it's even bigger now. And when 5G finally launches, at least in the UK, we're going to see an even bigger adoption of it. So, we're encouraging a lot of our clients to migrate to a video first strategy when it comes to their content. Because written content is just not getting read nowadays. Anything over paragraph of 140 characters, nobody [crosstalk 00:28:09]
Chad: Woohoo! Podcasts!
Joel: Don't make me read.
Nathan: Which takes me nicely on audio. Voice assistance is going to be huge, I think. We're currently in that innovation trigger of what's gonna come first. Do you build the infrastructure before the users come, or do you need the mass market adoption? There's no doubt about it, that as a consumer device, that it's increasing and it's huge.
Nathan: We've seen what I would call a very broken entwined candidate experience on the Amazon Echo, with some of the skills that have been created, so you can get career inspiration advice. Lee Harrison has done a great job at providing career inspiration advice. You've got interview practice skills, you've got job search skills, but they've all got their flaws. There's a little bit of it that's not quite perfect yet.
Nathan: Zip Recruiter did a great job with their app, but you still have to have the adoption. But the reality is you can search for a job and apply for it by saying three things. I think voice assistants are going to be huge, which kind of takes me onto the growth of Bing. We've very much got Bing on our radar at the moment, because it's powering the search results for Alexa, Cortana and Siri, although I think Siri's proper be fleeting behind at the moment, as far as voice assistants go.
Nathan: I hope that was for Chad and not for me.
Chad: Yeah, that's always for me.
Nathan: There will be a surge in that. There's no doubt. But the thing with voice assistance is, again, you've got to have structured data. So, when you're looking at job descriptions, when you're looking at the content on your career site, it's all got to have very well structured data for those voice assistants to be able to understand it in context, and to be able to find that information to make it discoverable for you.
Nathan: And that's what we're focusing on at the moment, is making sure that everything we build, whether it's a job description important from an ATS with additional content on, is structured in a way that, whether it's a voice assistant or a chat Bot, can be read and understood in the context of what question is being asked. That will help with discoverability and the like. So yeah, very much so. Those two things are huge and unique.
Nathan: And you said it, audio and podcasts are having a huge resurgence at the moment. You go back 10 years, they probably would have been on the innovation trigger and hit the trough of disillusionment, but in the last two, three years, they've really [crosstalk 00:30:40] Yeah, exactly. So yeah, all very positive, I think, in that case.
Joel: Is sourcing on this chart? I don't see it.
Nathan: In what context?
Joel: So I'm curious about, you know sourcing is obviously hot. You have Entello, Seek Out, HiringSolved et cetera. I'm sort of curious where they put them, where they would sit on the cycle.
Nathan: So, I've kind of got social media sourcing platforms there in the middle of the slope of enlightenment, which it's kind of those tools. But again it's how we take some of those tools, and as they evolve, we need to sort of define what they are without using a brand name or a company name. You've also got AI and big data talent identification.
Joel: That sounds like a matching, almost like a matching kind of a scenario.
Nathan: Yeah. So, a bit like some tools out there, that will help you understand the talent landscape. Use the data that's out there, as well as your own data, to try and match the talent based on that market. Now, you might need a combination of those technologies to actually get out in front of your audience, and then you've got to think about, "Well how do we actually get in front of someone who's not not necessarily looking for a job?"
Nathan: And that's where I don't think a conventional recruiter, necessarily, or certainly a majority of recruiters, don't necessarily know how to engage that way, because they're just trying to sell the job, and that person's not even got that employer, or a job moves on their radar. They need to be warmed up a bit with some top of the funnel content, some thought leadership, some interesting content that helps get them engaged and aware. So yeah, that's where I see that that being a challenge.
Chad: Some nurturing.
Nathan: Nurturing. Yes, good word.
Joel: Nathan, thanks for your time today. We really appreciate it. For anyone that wants to know more about you or AIA, where would you send them?
Nathan: AIA.co.uk is probably the best bet. You can get hold of all of us on there. Or you can look me up on LinkedIn. Thanks for having me on, guys. Really enjoyed it.
Chad: Thanks man.
Joel: You bet. Chad, we out!
Stella: Hi, this is Stella Cheesman. Thanks for listening to the Cheese and Chad podcast, or at least that's what I call it. Anyway, make sure you subscribe on iTunes, that silly Android phone thingy, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And be sure to give buckets of money to our sponsors. Otherwise, I may be forced to take the coal mining job I saw on monster.com. We out.