The 3 Industry Trends That Talent Leaders Are Talking About

October 16, 2017

It’s been a little over a week since Talent Connect 2017 wrapped up in Nashville, but we’re still catching our breath, breaking in our cowboy boots, and taking in all the insights that our amazing speakers packed into three days.

Some of the brightest minds in HR and recruiting covered a wide range of topics, but looking back, it’s easy to see some ideas and themes emerge.

From the inspirational keynotes to the tactical breakout sessions, many of the Talent Connect speakers shed light on the importance of storytelling, diverse hiring, and the way AI will shape recruiting. Here's a deep dive on these three trends: 

1. Create a more diverse workforce by confronting issues, training talent, and breaking through bias

Diversity is on every recruiter's mind, with 82% of talent acquisition leaders saying it’ll be the top trend shaping the future of recruiting, according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Report (to be published in January, 2018). So it’s fitting that Talent Connect kicked off with Edith Cooper, Goldman Sachs’ head of talent, reflecting on the viral LinkedIn post she wrote about addressing race in the workplace.

She urged companies to have more honest, uncomfortable conversations—whether they be about race, gender, sexual orientation, or disabilities. “We all have differences,” she said. “Not talking about it is not acceptable. Silence is not an approach that works: it’s the conversations that really matter.” Confronting these issues is one of the best ways to initiate change. “As individuals, as organizations, the sweet spot comes from our ability to harness that uncomfortable feeling to create real ideas and impact,” Edith said.

Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls CODE, gave the final keynote of Talent Connect. She spoke on the ways her organization is changing the tech talent pipeline by teaching girls of color to code. Reflecting on the bias and discrimination she faced as a black woman learning computer science—and how her daughter still faced those same challenges—Kimberly created the nonprofit to “create a better path for my daughter and girls like her.” She also told tech workers how they can be difference-makers by getting involved in mentorship: “The mentors get just as much from the opportunity as our students do—they become change agents, one girl at a time.”

While the keynotes were more high-level and aspirational, several breakouts featured actionable tactics to improve diversity hiring. From ThoughtsWorks recruiting leader Yewande Ige's session on grabbing bias by the roots, to MLT founder John Rice’s talk on breaking through bias, attendees learned specific strategies to cultivate a more diverse workforce.

2. Don’t be a robot: connect with candidates by telling stories and being human

While sourcing strategies and tech tools are super important, you still need to convince candidates to join your team—and that’s where storytelling shines. Facts, figures, and abstract vision statements aren’t enough to attract talent: you’ve got to engage them emotionally and invite them to take part in your purpose.

Pixar story supervisor Matthew Luhn gave a stirring keynote on storytelling that drew on his experience shaping classics like Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, and UP. The speech was as entertaining as it was insightful, with tons of tips for recruiters. “Don’t ever say your mission statement to someone,” Matthew advised—instead, you want to tell stories that make them feel your mission. It’s the same way Pixar movies never flat-out tell you the theme, they let the characters bring it to life instead.

In one of the most popular breakout sessions, Ed Nathanson taught us how to use humor and heart to create “content [candidates] will actually give a crap about.” He broke down perhaps the most popular recruiting videos of all time—”What My Mom Does at GE”—and showed why it works. “There’s nothing about hiring, nothing about applying now,” Ed said. “It’s showing emotion, and showing their message tied to emotion.”

In another popular breakout, Heather Stern—both the CMO and Chief Talent Officer of Lippincott—showed how marketing and talent are deeply connected. “Your culture is your brand, and your brand is your culture,” she said. Using Southwest as an example, she showed how (employer) brands can be more meaningful, memorable, tangible, and human.

3. AI will change the way talent acquisition works

At Talent Connect, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner named three trends that will shape the future of talent—and number one on his list was artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. While it reshapes the broader economy, AI will also impact the way recruiters do their job, too. As just one example, LinkedIn will soon be releasing an AI-enabled analytics tool called Talent Insights, debuted at Talent Connect, that will enable recruiters to find real-time, in-depth talent stats and trends.

Jeff wasn’t the only one to predict the future: Accenture’s Jennifer Carpenter also made five bold predictions about the future of recruiting in her breakout session. Her first is that resumes will become a distant memory, replaced by intelligent automation and algorithm-driven digital platforms: AI tech that will find deeper, more nuanced signals. “In the future, with these signals,” Jennifer said, “we’ll be able to know who is the right person, at the right time, for the right job—no application required.”

Przemek Berendt, Luxoft’s VP of Global Marketing, also held an in-depth breakout on how AI will disrupt the way companies manage talent. Breaking down the technical difference between buzzy terms lie machine learning, Przemek explored how chatbots, facial recognition, and natural language processing (NLP) will impact recruiting. “Accept the fact that AI will change our work,” he advises, “but look at it as an enabler of your work and the future of talent acquisition.”

Final thought

These topics—diversity, storytelling, and AI—only represent a few of the trends and topics covered at Talent Connect 2017. If you couldn’t make it or want to relive the magic, check out the videos at Talent Connect All Access.

While we may have left Music City, the lessons we learned will linger all year long. We hope to see you next year in Anaheim for Talent Connect 2018!

*Photo of Yewande Ige

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