As every vendor claims to be an AI vendor lately, businesses are faced with a massive workforce transition. How do they upskill or find the right workers to develop, implement, and manage these technologies? In a world where the job market is constantly evolving, international workforce solutions provider Kelly Services decided to try some evolution of its own.
Founded in 1946, the company has a presence in over 40 countries and connects people with meaningful work by offering a wide range of services to both job seekers and employers.
I sat down with Ed Pederson, Vice President of Innovation and Product Development at Kelly Services to find out how Kelly has been preparing to support employers who are short on AI skills. Kelly Arc is a new online recruitment platform that connects clients with job seekers who specialize in AI-powered automation. Pederson has been with the company for eight years - prior to that he worked at agricultural and construction equipment firm John Deere, and was one of Kelly’s customers.
Kelly Services has almost 100 internal automations in place from working with UiPath since 2017. This made them a natural choice, but I was keen to know how the project first came into being. Pedersen elaborated:
Typically when a customer thinks about labor, they think about three labor channels. You’ve got full time workers, you’ve got temporary workers, and then you have contractors. We had this hypothesis: what if we could introduce a fourth labor channel to our customers and offer it seamlessly?
Kelly is in the position of having a comprehensive overview of staffing needs across a broad spectrum of industries. Contemplating the disruption being experienced by organizations, Kelly recognized that there was a huge talent gap in the marketplace. According to its research:
On any given day in the US alone, there are between 7,000 to 10,000 open positions for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) developers, architects, project managers etc. And given that this space was one of the niche areas that Kelly wanted to focus on, we said let's see if we can come up with something special here, which turned into Kelly Arc.
The first element that we launched earlier this Spring, was around robotic process automation and bringing digital workers alongside the human workforce. We said we might as well disrupt ourselves and say, ‘Not only can we provide you with the humans, but we can provide you with digital workers that can work alongside humans in a harmonious match or fusion.
Creating a frictionless recruiting experience
Employers and job seekers access the platform through KellyArc.com or a mobile app. Job seekers can create their profiles at no charge and easily track their applications within the app, which uses a combination of AI and input from Kelly recruiters to find roles that best match their skills and preferences. Job opportunities range from contract work and temporary employment to full-time positions.
Recruiting employers are provided with the most qualified candidates, saving time on browsing and shortlisting applications. They receive hands-on support from Kelly recruiters with their requisitions, and have full visibility into the hiring process. In addition, employers have the ability to invite pre-vetted candidates to apply for specific roles. Posting a job on Kelly Arc is free and employers only pay a fee if they hire a candidate.
The creation of the platform went through a number of iterations in a short development cycle. Hiring managers will use different systems for different workers, and each comes with its own formats, requirements and purchasing programs. Pederson emphasized that the overall goal was to simplify the recruitment process for everyone:
When you look at all the different systems that you have to engage with, it's daunting, and easy to think, ‘Well, this is what I did last time, so I should do it the same way this time’ - and nobody questions that. Managers just want to get work done. That's where we wanted to change the narrative. Kelly Arc takes out all the guesswork. You create your profile, put the requisition out and boom, you're served up with talent, right? That's how it should be.”
Taking the agony out of recruitment processes with automation for hiring managers is only the start. Kelly Services and UiPath are already collaborating on the development of Kelly Fusion Digital Workers, custom-built automation tools that allow clients to automate routine tasks and enable employees to focus on more meaningful work. The Kelly automation team, in collaboration with UiPath, builds each custom digital worker to meet the unique workforce needs of clients. Kelly then implements the digital workers alongside their human colleagues and manages their performance.
Pederson observed that while Kelly Arc is currently focused on the niche space of automation, the same problem statement exists in a lot of other industries, noting that it was quite feasible to expand into healthcare, pharmaceuticals and other verticals utilizing the same platform.
During my conversation with Pederson, I was pleased to learn that this project went beyond hiring from scratch, but was looking at opportunities for upskilling and recognizing development. We discussed the functionality to set up particular interests in both customer and employee profiles, and automatically updating records when an applicant registered with Kelly Arc completes a new qualification or certification.
This is about more than reducing paperwork. Calling back to the demonstrations during UiPath Forward's keynote, the opportunity to provide recommendations for cost comparisons based on different contracts, insights on applicant availability and training could take recruitment to a new level.
The combination of automation and AI in this context is a strong example of not taking away jobs from anyone - but getting the right people into the right roles, faster.