The importance of ‘touch’ v ‘technology’ in digital war for early talent

Young people still prefer a high level of human ‘touch’ when applying for jobs, believing human recruiters to be better at identifying talent versus technology, according to a new survey published today by The 5% Club and Schneider Electric UK.

Furthermore, the survey by the training and skills campaign group[1] of 1,000 young people and their employers, highlights a disparity between the most popular forms of digital recruitment tools utilised by employers and those favoured by young people themselves.

The rise of machine-learning and predictive analytics has become an efficient way for many companies to find and recruit early talent, improving workflow, removing bias and managing high volumes.

However, according to The 5% Club, companies that fail to embrace the balance between human ‘touch’ points and the right forms of technology, risk finding themselves on the losing side of an increasingly digital war for talent, with young people turning to companies who do succeed in getting the balance (and tech) right.

The 5% Club and Schneider Electric UK survey shows the following:

  • Over half (52%) of young people don’t believe that technology does a better job at identifying talent compared to human recruiters, with only 1% feeling more comfortable working with technology over people during the recruitment process;
  • Over half of young people (58%) would like to experience a 25% tech-enabled v 75% human interaction during recruitment, with a further third preferring 50% tech-enabled v 50% human;
  • Whilst young people are positive about the use of cognitive gaming in recruitment today, this tool is only used by 9% of employers surveyed;
  • Similarly, experiences of online knowledge assessments and on-demand videos (where candidates provide a response to set questions) are rated as positive by the young people surveyed, but only put into practice by a third of employers;
  • 67% of employers believe young people expect to see technology being used in the recruitment process, yet results show that only 18% of young people feel that technology gave them an advantage in the recruitment process;
  • 85% of employers agree that the rising use of technology helps to manage high volumes of applications and 76% said technology helps workflow.


Lady Cobham CBE, Director General of The 5% Club explains:

“Whilst technology is, of course, an inherent part of today’s recruitment process in order to streamline and manage huge recruitment workflows, its use must be tailored where possible to fit with what young people find most appealing. Human ‘touch’ points are still incredibly important for the young, with traditional forms of recruitment such as assessment days and face to face interviews favoured as an opportunity to build a relationship and see the company ‘brand’ in person.  Where digital recruitment tools are used, The 5% Club’s research shows that companies should be considering greater use of tools favoured by the young, such as cognitive gaming and online knowledge assessments.


“In a candidate driven market and with many competitors vying for talent from the same pool, companies must consider the recruitment process as part of their employer brand. Part of this means understanding how young people want to be treated during the recruitment process, the tools used to assess potential and the candidate ‘journey’ – often the recruit’s first experience of the company. Getting the balance right between human ‘touch’ v ‘technology’ is vital if businesses are going to attract the best early talent, like apprentices, and ultimately fill roles, imperative in the current skills crisis.”


Peter Hogg, Talent Acquisition & Mobility Manager, Schneider Electric UK and Ireland, comments:

“Digital recruitment technology has a lot of potential to improve experiences of candidates and those tasked with assessing early talent. Such technologies boost productivity, reduce the volume of repetitive tasks and allow talent acquisition teams to focus on where they add the most value. Yet, the findings of the survey suggest that we should not be complacent, revealing a widening rift between the needs of recruiters and young professionals.

“Recruiters consider the increased use of technology as part of the attraction, assessment and selection processes necessary to scale up and offer improved candidate experience. Young professionals do not trust in the technology’s ability to correctly and objectively assess their
skill sets.

“Digital natives both professionally and personally still favour traditional recruitment practices, desiring as much as 75 percent of human interaction throughout the process. If we want to attract and retain top talent, we can’t ignore these findings. We must constantly strive to strike the right balance of technology and the ‘human touch’ throughout the process, offering the right guidance with the technology.”


Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, one of the UK’s foremost Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts and author of The Digital Ape: How to live (in peace) with Smart Machines says:

“AI brings real benefits to the workplace and recruitment processes as companies seek to secure the best talent. However the best AI programmes involve humans setting parameters for diversity, inclusion and fairness for example. The iGeneration is often alleged to be one which expects technology to replace human interaction, and so it is reassuring to discover, through The 5% Club’s survey, that this isn’t the case. Young people accept and celebrate AI in their lives, but they still expect, want, need and value human interaction and particularly during those important milestones in their life, like applying for a job. Getting that balance right, is a challenge that companies would do well to acknowledge and address.”


Notes to Editors:
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Emily Williams, Thwaites Communications
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