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How AI is changing Canada Life's recruiting process

Canada Life Assurance Company's initial adoption of a recruiting AI tool to rank candidates has proved so successful, it's paving the way for deeper investments in the technology.

Corey Shaw, assistant vice president of talent acquisition at Canada Life Assurance Company, adopted a recruiting AI platform a few years ago for high-volume roles, such as work in a contact center. The firm employs about 11,000, and recruiters were sometimes overwhelmed with resumes.

The company has had enough experience with Ideal, which uses AI to conduct an initial screening of candidates based on their applications, to know that its product would work, Shaw said. But adoption of the software has ushered in other changes as well.

Corey Shaw, assistant vice president of talent acquisition, Canada Life Assurance CompanyCorey Shaw

The introduction of AI recruiting tools is having two significant impacts on Canada Life's recruiting operations. First, the recruiters' jobs are evolving into talent planning and advisory positions; second, because of the ROI on the initial investment, Shaw is making plans to go deeper into recruiting AI technology.

Ideal is integrated with iCIMS Inc., Canada Life's applicant tracking system (ATS). Once it was plugged into the ATS, Ideal's software began to learn the hiring behaviors at Canada Life and what makes a great candidate, Shaw said.

Close to 90% of the candidates graded "A" or "B" by Ideal's system get hired in some job categories. Ideal's chatbot is also used during the application process to gather additional information from applicants, usually around their availability and mobility.

Candidate experience, retention improve

As a result of deploying the AI recruiting tool, the recruiting staff was able to work more efficiently and shift to higher value work. Shaw said that surveys of applicants, both those who were hired and those who were not, indicated that the company's candidate experience has improved. Retention of new employees has also improved, especially in the first few months on the job. 

Based on the already-observed ROI, Shaw is planning to expand his use of recruiting AI tech. He's been getting demonstrations from firms that make AI-enabled talent acquisition tools. They scour databases, research candidates and help with outreach. Shaw has met or plans to meet with SeekOut in Redmond, Wash., and Fetcher in New York, as well as other vendors.

Shaw believes these AI-enabled HR tools, broadly, can assemble information about potential candidates, including assessing their propensity to move to a new job. That can help with hard-to-fill positions, such as in cybersecurity, he said.

The plan is for Canada Life's recruiting staff to become "trusted advisors" to the business, providing advice "on the marketing, sourcing, attracting and validating" of candidates, Shaw said.

The company will invest in multiple AI recruiting tools "because, based on my research, nobody can do each of the pieces really well today," Shaw said.

The risk in taking on smaller, startup vendors in any new technology is they get acquired, and then questions emerge among users about how the acquiring firm will handle the change. That just happened to Ideal.

Ceridian acquires Ideal

In April, Ceridian HCM Inc., a Minneapolis-based firm, announced its plans to acquire Ideal.

Ceridian has been working as a partner with Ideal for just over two years, said David Lloyd, chief data officer at Ceridian.

For Ceridian users, Lloyd indicated a deeper integration with the Ideal platform due to the acquisition. Salary and performance data, and other HR data sets, can be combined to "look at the whole lifecycle now of the individual from candidate to full-time employee," he said.

The integration will be with Ceridian's Dayforce enterprise HCM cloud-based software, he said. Dayforce combines payroll, HR, benefits, talent and workforce management.

When asked about it during an interview on Zoom, Shaw shook his head and indicated that he wasn't worried about the acquisition's impact on his use of Ideal.

About three years ago, Canada Life began deploying the SAP SuccessFactors platform. It has been installing the platform and plans to turn on its recruitment platform next year, moving from iCIMS.

Migration to SuccessFactors

Because Ideal integrates with SuccessFactors, Shaw sees continued use of Ideal, despite the change in ownership to Ceridian. SuccessFactors "is an open API environment, [and] I have confidence that we'll be able to easily plug Ideal into the SAP ecosystems," Shaw said.

Ceridian, in a statement, said it "will continue to execute against Ideal's product roadmap. We look forward to working together to accelerate AI and ML initiatives under Ceridian's product and technology team. Ideal's customers will continue to be served by the same great services, support and management team."

Asked about Shaw's optimistic view of the acquisition, Ceridian said his, "sentiment stands true, as Ideal will be supporting its customers, like Canada Life, and their various systems."

Shaw's view that recruiters will need multiple AI tools was supported in a new study released Monday.

Findem Inc., a people intelligence company, reported that recruitment tech stacks are growing, with 57% of respondents reporting an increase in new tools adopted over the last year. Only 10% reported a decline in their stacks. The annual recruitment tech survey polled 100 people, all high-level HR professionals, it said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers human capital management and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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