HR Tech Interview with Adele Lomax, Global Recruiting Executive Director at BCG

Journey into Tech

Hi Adele, welcome to the Interview Series. Please tell us a bit about your role and how you arrived at BCG.

Adele Lomax is the Global Recruiting Transformation Executive Director at BCG, where she leads the strategic multi-year global recruiting transformation roadmap to build capabilities to meet future hiring needs. Before joining BCG’s recruiting team, Adele was the HR Director for the London-Amsterdam-Brussels system.

Adele’s journey with BCG began in 2004 as an intern before joining the consulting team full-time in 2006. She studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specializing in Experimental Psychology, and holds an MBA from INSEAD. Adele’s focus as a consultant was on the retail/consumer goods and media sectors, working on projects ranging from organization redesign to consumer behavior analytics, efficiency and effectiveness reviews, and supply chain reviews. Additionally, Adele has considerable experience in activist PMO roles across various large-scale projects, such as healthcare PMI and multiple media company cost reviews.

In the last 3 years, how much have Talent Management strategies changed to keep businesses future-ready against growing competition and economic uncertainties?

 The pandemic has forced businesses to quickly adapt their talent acquisition and management strategies, necessitating a pivot to generate maximum value from their talent pool. One critical trend that has arisen in recent years is the expansion of the talent pool, with organizations now able to hire skilled talent from anywhere in the world due to the rise of hybrid and remote work environments. As a result, businesses are increasingly looking at flexibility and work-life balance benefits to attract and retain top talent.

At BCG, we prioritize empowering our employees to explore their passions and pursue them through upskilling, reskilling, training, continuous learning, and a flexible work environment. To cater to the new normal of hybrid and remote work, AI-driven solutions are enabling organizations to implement productive talent management and recruitment strategies.

Looking to the future, significant emphasis will be laid on skills-based hiring and shortlisting talent based on their capabilities and expertise, rather than simply relying on traditional resume background or education. This approach will help organizations identify the skills required for a particular role and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Additionally, soft skills are given substantial importance.

83 percent of executives, for instance, see empathy and trust to be vital in sustaining a thriving workforce in the post-COVID era. To keep pace with these changes, organizations are shifting towards agile, flexible, and data-driven talent management. By leveraging the global talent pool and making data-driven decisions through data analytics and AI, businesses can stay future-ready and implement effective talent management and recruitment solutions, while prioritizing employee well-being and equity.

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AI tools are replacing recruiters and hiring managers. Could you shed some light on what organizations should do to retain human supervisors while they improve AI usage?

Top talent seeks purpose-driven workplaces that offer opportunities for growth, inclusivity, flexibility, and meaningful work. We believe in a people-focused experience with AI-assisted processes that provide the right balance and experience for candidates whilst driving efficiencies. AI-powered tools can assist in talent acquisition by streamlining the initial screening process and matching candidates’ skills with the right jobs. However, it is crucial to note that AI solutions are still in their infancy, and organizations must operate ethically by upholding transparency, safeguarding data, and aligning work with their values. Principles and checklists are a good and necessary starting point to detect issues and create awareness, however more needs to be done both on the human and AI side.  For example, AI solutions should be built for transparency and auditability whilst data scientists should be equipped with knowledge and tools to detect and mitigate bias in data and in model outputs. On the human side, the decision makers should be trained to use AI solutions as a tool to support decision making and enabled and empowered to monitor, challenge and override any output from the AI solutions.

At BCG, we are at the forefront of responsible AI and were the first in our industry to launch an AI Code of Conduct to create safeguards and ensure our organization acts in line with our values.  While AI assists in making recruitment processes more efficient, it should not replace the human touch entirely. Organizations must maintain the balance between technology and human responsibility and ensure that the final decision is still made by a human.

Can AI tools really understand the problems that organizations face when it comes to talent retention and employee churn?

AI technology can decipher retention and hiring patterns through data processing that gives organizations insight to pivot their internal talent management and acquisition strategy as required. This insight can be used to better understand trends and factors to create a transformative business impact on retention and churn, but protections are needed to safeguard data. For example, AI tools can provide skills matching, and start to predict what profiles are more or likely to be successful, but there is a risk of bias and AI should be used to supplement human decision-making, not replace it. Hiring managers and team leaders should use the system’s recommendations as one factor in their decision-making process and not rely solely on the system’s output.

What are the biggest challenges facing organizational development teams? How can AI and machine learning tools help in OD?

Some of the key challenges organizations have been enduring since the global pandemic include employee burnout, lack of internal understanding of planned changes, and poor corporate communication due to a lack of process management. These challenges call for the need to adopt innovative and transformative tools such as AI and machine learning. By leveraging AI-powered datasets, organizations may improve their decision-making processes’ speed, accuracy, effectiveness, and consistency.

One of the ways AI can help OD teams is by analyzing employee data and detecting patterns and trends that could indicate areas requiring change. For instance, analyzing employee engagement survey data can identify common issues and recommend interventions to address them. By doing so, AI can assist OD teams in making data-driven decisions and taking action proactively to improve organizational performance.

AI can also be used to boost targeted L&D programs by analyzing skill gaps and requirements from a futuristic point of view. For instance, AI can predict which skills will be in demand in the future and suggest the relevant training programs that employees can take to improve their skills. This will ensure that employees are better equipped to tackle the challenges of tomorrow and that the organization remains future-ready.

Moreover, AI can automate complex and manual tasks that can lead to employee burnout. By doing so, OD teams can focus on strategic tasks that require human analysis and intervention. AI can ensure business stability by streamlining internal processes, identifying areas of improvement, and recommending solutions to complex challenges. It also allows organizations to address their employees’ needs better by providing more personalized learning opportunities and ensuring that employees are engaged and motivated.

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We have recently seen how ChatGPT tools could replace strategic business leadership roles in the organization. Do you think investors would like the idea of dealing with all AI personnel in the board rooms?

There is clear recognition that the pace and scale of AI transformation is reshaping industries, but the idea of having AI personnel in boardrooms might raise concerns among investors. At BCG, we recognize the potential of AI to create transformative business impact, but we also understand the need for protections to ensure that AI does not harm our clients, employees, or society in general. Collectively, we need to drive solutions that optimize how companies leverage generative AI whilst ultimately building and sustaining society’s trust in the technology.

At BCG, we take a high-tech high-touch approach to creating positive and personalized experiences for prospective talent while driving efficiencies. Organizations need to ensure that AI does not present discriminatory barriers in talent management and hiring. This may require vetting third-party vendors or internal personnel working on the AI technology, understanding the algorithm, auditing the system before deployment as well as at regular intervals, and developing internal processes to assess and remediate any biases.

While AI technology has come a long way, it still cannot match the complex decision-making skills and human intuition of strategic leaders. Experience and judgment are crucial for effective leadership, and AI is still unable to replicate them. AI requires responsible leadership for successful adoption and implementation to provide a more holistic perspective and resolve paradoxes and tensions. Despite its attempts to replicate human intelligence, AI is not immune to human biases and limitations, and may not include broad context in a recommendation. Machine learning algorithms operate within the confines of the data they are fed, which can lead to significant biases and discount the possibility of change. This vulnerability underscores the importance of responsible leadership that can manage and monitor AI, ensure data integrity, and uses adaptable algorithms and contextual business judgment to safeguard against biases and flawed outputs.

AI’s predictive power can be increasingly valuable for senior executives seeking to stay ahead of market shifts and capture patterns and signals. However, leveraging AI requires organizational transformation and collaboration across boundaries to create a digital ecosystem. Predictions can lead to strategic actions, with data analytics embedded as a core capability to detect pain points and enable decisions. It is important to note that AI is not a replacement for leadership roles, but rather a tool to enhance and support them.

Your take on the under-representation of female leaders in the company – what can CEOs do to bring a balance to these leadership positions?

 While organizations have made significant strides over the past few decades to have greater female representation in senior roles, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to continue closing the gender gap. First and foremost, organizations need to have accurate workforce data to understand the challenges and to be able to measure and track progress against gender targets. Three proven levers will increase gender equity in leadership roles: recruitment, retention, and promotion of female talent. To achieve this, organization leaders must implement policies and practices that are transparent and support equity. Leaders must listen out for diverse viewpoints to genuinely understand the obstacles women and other minority populations regularly encounter in the workplace. Sponsorship and mentoring programs are proven to have a positive impact on women’s progression and career growth.  However, regardless of position, everyone within an organization must have the power to stand up against discrimination, bias, and sexism. These issues hurt workplace inclusion and productivity and hold employees from reaching their full potential.

At BCG, we are committed to providing all employees with a thriving environment to grow and succeed, and we are committed to creating meaningful progress to close the gender gap and promote diversity, not just internally, but also for our clients and society as a whole. Currently, 46% of our global staff and 33% of our Executive Committee are women. We are utilizing data analysis to identify potential biases in our processes and leveraging AI technology to eliminate them. Additionally, we are implementing greater transparency and data-driven approaches to better incentivize and promote leaders who support DE&I.

Outside of BCG’s current knowledge management, what trends or technologies are you excited about right now?

 We’re living in a time of rapid technological transformation and change, and the possibilities for the future are endless. It’s an exciting time to be alive, with technology offering us new ways to work, learn, and connect with each other. Some that I find particularly exciting are:

  • DE&I-Centered Technology: Being diverse, equal, and inclusive is not enough to create a work environment that helps people get the most out of themselves in a new era of work. Technology platforms that support mental fitness and allow employees to feel supported by shifting the focus to purpose, accomplishment, and well-being will have a positive impact on organizational DEI goals.
  • AR/VR: Augmented and virtual reality technologies are transforming the way we learn, offering immersive experiences that can improve L&D programs, help to build critical skills, and provide a glimpse into workplace culture.
  • Big Data and predictive analytics: With the ability to analyze vast amounts of data, we can now identify top candidates for jobs based on their education, work experience, and public activity. This allows us to make more informed hiring decisions and build stronger, more diverse teams.
  • Technology that elevates remote work: The pandemic has also transformed the way we work, with many of us now working from home. But remote work can be challenging, and it is essential to stay connected and engaged with our colleagues and managers. That is where technology comes in, offering us tools to communicate and collaborate effectively, even from a far.

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Any particular podcast that you would recommend to young HR professionals:

  • WorkLife with Adam Grant
  • Josh Bersin Academy
  • 21st century HR with Lars Schmidt
  • HR Happy Hour
  • HR Leaders by Chris Rainey

Thank you, Adele! That was fun and hope to see you back on HR Tech Series soon.

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Global Recruiting Transformation Executive Director

Adele Lomax is the Global Recruiting Transformation Executive Director at BCG, where she leads the strategic multi-year global recruiting transformation roadmap to build capabilities to meet future hiring needs. Before joining BCG’s recruiting team, Adele was the HR Director for the London-Amsterdam-Brussels system.

Adele’s journey with BCG began in 2004 as an intern before joining the consulting team full-time in 2006. She studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specializing in Experimental Psychology, and holds an MBA from INSEAD. Adele’s focus as a consultant was on the retail/consumer goods and media sectors, working on projects ranging from organization redesign to consumer behavior analytics, efficiency and effectiveness reviews, and supply chain reviews. Additionally, Adele has considerable experience in activist PMO roles across various large-scale projects, such as healthcare PMI and multiple media company cost reviews.

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.

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