Mark Kieve, CEO Pixid UK

In business – as in life – the most fundamental challenges we’re likely to face are the ones over which we have no control. We’re not just talking about new technologies, key political events, future trade agreements and economic recessions. We’re also talking about transformative demographic shifts and the eruption of entirely new business and revenue-generating models.

Exploring VMS Technology and the Contingent Workforce…

Back in 1998, for instance, my copy of The Shorter MBA made no reference at all to the Internet. Twenty years later, online digital technologies have reshaped the world in ways most of us could never have imagined. Today, as Tom Goodwin points out, the world’s most valuable retailer holds no inventory, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles and the world’s most popular media owner creates no content.

What Alibaba, AirBnb, Uber and Facebook “own”, for now at least, is control of the digital customer interface within those industries (with platforms such as LinkedIn clearly aspiring to achieve something similar in the professional networking space).

So what do these changes mean for the recruitment and contingent workforce sectors? Well, it’s hard to ignore that we are experiencing major disruptions to global labour markets, with the World Economic Forum describing the emergence of a Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by machines and algorithms. The result? A new reality in which 65% of Generation Z (those born between 1995 and the early-2000s) will perform jobs that do not yet exist.

As you might expect, the need for continuous adaptation brought about by these changes is producing a growing competitive struggle between technology providers looking to control the digital interface between agencies, candidates and employers. In particular, we are seeing the emergence of ever more sophisticated Vendor Management Systems (VMS) capable of streamlining processes, managing talent, simplifying administration and facilitating communication across the entire candidate and placement lifecycle.

And these solutions have much to offer.

Being cloud-based, they can deliver the latest technology innovations so that customers can focus on optimising their HR processes and achieving their operational objectives. The best of the solutions can handle a broad range of recruiting practices, ensuring a seamless trail from requisition right through to invoicing. And, most importantly of all, they offer access to granular management information that allows organisations to drill down into what is working and what is not – and to keep on top of GDPR and wider issues of security and data protection that are radically reshaping the digital landscape.

Significantly, the emergence of effective VMS solutions is also coinciding with the rapid evolution of AI technology with its self-learning algorithms that mimic human decision-making and enhance the way organisations identify, attract, recruit and manage the most talented people.

To be sure, this technology has had significant teething problems. In 2015, Google was forced to abandon its AI-based hiring algorithms because they failed to rate candidates for software development roles in a gender neutral way, effectively automating bias rather than reducing it.

But as AI-augmented recruiting technology moves beyond its infancy, it will undoubtedly help businesses drive costs down, drive candidate quality up, and improve the overall effectiveness of contingent workforce management.

Until now, the adoption of VMS technology has been slowed by the significant development and implementation costs of first-generation VMS solutions, effectively confining it to the world’s biggest and best-resourced companies and agencies.

That’s about to change.

MyPixid is the first of a new generation of agency-driven VMS solutions that gives small and medium sized agencies access to the kind of functionality that was once beyond their financial reach. Along with greater affordability and ease of use, myPixid has been designed to meet robust compliance requirements, offer ‘master vendor’ capabilities to smaller agencies, improve client relationships and deliver better agency margins.

As Tom Goodwin points out, “the interface is where the profit is” – and solutions like myPixid will continue to level the competitive landscape, and bring additional players into that landscape, in the years ahead.

One point of caution, however.

While evolving VMS technology and its power of automation holds tremendous promise, we must take care not to overstate its current capabilities. My 30-year journey through the early days of Internet service provision – from co-launching one of the first UK property portals in the 1990s and creating 14 niche job boards in the early 2000s to developing one of the world’s leading ATS platforms (Amris) – has taught me that one thing matters more than anything else in recruitment and contingent workforce management: effective communication.

And technology will only take you so far in this respect.

MyPixid, for example, offers one of the few ‘tripartite’ communication platforms in the VMS sector, one that facilitates open and instant communication between the individual worker, the agency and the employer. This makes for improved efficiency, greater convenience, and better collaboration and relationship-building, all via a single shared interface.

But like all communication channels, its power ultimately depends on how it is used. A truly positive experience for candidates and employers in both the permanent and temporary markets is inexorably entwined with a personalised experience – and that currently includes giving them access to people they know and trust. Real people, in other words, who are on hand to solve problems, offer advice, provide tailored support and engage with candidates and clients in an authentic and trustworthy way.

Does that mean high tech will never be a substitute for high touch? Almost certainly not.

The shift in AI development from process automation to cognitive automation – rightly described by Forbes Magazine as “a game-changer for enterprises” – will do more than speed up the automation of activities within current jobs (McKinsey research suggests that up to 45% of activities that people are paid to do can already be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies). It will create entirely new jobs and augment human capabilities in ways we have yet to imagine. It will also force business leaders to continuously redefine jobs, processes and business models.

And, who knows, it may one day replicate and even improve upon the personalised human communication that currently underpins successful client relationships.

As the great Niels Bohr once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”