How TIAA uses HR tech to diversify hiring

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Is HR tech the silver bullet in hiring strategies? With the unemployment rate hovering at 3.7%, how can employers differentiate themselves from the competition?

Angie Wesley, head of talent acquisition at financial services company TIAA, thinks the answer to at least part of that question is to invest in HR technologies that make recruiting a more seamless and personal process. Wesley and her team at TIAA have implemented, among other things, mobile technology, gamification and text analysis software to help streamline their hiring.

Wesley spoke with Employee Benefit News about the HR tech her team is using in the office every day.

EBN: How are you incorporating video technology into your interviewing and hiring process?

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Wesley: We are currently interacting with our candidates through video interviewing. I think that's probably the most common way that we leverage technology on a reoccurring basis. So we use video interviewing two different ways. Two-way live: We're looking and talking to each other, kind of like a Skype or a FaceTime type video, but use a video tool that provides a concierge service. We also do on demand video interviewing, so we can send the candidate a link ahead of time that gives them maybe some phone screening questions or some behavioral questions that we would like for them to answer and they can video themselves at their leisure and then send them back to us. And we can use that as a screening option. We use that on the professional but also on the campus side. It’s a technique that is growing in the campus recruiting space quite a bit.

EBN: Are you using any specific HR technology tools to screen candidates?

Wesley: When the candidate passes the front end selection process, the next step through the hiring component of the process has been going into this tool that we use called pymetrics. And in that tool, candidates are asked to complete these games, which are all looking at something different. For example, one game might be, how many balloons you can pop in a certain period of time. That might assess if you're a risk taker or if you're not. The games then help us quantify and tell us if this candidate is more or less likely to be successful in this role based on the profile that we have set up. It's not a knockout factor, it's just another component in the selection process. But it is a piece of technology that uses neuroscience to help us further determine how folks react. Right now we're using it in our call center because that's obviously a very high stress environment. You have to be able to respond to difficult clients because you’ll get people calling that are distressed or are having some type of issue. They're not calling in because everything's fantastic. So we're testing different things like that to see how candidates react.

EBN: What kind of feedback have you gotten on pymetrics so far?

Wesley: It's funny because when we go to either HR events or when we bring all of our executives together for leadership meetings, we typically take pymetrics with us and showcase it. Folks love it because we can demo it pretty easily up on the laptop or an iPad. A lot of times people like to sit down and try it because it is a game. It's fun. I will say we haven’t collected enough data of the actual usage, so it’s early to say if it’s proven to be successful. But we haven't had any complaints as how it works into the process.

EBN: Are you doing anything with mobile technology specifically?

Wesley: We invested in a tool called Piazza, which was started by professors for the sheer purpose of engaging with their students on campus. Now employers have started getting into it. It's reaching thousands of universities and hundreds of thousands of students. Students have the opportunity to disclose their contact information, their skillsets and so forth [on the platform].

Using Piazza, we can actually dialog with students online when we target them for recruiting at the college or alumni level. We can directly text them through that tool and interact with them and we can tell them, ‘Hey, we're going to be at Rutgers next week, we'd love to meet you.’ We can export them into our talent network in our career website where we can then set up a community. There's a lot of things that we're able to do with them just by using that new online tool that allows us to have a much larger mobile way of connecting.

Another thing we’re doing is relaunching our career website at the beginning of the year. The one cool thing that we're going to be able to do more of is instant text information to our prospective employees. Texting is really the way to go and it's really what people want to see regardless of the age demographic anymore because it's just easy and you can embed links or videos if you want. Our recruiters are going to start sending quick phone videos to their final candidates. [For example], if you had your final interview today, you would get a phone video or a text message that would be from your recruiter saying, ‘Hey, I wish you luck on your interview today. Don't forget to go to bring your ID when you check in and call me when it’s done.’ Just personalizing it like that. That's very simple and easy versus just leaving you a message. Those are some other ways that we're connecting with the candidate to make it a little bit more personable and meaningful that doesn't, frankly, take any more time. It just makes it a little bit easier to connect.

EBN: Is there any new technology you’re going to be using in 2019?

Wesley: We do have a couple of different technologies that we've recently purchased that we're rolling out in 2019. We have another assessment tool called a predictive index and it's going to sit on top of our application process. So when somebody comes and completes their application with us, whether you're internal or external, there's going to be a link in the application that directs you to complete the assessment. This assessment will ask you to tell us how you see yourself in 10 words and then how you think others see you in 10 words. It's a checkbox assessment and it will generate a four dimensional box. Once we're able to begin profiling groups of jobs and groups of people, we will begin to use those assessments as part of the selection process.

We also are undertaking a pretty large job description rebuild. We’re using a new tool called Textio. It’s a multidimensional language tool. You can cut any type of text and paste it into the tool, and it essentially comes back and tells you, [for example] how feminine, masculine or derogatory your content is. Then it will make suggestions on things you should maybe do to make it more appealing to your candidate audience. It will accommodate based on location or region as well. You can put in that this job is for Louisiana and it will adjust your language based on the scoring in Louisiana and what more people are referencing there, versus what they might reference in New York. The big goal is for job descriptions to be most appealing to the candidates so you can get the most people to apply.

EBN: Why do you think it’s important to incorporate technology into the hiring process?

Wesley: There's a war for talent. It’s the tightest the labor market has been. It's more of a sales job than it's ever been. So the more you can automate, the more you can make things simpler for the candidates, the more you can make things faster for them — the better.

What we're trying to do is find ways and shortcuts with technology so we can find the best talent. And that's what the talent wants. They want to know that we're making their jobs simpler and that they're coming into a company that's invested in them and that we're innovating.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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