We recently caught up with Martin Krill, Managing Partner of Horton International Germany, to find out what impact Artificial Intelligence will have for executive search and to what extent does it shape the working world?
AI is probably the technology with the greatest potential for disruption. What does this mean?
MK: AI will fundamentally change our lives. And I am absolutely convinced that both the economy and our society will benefit. Technology has developed so much in recent years that there are now many processes that AI-controlled computers can handle just as well as humans. One area in which this technology is advancing rapidly is, for example, image recognition. Simply scanning an image instead of having to enter specific data makes work easier in many areas.
Cognitive tasks can also be supported by AI. A very good example is the translation software DeepL. Here, current translations are further optimised by regular applications, so that AI helps to implement new terms or to express complicated facts well. This was not the case with Google Translator. Another example is ‘Process and Task Mining Software’, where AI identifies inefficient processes in the company and automatically finds out where processes can be improved.
What significance does AI and automation have for Executive Search?
MK: It is clear that executive search does not work completely automatically – neither now nor in the foreseeable future. There are some areas where AI provides valuable support in our industry. This can be a professional pre-selection of suitable candidates and also the comparison of CVs with other digital tracks. Pre-selection is all about identifying skills and attributes – Active Sourcing, which is well-known among HR professionals. We are all familiar with the search functions in social networks, but semantic searches were not familiar to us for a long time in the networks. Just like logical connections and related results, this is a new world in which AI helps us identify the skills we are looking for.
A digital comparison can also be made; is the information in the profiles also consistent with the other digital ‘footprints’ of a candidate. Does the environment, living situation etc. fit the mandate sought?
AI and especially professional automation is also very supportive in our own internal processes. Executive search lives from large amounts of data. In our company, for example, data is automatically read into the database. This means that the consultant only has to give permission for the data to be stored without actively accessing the system. Thanks to our excellent IT, we have also introduced process automation in other routine activities. And here again, it is not that all employees have nothing more to do; on the contrary, this supports us all and ultimately also avoids sources of error.
It is often said that AI, robots and algorithms take jobs away on the one hand and create employment on the other. How do you see this?
MK: In general, it can be said that there are hardly any professions that will be able to avoid the issue of digitisation. In almost all jobs, skills and abilities with and at the computer are in demand. Many routine jobs will sooner or later be taken over by software programs or computers. But one thing is for sure, hardly any job description can be completely automated, there will often be a shift or upheaval. Above all, it is important for both employees and employers to stay on the ball and to permanently improve their qualifications and be open to new ideas. During the German economic miracle in the 70s and 80s, many up-and-coming companies and employees fell by the wayside because they had ‘bathed’ in the upswing without looking ahead.
How can companies prepare themselves for the AI and robotics age? What should be taken into account?
MK: It is important first of all to find out what the customer needs, which processes can be improved and which technological possibilities exist on the market. Often it is also worthwhile working with smaller start-ups to introduce processes and not to build the tools completely in-house. However, it is particularly important to have specialists and also managers in your own ranks who understand what will ultimately be automated and how the process should work.
We have many customers who ask experts for exactly this in order to have decision-makers in the company on the one hand, who can also convince the board of directors of new ideas. On the other hand, however, they should be sufficiently well-versed in the subject matter to push the issues accordingly. Unfortunately, these are precisely the talents that are often fought over despite the current Corona situation.