“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of our past. We want to make all new mistakes.” Barry Asin half-joked in his opening presentation at the 2016 Staffing Industry Analysts Executive Forum, held last week in Phoenix. Because this year marked the 25th anniversary of SIA, much of the conversation was around how the staffing industry has evolved over the last 25 years, and what the next 25 years will bring.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s conference, not to worry: Here are three of the most memorable takeaways from this year’s conference keynotes.
The Robots are Coming
The emergence of automation and artificial intelligence was a popular theme at this year’s forum. It’s undeniable that technology has had an impact on the staffing industry, but as technology gets more sophisticated and automation replaces jobs, what does that mean for the future of recruiting? Should we be fighting technology or running with it? It’s a topic Barry Asin addresses in his opening session, “Where We Came From, Where Are We Going?” Asin notes that while artificial intelligence will likely replace many jobs, it will also create them, opening up opportunities for staffing firms. Moving forward, he predicts, the recruiter’s role will evolve into that of a consultant or advisor, while the actual act of finding the candidate will be automated.
In his keynote, “The Rise of the Machines: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work,” Neil Jacobstein, co-chair and director of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the Singularity University, NASA Research Park, went into more depth about how the rise of artificial intelligence will affect the staffing industry.
While there are inevitably risks involved with using artificial intelligence, Jacobstein noted, we can’t deny the benefits of it – improved efficiency, higher accuracy, lower costs, product and service innovation, as well as faster actions and decisions, to name a few. The best way to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead are to work to ensure the technology is implemented responsibly and humanely – and to arm ourselves with “a dozen different ways to re-establish control” should anything go wrong.
Focus on Strengths, Work Around Weaknesses
“All performance ratings are bogus.”
This is what best-selling author Marcus Buckingham proclaimed during his keynote, confirming what most of us already thought but were too afraid to say. Human beings are the worst judges of other human beings, he argued, because all ratings systems are subjective. Instead of performance reviews, he said, do what the best leaders do and have frequent strengths-based check-ins with employees about their near-term future work. These check-ins do not even have to take a full 10 minutes and only need to consist of two questions: “What are your priorities this week?” and “How can I help?”
Buckingham also addressed a common misconception among leaders: That it is better to work on fixing your employees’ weaknesses than to work on developing their strengths. Not only does research show that the opposite is true, but workers are also more passionate and productive when they are in a job that enables them to use their strengths on a regular basis (or as he puts it: “We want to be on a team where someone recognizes us as a knight, not a rook.”). None of this is to say you should ignore your employees’ weaknesses, but focus most of your energy on the areas where they will grow most (their strengths) and give them opportunities to use those strengths.
Be Present to Be Effective
In his keynote, “Becoming an Effective and Productive Leader,” Jeremie Kubicek shared insights from his book, “5 Gears: How to be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time.” The philosophy behind his book is that every one of us, at one time or another, is in one of five “gears” (or modes, as he also calls them): Focus mode; task mode; social mode; connect mode; and recharge mode. And while there’s a time and a place for each gear, we as humans don’t always get the timing right. “Some of you are in the wrong gear at the wrong time,” Kubicek says, “and it’s undermining your authority,” Kubicek says.
For instance, when you’re in focus mode, you’re “in the zone:” hyper-focused and hyper-productive, which is great – but not all the time. People who are constantly in focus mode (also sometimes known as workaholics) have a hard time stepping back from work and being fully present when those around them need them to be. They feel they’ll lose momentum if they do.
But there are two problems with staying in focus mode: One, it leads to crashing. “If your phone crashes, it’s good for nothing,” Kubicek points out. The same concept applies to humans. If you’re crashing, you can’t be of service to anyone, and you can’t be an effective leader.
The second problem is that if you’re too focused on work to build relationships, you will be less effective as a leader and, ultimately, less productive as a team. Kubicek, a former workaholic himself, speaks from experience. ““I was so busy, I was disconnecting, and I wasn’t being effective,” he says. “Once I started connecting with my team, we started getting more done.
For more highlights from the 2016 Executive Forum, check out Overcoming the Biggest Staffing Challenges of Today: Lessons from the 2016 SIA Executive Forum – and keep an eye out for even more recaps from the conference right here.