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Innovation is a lodestar term used to help companies advance unscathed and resilient from the current economic and social uncertainties. The aim is to evolve and gain some sort of competitive edge in whatever ‘new normal’ emerges. Yet innovation is often overused under-actualised.

It is true that the last three months we have come together in collectives and as collaborators to produce hugely innovative solutions to very real and sudden challenges. From rapid PPE production to remote working, we have been highly ingenious.

There is no surprise that at the heart of these innovative initiatives is diversity. Cross-discipline individuals with varied skill sets and experiences coming together to share perspectives and innovate. Innovation has always been at its heart a cross-discipline, collective process. Many of the recent examples have been of companies or individuals from different organisations coming together, and the lessons of these experiences can be digested inside a company.

Diversity is the simplest way to increase a team’s collective intelligence. This drives innovation within a company. Diversity of experience, of skill sets, of background, even neurodiversity are key. And yet recruiters often fall into a series of biases and traps that mean opportunities for diversity are often missed in the hiring process. This is where technology can help. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a vital tool in helping your company ensure diversity of hiring, not replacing recruitment officers but working alongside them.

Novel solutions most often come from new perspectives. From collectives; as working in a group brings together different perspectives. The collective intelligence of the group depends on numerous factors, a central one is diversity. The famous MIT study by Thomas Malone showed that the simplest way to increase collective intelligence was to add more women to a group – it immediately increases diversity. Likewise, the more socially perceptive that members of the team are, the more collective intelligence the group holds. But diversity and the soft skills that underpin social perceptiveness are often unintentionally overlooked in recruitment.

This is where AI can help. Now we all know that AI has its own biases. But we are entering a new era of awareness of this and with more attention and ironically diversity of coders in the writing of programs, this is being addressed. But despite this AI has some serious strengths. As Aleksandra Mojsilovic, research fellow in AI at IBM has pointed out, AI, used correctly, has “a shot at being better at decision-making than we humans are, particularly in hiring,” and “it’s not about replacing human intelligence, but rather about complementing it.”

So how can AI complement human recruiters? Firstly, processing ability. If you want a diverse pool of talent, you need to spread the net as wide as possible. This takes time, but AI can very quickly spread your hiring net as wide as possible, considering huge numbers of people in all sorts of locations. Secondly, AI knows how to speak to them. Language is often underrated when we think about the challenges of recruitment. Recruitment is also part sales pitch. AI that has been programmed to understand the communication styles of different candidate groups and can talk to them clearly and passionately to make a real connection.

Next comes AI’s ability to target skills sets. AI can identify candidates with skill sets that are highly appealing to a company but may be overlooked normally as their title or previous role does not necessarily fit with the current opportunity. This can be vital to bring in edge thinkers from other disciplines with new perspectives. And while yes, like humans, AI can have unconscious bias towards certain genders, races and minorities, AI can be programmed very easily to overcome them.

Even in interviews, humans can be supported by AI. Again, AI can avoid bias, stripping away extraneous factors such as gender or race. Moreover, AI is impartial to answer-bias – as sadly yes, we have a natural bias towards those who share or echo our own opinions. Digital interviewing can put some candidates off. They are after all interviewing you too and an AI interview can seem highly impersonal. However for some, an AI interviewer is preferred. Take those who are ‘neurodiverse’, such as those with autism or ADHD. These individuals are of huge value to any company, but they often struggle in real life interviews, finding the high-pressure social situation a challenge. To them an AI interviewer can allow them to shine.

The development of interpersonal relationships is far too crucial for there to be an AI that can replace a human recruiter. But, we now have the evidence to show humans working with AI at various stages in the recruitment process are far more effective than on their own. Innovation will be definite focus as we move forward, with diversity a key to unlocking it. Prescient companies need to ally themselves with the technology and ensure they integrate AI into their recruitment process.

Andy Davies, Head of Global Enablement, MHR

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