Written by Nathan Hewitt

Could ‘Personalized Work’ Be What We Aim For Post-Covid?

Last week, the jewel of Australia’s tech sector, Atlassian, was lauded for giving staff the privilege of working from home – forever.

After posting this on our team slack channel with a comment by me warning of the longer-term impact of ‘remote forever’, one of our senior team members said:

“Why do people travel in the morning to an office? In a packed tram/train carrying a laptop , then work on that laptop only to carry it back home in a packed train, wasting precious time?”

When I worked for another technology company, we spent a lot of energy trying to convince leadership that WFH did not mean a free ride. And, in fact, would unleash productivity and improve engagement. COVID has brought forward the idea of WFH as an alternative arrangement for many that wouldn’t have otherwise considered it.

Whilst we may be revelling in the success of dismantling the long-held bias, that you need to see someone at work to trust that they are doing the work, it comes with its own set of challenges around organisational relevance.

Work is a relationship

Does it matter what company you work for if the only difference between one job is for whom you are completing a task, and perhaps the one or two people that you work with closely?

Work is a relationship, and relationships thrive on intimate and frequent connections. When we all worked in offices some of that intimacy was built by the serendipity of conversations that you had while going about your day’s work. There was always the potential to catch someone from outside of your team and share an idea and solicit a different perspective.

There was an ease of connections and interactions that can be hard to replicate in a remote work context.  Being remote is a little bit like trying to establish a long-distance relationship. Which all of us know have the chances of success stacked against them.

Then there is the influence of place, and of space. At REA Group where I worked for some years the building fed the culture. Its design and redesign were carefully thought through to maximize connections and space to collaborate. With anyone. Not just those in your immediate team.


Why do people go to church to pray, the pub to drink, and the footy to watch their team, when they have the bible at home, beer in the fridge, and a TV in the living room? Because they are looking for connection, community, and inspiration.

Once the novelty of WFH wears off, and for many it already has, comes the very real challenge of maintaining connection, building affiliation, and building cultures when people and teams are not spending time together – physically, in any shared space.

Ongoing remote work presents very practical challenges for organisations, particularly around company culture and organisational HR.

  • How do you assess performance when you can’t see people at work?
  • And how do you look out for people, mentor them, develop them when your interactions are all booked in, bound within a strict working day?
  • How do you acknowledge someone for something you heard they did well in another meeting like you might as you jump in a lift together?

There is a real risk that our employment relationship becomes transactional, which then impacts engagement, which then impacts productivity etc.
We know from our own work in this space, personality is not 16 types on a table, it is way more nuanced and diverse than that. In a population of 85,000 equal men and women, we find at least 400 uniquely identifiable personality types.


While we live in a world of hyper-personalization – our morning news feed is our feed, our Netflix profile is our personal profile based on our viewing history,

How can an organisation retain that diversity of perspective when it usually thinks of two binary ways of working – in an office, or at home? It can’t.

That’s why the future of work has to involve a new type of technology, a technology that can navigate the rich mix of types we work with, adapt to their communication style, their working style.

While I have championed for WFH in senior HR positions I’ve held, this experience has highlighted for me the many things I might have always taken for granted in an office environment.

It has nothing to do with fancy décor and an ergonomic chair. More those human moments of serendipitous connection. It all disappeared so quickly without almost any time to say good-bye.

I’m learning what my motivations are, and what connections I want in a day.

From the conversations I’ve had with friends and workmates, they’re also making similar self-discoveries. I’d like to think we all emerge from this situation with a mind to honour the things we’ve learned about our “work selves.”

And most importantly, to build company cultures that thrive by accommodating those diverse needs.

Barbara Hyman, 03/09/20


Join the movement

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

You can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now, or leave us your details here to get a personalised demo.


AI in Talent: why every recruiter needs to care

Last week I had two conversations, one with my partner, the other with Barb Hyman, Sapia’s new CEO.

Both wanted me share my story. To tell you and anyone else who might be interested, or care, about a journey that took me from being a recruiter to working in a business at the cutting edge of a technology, science and people triumvirate.

They wanted me to share my journey of discovery that every single recruiter is going to experience sooner, rather than later.

To begin, we first need to acknowledge that we humans are odd folk. How often do we see examples of people ignoring evidence in favour of something that instead reinforces their pre-set opinions?

AI in HR and Recruitment, it’ll never catch on

I’ve been doing this job for 10 years, I don’t need a machine to tell me how to recruit

I just don’t believe it, to be honest

These are just a few of the comments / opinions I’ve received from Talent professionals when discussing Recruitment AI. (I should also acknowledge that there are many folk who are genuinely curious or are already embracing the technology).

A while ago a recruitment manager posted on LinkedIn, asking their network for advice on Sapia solutions. A contact of mine figured I could help and tagged me.

Someone else in the Rec Manager’s network provided this advice:

“use a common-sense approach to recruitment… software misses the point… Imagine if your Dr used this sort of software to see if you are ‘likely to….’”

I refrained from posting something akin to this BBC article discussing AI accurately identifying skin cancers. As for “common sense recruiting”… well, i’ll come to that in a subsequent post.

Many people have already formed an opinion on AI. They’ve decided it won’t make a difference, it’s not for them nor will it help their company.

Let me tell you why I think they’re ever so wrong.

Read Online

AI will destroy resumes … and that’s a good thing!

It’s a cliché, but nonetheless true, that as time passes all processes become dated.

Some might need to be thrown out completely. Many more need to be adjusted and refined to keep up as workplaces and ways of working change.

I’m not old enough to remember the recruitment days of Rolodex and faxed documents. But I’ve heard the stories. Paper mountains of resumes teetering on desks. Consultants queuing at the one office fax machine to send their applicants’ profiles to clients.

Who knew that today we’d be communicating almost instantly by email, on our own computers, or sifting through resumes using Applicant Tracking Systems? In the 1980s that would have sounded like something from Doctor Who.

Since then, it’s all slowed down a bit.

Sure, ATSs take a lot of the legwork out of choosing who to interview. But they’ve also led to Resume Optimisation tools to help applicants beat our filters.

How can we avoid picking only the people who are best at gaming the system? How do we know we’re not missing our perfect applicants?

Now AI is taking the hiring process another leap forward. It’s speeding up the more process-driven elements and helping us select interviewees who are more likely to fit into our businesses.

And that means we need to re-examine two elements of that hiring process – the resume and the interview.

First, let’s tackle the resume.

Why resumes aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

Here’s a challenge for you. Find five well-known businesses that don’t ask for a resume on their careers page. Difficult, isn’t it?

Now think about the resumes you’ve seen recently.

I’ve seen resumes that are well-constructed, professionally crafted prose. And others that are complete works of fiction.

You’re as likely to find glaring spelling mistakes, a messy layout, and a shameless plea to be considered as you are a concise summary, an attractive photo and carefully chosen keywords. If you’re really unlucky you get all of these in one “super-resume”.

A quick search on “How are resumes used?” reveals the astounding advice that applicants should “know the facts in detail, as they may be questioned” about them. That just confirms my suspicion that these documents are more like scripts than records of facts.

And, there’s one more thing that recruiters know about resumes, even if they don’t all admit it …

Not one CV is properly read when they’re selecting applicants for interview.

According to research by the Cambridge Network, some recruiters give CVs a six-second speed-read and many recruiters spend just under 20% of their time on a profilelooking at the picture!

Resumes are rarely used correctly or understood properly, by applicants or recruiters. They most certainly do not predict how successful an applicant is likely to be in a role. Instead, they’re a minefield of potential bias: year of graduation (age bias), name (racial / gender/identity bias), experience in a similar business (confirmation bias), and so on.

So isn’t it better to put some truly intelligent AI for HR to work instead?

How new AI for HR makes resumes redundant

I was astonished to see that 96 per cent of senior HR leaders understand the benefits of using artificial intelligence in their HR and talent functions. But there’s a big gap between recognising the benefits and reaping them.

The canny HR leaders who are already adopting AI techniques will have a head start on their slower rivals.

Some more traditional HR tech providers have evolved their recruitment tools, presenting them as predictive. However, they’re more likely to be creating profiles of your better staff and matching these profiles to the external candidate market, not predicting how they will perform.

Instead, the new wave of HR tech uses well-constructed algorithms, created using a business’s performance data, to provide an unbiased shortlist of candidates far more likely to succeed within the business once hired.

HR tech uses well-constructed algorithms

The algorithm can’t be misled by optimisation techniques, personal feelings or prejudice. Instead, it uses objective data, science and evidence to find the people who are most likely to be a good fit and perform. For this role, in this business. And it will help uncover applicants we might have otherwise overlooked when their resume didn’t match our expectations.

The better solutions work by identifying the defining characteristics of the whole performance group within a business (superstars through to under-performers) and then predicts where external applicants will sit on your performance scale once/if hired.

These advanced solutions then go further via validation reports to prove their better predictions are turning into better new hires. They then use Machine Learning to ensure each unique model continues to learn more about the performance of each business, further improving its predictive power over time.

These two additional steps mean that whilst us humans are still required to make the final hiring decision, we will get better results for our applicants and our businesses. Maybe that’s where the resume might still have a role – as the frame for some reasonable high-level questions to help us understand the person in front of us in more depth, once they’ve got through the first stage.

The most sophisticated algorithms are already outperforming humans in the selection and identification of suitable candidates – and by that I mean candidates who go on to become productive, valuable and loyal employees.

Decision time for CHROs

So, what would you rather have?

– A shortlist of candidates chosen because of what they’ve selected to include in (and omit from) their resume?


– A shortlist of candidates you know are likely to do well in your workforce, because they’ve been chosen using statistically-proven, company-specific performance drivers validated by behavioural science?

Not that tricky a question, is it?

And very easy to see how, with the advent of AI for HR, resumes will soon be as much a part of recruitment as faxes and Rolodex.

Suggested Reading:

Read Online

How do you really hire for values and culture, and is that the same thing?

Hiring for Values

When I was leading the People & Culture team at the REA Group, my new CEO was passionate about Values, and the central role they play in defining your culture. Following a successful change program to evolve new Values that mirrored the desired Culture, one that would set the business up for continued growth and as a talent magnet, she asked me how we were going to embed those Values through our people processes – who we hire, who we promote, who we reward etc.

It couldn’t be a screen saver pop up or posters on a wall. The values had to be really heard and felt. At the same time, we also had a business that was hiring in the hundreds each year so scaling culture means getting this right.

These are two distinct notions when it comes to hiring: hiring for values and for culture. One should stay pretty fixed, and the other should be dynamic as your business context is always changing. If a company’s values are its bedrock, then a company’s culture is the shifting landscape on top of it. Hiring purely for culture is a recipe for self-reinforcing hiring, aka hiring that is biased. As we all know, innovation comes from the diversity of background/thought/etc, so by hiring only for the culture you can decrease, or even stifle innovation.

Celebrate that just as your product is always evolving, so will your culture. That means people who were great when you were a team of 50 may not be the right person for when you get to 500.

At Sapia we work with our customers to ensure their values are embedded right from the chat interview. This takes many forms, including

  • Use the language of our customers when we are configuring the interview questions. From ‘team’ to ‘crew’ or ‘family, we use your language to build rapport with candidates
  • Ask questions that specifically talk to your Values. For example, safety is paramount for our airline and FMCG customers. We ask questions to gauge awareness of safety risks, such as “Drawing on your own experience, how would you make sure everyone in our store – our customers and your team members – are safe?”
  • Learning from every person who joins or leaves the business. For everyone we work with, we know who sticks around in the role and who doesn’t. This will generally be either because they weren’t the right fit and they self-selected out, or the business made a decision to exit them for behavioural reasons. Taking that performance data and using it to refine the benchmark for future hiring means every candidate recommended after using Sapia as your 1st interview is a better Values fit than the last one.

And that’s why machine learning is the holy grail of smarter hiring.

No recruiter could ever get that feedback data at the scale and speed to improve their recruitment process. But using Sapia we make a hard decision easier, meaning you can focus on hiring the right people to grow your business, at scale, without sacrificing the candidate experience. And if the VP for a global business focused on connecting people to opportunity can’t recognise bias, it’s a sure sign we need to pay more attention to who, and how, we hire.

“Talent is really distributed very evenly in the world, and opportunity is not.”

So, what do you think? Is your hiring values-driven, or based on the ever-intangible ‘culture-fit’? How do you scale hiring based on values? And how can we in HR, Talent Acquisition and Recruitment support hiring managers to grow innovative, diverse teams?

You can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now, or leave us your details to book a demo

Suggested Reading:

Read Online