MidWest TechRecruit Wrap Up
Author: Tanya Oziel-Bourque
When it comes to conferences focusing on technology or recruiting, we often think about major hubs that often dominate the space: Silicon Valley is an obvious answer, with other choices such as Los Angeles and New York City. However, it appears that a shift is taking place where Chicago and the Midwest in general is emerging as a region that will demand a level of respect and attention from the technology sector in the coming years.
The Midwest TechRecruit 2019 Conference was quite different from many of the tech conferences I have attended in the past. There were some incredible discussions and insights offered by the speakers, and the conference focused on hiring strategies in general. Specifically, the conference highlighted the ways that technology recruiting will change - and improve - over the next several decades.
The pre-conference mixer began at none other than the LinkedIn Headquarters in Chicago, which recently underwent an expensive renovation. LinkedIn’s offices are spectacular, the food was tasty and the bar was open. Stacey Broadwell, the TechRecruit Conferences CEO, welcomed everyone with a cheerful note and described some of her own challenges in operating a global staffing firm, IT Talent Search, as the catalyst for launching such a conference. “It’s time Talent Acquisition came together and recruiters had a seat at the table”, she insisted. Stacey then introduced, LinkedIn’s Holly Lignelli to say a few words followed by the legendary Lou Adler. The evening was a perfect way to network with all the speakers and attendees before the conference.
At MidWest TechRecruit Conference the following day, I met talent acquisition leaders from some of the most powerful and influential corporations such as Kraft-Heinz, Nestle, IBM, BlueCross/BlueShield, Lockheed Martin, and many more. I took tons of notes and learned about new tools and technologies to help make my recruiting process more efficient. However, the sponsors really stepped by for this event! The head shot station sponsored by ZipRecruiter was a classy touch and the raffle giveaways by HackerEarth were exciting.
The Keynote, Lou Adler, world-renowned for his concepts regarding performance-based hiring, spoke about the challenges regarding the recruiting sector. He expounded on how corporations must change the way that they think and feel about hiring if they want to maintain a competitive edge over the market. Specifically, Adler spoke about the fact that hiring is about much more than simply “selling a job”. It’s about selling relationships to candidates. Recruiting isn’t just about whether an individual is a “fit” for a role or not, it’s about whether they can add value in another way that isn’t immediately clear or visible. Adler elaborated about how recruiting must always take into consideration a candidate’s aspirations, because why else would they be interested in speaking with you? Adler has always been a proponent of open communication when it comes to recruiting, and that certainly hasn’t changed.
One of the highlights of the conference was easily Andrew Gadomski, the managing director at Aspen Analytics, who spoke about talent analytics. Gadomski is a well-known workforce and HR data scientist who offered an interesting perspective about the way that data analytics will change recruiting going forward. In one particularly exciting part of his lecture, Gadomski pointed out how the future of recruiting is no longer about finding the right candidate. It’s about predicting which candidates are going to be future candidates, and who might be able to elevate to roles before they even look for new opportunities. He spoke about a particular organization found out that Uber was planning on some major layoffs. Instead of waiting around to hear about the news, the organization actively recruited these employees before the layoffs were even publicly announced. It’s clear to see here how data analytics provided an invaluable advantage in terms of recruiting for this particular company. There is no doubt that many corporations around the world will begin to become more proactive with regards to recruiting thanks to data analytics technology. We can all appreciate the results that outreach can provide, whether it’s networking with social media influencers or messaging the right candidates on LinkedIn. However, the future isn’t just about examining available information - it’s also about finding out as much information as possible, since data is more accessible than ever. The company that can organize and analyze data and predict which candidates might be a great fit clearly have an advantage over companies that might not be exploring these techniques and strategies. Gadomski helped drive the point home that it’s not about one particular tool when it comes to recruiting and hiring. It’s about using all of the tools at your disposal in a comprehensive way to hire the best possible individuals for a role (or roles).
Did I mention that ZipRecruiter offered a headshot station? When you consider that this is a conference revolving around hiring and recruitment, I have to add that this was quite a cool and relevant “giveaway”. I want to applaud Ziprecruiter for an innovative idea that can produce tangible results in the professional lives of those that attended.
Rachel Kraska also offered a captivating lecture about how work practices are changing, pointing out that the concept of “diversity” is evolving in the workplace, as well. There is no doubt that race, gender, and sexual orientation are essential when it comes to organizational diversity, but neurodiversity, such as hiring those with ADHD, or OCD, is also important for companies that want to reach new potential job candidates. Mental health is more discussed than ever in popular culture, so it’s only right that companies begin to reflect this change when it comes to the individuals they recruit and hire. This change is even more relevant when one considers that mental health issues are also on the rise. Of course, diversity is about much more than just hiring certain people. How are companies equipped to handle those changes, and what processes and tools do they have in place to make sure that new hires are comfortable and communicative? Kraska spoke about how organizations that are more gender-inclusive will undoubtedly have a clear advantage in the next several decades. After all, Kraska pointed out how more women tend to have gaps in their resumes because working mothers often have to take time off for childbirth. This issue has to be addressed head-on for organizations to hire in a truthful and meaningful way.
I’ve attended many conferences, and there are often “round table discussions” where attendees can’t wait to leave. One incredible aspect of the Midwest TechRecruit 2019 conference was the fact that so many people were participating in the discussions that they actually didn’t want to leave, which is a testament to how open and collaborative the conference felt.
This conference was certainly a success, and I hope to attend next year, as well.