Martin Sigurdson - Interview with the Director of HR Processes & Systems at Scandic Hotels
February 25, 2021
Viktor Nordmark
We sat down to discuss the future of AI with the HR-tech leader of the largest hotel group in the Nordics. Martin Sigurdson is the director of HR Processes & Systems at Scandic Hotels and holds a broad expertise within the Human Resources area. Wielding one of the most powerful employer brands in the business, Scandic reaches far and wide both in terms of customer and employee recognition.
Martin's mission is to support the company’s strive for a high operational efficiency with the help of HR-technology. Helping Scandic attract talent is part of his scope. Let's go into detail with the interview.

Hubert - Hi Martin, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us. How are you holding up and what challenges are you working on at the moment?

Martin - Well firstly, as you know, the hospitality business has taken a severe downturn due to the pandemic. But that doesn't mean that we put our head in the sand. We are actively preparing for better times ahead and are constantly looking to improve our procedures and overcome the challenges attached to our (usually) high recruiting volume.

One of the challenges in high volume recruiting is to achieve a balance between automation and quality. Not spending too much time looking at every candidate manually is a necessity. However, we cannot compromise on quality and the candidate experience. We need first-class quality in every interaction with candidates.

Combining automation and quality is especially difficult in the interview stage where the challenge lies in keeping the procedure equally consistent and structured for every candidate interview.

Secondly, we always try to stay on top of the demand for employees, and forecasting workforce-needs for the variety of competence areas that is required for a company such as Scandic is not an easy task. On top of that, we face the same issues that any company that has a high-volume recruitment function as part of their business model, which is sourcing, screening and engaging candidates at a grand scale.

Hubert - Thanks Martin. I can see that times are tough, but this could also be a good opportunity to start revamping existing procedures with new tech. Are you currently using any AI-driven tools in your recruitment process?

Martin - We’re using automation in various parts of our recruitment, but no AI/ML components as of yet. I do, however, see the potential for the technology within our sector and would expect intelligent algorithms to be part of most of our tools going forward when things are picking back up again.

Hubert - Alrighty, so not really prospecting right now either?

Martin - With the pandemic our investment priorities changed drastically, so no, I can’t really say that we are actively looking for new tools at this stage.

Hubert - So, looking forward, what kind of tasks within the HR domain do you think could be simplified by using AI?

Martin - Well, the most obvious are simple administrative and repetitive tasks with a low to medium level of complexity. I mean, AI could be used in very subtle ways and doesn't have to be complicated to prove useful and help us work quicker and smarter. For example, a nudging function in the ATS that suggests actions in line with as “This position has been filled, would you like me to close these candidates for you?” would be a huge upgrade.

On the other hand, AI technology represents a big step forward when it comes to the level of complexity for tasks that now can be automated.
Your product Hubert is a good representative of a system that can tackle a challenge that, traditionally, could not be automated. But with that comes the challenge of integrating new technology into the Talent Acquisition team which will partly boost their efficiency, but also reduce the amount of control and influence over the process. To be successful in this, I think it is crucial to start small and build from existing procedures.

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Hubert - Cool, but if we look further towards the horizon, where do you see AI in the next years?

Martin - The possibilities are pretty much endless but use cases in these three areas have crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

• Professional development
• Well-being
• Work pattern analytics

Both from a manager's position and as a member of the workforce, I can see a lot of potential for improving the daily life using AI.

Generally, I think the intersection between different disciplines is an interesting area for AI to operate in. For example, when looking at the discrepancy between what you studied and what you actually learned, it would be great to get a suggestion on how to make up for that and learn more effectively.

General well-being is also something that could be improved by tech. From using wearables to analyzing your workday and remind you to take a break every now and then, or to recommend how to plan your day based on when you are most productive or creative.

From a manager’s perspective, helping to keep track of employees and making sure their competence is up to par could be helpful. For example, suggesting when it is time for colleagues to upgrade their knowledge by taking courses, participating in events or filling another internal position.

Hubert - That's a great scope. Apart from a lack of resources due to declining revenues, how do you think the current Covid-situation is impacting the rate of adoption for HR-automation?

Martin - For technology adoption in general, the pandemic has really been a catalyst. My behavior, as well as my whole department’s, has changed dramatically over the past year. Remote collaboration is much better and more organized, and we’ve been forced to make things work with video meetings, which all in all, actually works very well.

Of course, there are downsides that come with being more remote as well, such as separating work and leisure time, lack of social interactions and so on.

Hubert - Yeah, speaking of that, what do you think are the greatest hazards with the increasing adoption of AI?

Martin - Well, I do see a risk for companies to jump blindly onboard the AI bandwagon. I think it is important to firmly establish the purpose and then look for a viable solution. No matter if the best solution is a manual solution or something that a computer would be much better at, functionality and practicality must go hand in hand.

Once it's decided to go with an automated solution, start slow and follow the outcome in cooperation with all stakeholders. It is important for everyone in the organization to have confidence in the technology. Otherwise, there might be a backlash risking the initiative and excessive manual controls as a result.

For the ethical dilemmas that come into question with new technology, I have full faith in the research that is being done around AI, but we as a company and the community need to ensure principles and responsibilities for the consequences that increased use of AI may bring.

Hubert - Great stuff Martin! Thanks so much for your time, it has been a true pleasure! Good luck going forward, and I'm crossing my fingers for hotels being filled again very soon!

Martin - So do I. Thanks Hubert!

And that’s it from Martin. What's your opinion on using AI in recruitment? Please share your thoughts in the comments section and please sign up for our newsletter to get more insights from leading HR experts around the world.

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Martin Sigurdson - Interview with the Director of HR Processes & Systems at Scandic Hotels
February 25, 2021
Viktor Nordmark
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