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Technology: in or out of the comfort zone?

Innovation & Sustainability

17 December 2019

New technology is increasingly seeping into areas which, until recently, were considered the exclusive domain of humans, such as recruitment. Nik Nieuwenhuijs, founder and CEO of creative digital agency CODE D’AZUR, tells about an exciting blend of creativity, strategy and technology for ABN AMRO.

In early 2018, Maarten Bokhoven, Head of Employer Branding at ABN AMRO Bank, contacted Nieuwenhuijs. Bokhoven told Nieuwenhuijs his bank needed around 600 highly skilled IT workers – who happened to be extremely thin on the ground. He also asked if CODE D’AZUR might think about a way to get young digital natives – who are being courted by just about every company in the world – interested in a job with a large corporation which also found itself dogged by the poor image of the banking industry.

“We learned from initial talks we had with ABN AMRO after they first contacted us that they believed they were dealing with a communication problem, which could be solved through the use of creativity and technology,” Nieuwenhuijs tells us in his office on Amsterdam’s Oostelijke Handelskade. “However, more, different or smarter communication often does not solve the real problem at hand. So in this case, we turned the communication issue into a question: How can the bank create a compelling narrative that will get it noticed by young IT graduates, and shed its image as a run-of-the-mill employer in the process?”

This challenge eventually resulted in The Lockdown: a mobile escape room game powered by augmented reality, which can be played anywhere in the world. Nieuwenhuijs: “In creating the game, we looked 10 years ahead into the future of finance. Players are presented with some pretty tricky challenges related to blockchain, AI and information security, and must prevent a financial disaster. Players only find out at the very end of the game that it was created by ABN AMRO.”

The Lockdown was a massive success: the app was downloaded 11,000 times in two months’ time, during which people spent more than 1,500 hours playing the game. The bank received more than 1,040 job applications altogether, up 43 per cent from the same period in the previous year. Yet Nieuwenhuijs does not view The Lockdown as an aggressive recruitment campaign. “While it’s true that it really expanded our pool of applicants, the point of the campaign was really to put ABN AMRO on the map as an employer that offers great digital job opportunities. It was so successful because we created something that was both very cool and could be used as a type of assessment tool. As a digital agency, we’re familiar with the target audience. We knew this demographic generally loves games, including brain games. The Lockdown turned out to be an exciting blend of creativity, strategy and technology. It’s not exactly your average recruitment campaign.”

“The point of the campaign was really to put ABN AMRO on the map as a great company to work for when it comes to digital job opportunities”

Unique brain profile
The Lockdown is an appealing example of the use of new technology in an area which, until recently, was the exclusive domain of people. An experienced recruiter, offering a combination of experience and gut feeling, used to be indispensable when it came to finding the right people for the right jobs. But this is changing rapidly. In fact, according to Bas Hudepohl, a partner at QSXL, artificial intelligence (AI) has already become an integral part of today’s HR policies.

QSXL is a recruitment agency which, aided by data and algorithms, searches internationally for highly sought-after, hard-to-find professionals, such as data scientists. The University of Twente recently enlisted the agency to find candidates for its Hypatia chairs (named after the first known female mathematician). QSXL used its software to trawl through public data to find eligible candidates around the world, from which it sourced 1,500 high-potential profiles. This resulted not only in 132 actual responses, but also made the highly time-consuming recruitment process a lot more efficient.

Enhance, not compete
According to CODE D’AZUR’s Nieuwenhuijs, technology – in particular the combination of robotics and AI – is regarded by many as a threat, and sometimes even as having the potential to completely disrupt our societies. He prefers to see technology as a form of human enhancement – something that strengthens and amplifies our human capabilities. “We use technology mainly to create new user experiences, especially when we think that ‘more of the same’ is not going to make a difference, as in the case of ABN AMRO,” he says. “If used intelligently, technology can add a lot of value, especially in the digital realm. People are vital to creativity, storytelling and creating relevance. Technology is very suited to communicating that story of creativity and relevance to the target audience. For example, we regularly work with KLM, who aim to be the ‘most caring airline’. If that’s the message you’re sending out into the world, it needs to be reflected in the overall customer journey. So we come up with services and products based on smart technology, which help create the brand experience. KLM has introduced a feature called Family Updates, a service that automatically informs family members that you’ve landed, even before you have a mobile phone signal or have located a Wi-Fi network at the gate.”

“We use technology mainly when more of the same won’t make a difference”

How information helps people to work more efficiently
A DHL distribution centre located in Beringe, a small village in North Limburg, the Netherlands, is currently experimenting with augmented reality glasses for its order pickers. The frame of the glasses contains virtually no glass, only at the top right. Workers wearing the glasses see a projection telling them which shelving rack to go to and how many products to retrieve from a box. They then put the items into one of the six shipping boxes on their trolley, with the glasses telling them which one to use. This is one of the examples of technological advances which, according to Mark Kruysen, Operations Excellence Director at DHL Supply Chain Benelux, are necessary to keep the logistics sector up to date. Particularly in today’s tight labour market, employers leverage all their resources to increase employee productivity. Some of these technologies eliminate the need for workers (e.g. a driverless cleaning vehicle which cleans hallways is currently being developed; this type of work currently still requires a driver), while others improve people’s productivity. There are the aforementioned AR glasses, for example, which will also include a navigation system in the future. Kruysen states that DHL keeps a close eye on all advances in technology: from 3D printers to blockchain and from driverless vehicles to artificial intelligence. “We always investigate what we’re able to use ourselves, in the short term and the longer term,” Kruysen said in a recent article in NRC Next.

Also read ‘Retailers use new technologies to create the optimal customer experience’