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AI and Nokia 3210: personal presence cannot be left out of recruitment

Despite digitalisation and the AI (artificial intelligence) revolution, the role of contact-based recruitment, often based on personal presence, will continue to remain and in some regions and target groups will further strengthen, says Gergely Gáspár, Sales and Marketing Director of Work Force HR. What is behind this? That's what the HR specialist writes about.

Gáspár Gergely Work Force elemzés-

Whether at leading HR conferences or at specific or local trade events, HR technology - from digitalisation to AI - and the domestic workforce are on the agenda. Of course, following market trends, we are clearly talking about priority areas: technological innovations are undoubtedly playing an increasingly important role in HR, and the economic upturn - already forecast in various economic indices - is once again putting the spotlight on the available domestic workforce. It seems logical that the two trends should reinforce each other in the future - but there are a number of Hungary-specific barriers to overcome.

AI in the shadow of the 3210

According to a previous KSH survey, around 20% of the Hungarian population use the internet so infrequently that their digital literacy is not even measurable - and then there are those who do not use the internet at all. And among those who are actively connected to the internet, almost a third report low digital literacy, below the EU average. The statistics show that there is a serious skills deficit on the receiving end (including both inactive and active candidates), while at the same time more and more services and technologies are becoming available to employers.

Personal experience always trumps statistics: at a recent event, a 50-55 year old gentleman approached me for help with his phone. In the next two minutes, I deleted tens of accidentally typed characters on a NOKIA 3210, which, in the absence of the menu star combination (still known to older people), was busily trying to draw a letter-number-symbol string from the owner's pocket. Our brief conversation revealed that I was dealing with a highly experienced welding and structural fitter, one of the most sought-after niche trades in the country. Someone who clearly couldn't be reached with even the best app and AI tool on his current device.

The age differences are significant: while nearly 100% of 16-24 year olds are frequent internet users, the proportion drops rapidly over 45. For 55-64 year olds it is only around 65%, and for 65-74 year olds it is only 40%. If we extrapolate this banding to the Hungarian age group, we get a sobering picture: the most populous age groups are the least active internet users, while the younger generations spend a lot of time online but reach a much smaller audience. Moreover, the statistics show that the most sought-after and valued professionals (with 15-20 years of experience) are not necessarily the ones we can reach online.

They are also the ones who spend the most time in the workplace, but who are less often in the workplace.

It is equally telling to compare the number of internet accesses and unemployment on a geographical basis, at regional or county level. Of course, with so many free wifi spots, this doesn't mean that someone without their own access can't manage to connect to the web, but it gives a good idea of the proportions. And the data show a stark contrast between East and West, with the Eastern regions, which already have higher unemployment, having the lowest number of people connected to the web, while the West and Central regions have much higher numbers. An important lesson is that it is precisely in areas with significant labour reserves (and where there are also many small towns, segregated areas and disadvantaged communities) that we may face the greatest barriers to access.

Staying with the social situation, one more thought-provoking statistic: the lowest income quartile has less than half as much internet access as the highest, making it even more difficult for low-income, typically unskilled or low-skilled workers to access digital. It is clear that access itself poses significant barriers to digital-only recruitment - and it is only after successful access that we arrive at the next barrier due to skills gaps.

Innovation and customer engagement - the recruitment of the future?

Despite the socio-economic situation in our country, technological innovation has a clear place in recruitment practice, its scope, its integration into the process and its template become key issues. Besides practice, the statistics above show that the candidate side is the least automated: due to generational differences, tooling, significant dispersion of IT competences, the specification is either not worth it or not even viable after a while.

This is particularly true if we aim to exploit the additional potential of the Hungarian labour pool. Based on employment data, there is still room for improvement for the youngest age groups (15-24) and the over-55s, but for the former digitalisation on the candidate side is only a real solution. The fact that this group of around 300,000 people is typically characterised by low levels of education and few IT skills also makes it difficult to reach them.

The role of contact-based recruitment, often based on personal presence, will therefore remain, and in some regions and target groups will be further strengthened. In addition, the domestic recruitment results pressure is increased by the fact that the possibility of hiring third-country workers is (also) linked to a successful Hungarian placement quota, so that each Hungarian worker successfully approached and employed is seriously valued. Since the positive effects of digitalisation on the client side do not increase efficiency beyond a certain point, recruitment will require more "groundwork" on the part of companies and service providers - companies with decades of experience and channels in the field will have a significant advantage.

Regardless of the client-side application, digital innovations in HR tech will bring extraordinary efficiency gains in parts of the process, and their necessity is unquestionable. However, it is important to define well how far and in which areas face-to-face and offline work can be replaced at present - taking into account the Hungarian specificities.

Gergely Gáspár (in the opening picture), Sales and Marketing Director of Work Force

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