Robin Ellis, with Puratos, is the chairman of this year's World HR Automation Summit in Berlin. Before the summit, we had the chance to interview him to learn more about Puratos and Robin's experience with technology in the HR sector.


Can You Tell Us About Puratos And How Are They Using HR Automation To Benefit Their Business? 

Puratos is an international group offering a full range of innovative products, raw materials and application expertise to the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors. Our headquarters are just outside Brussels (Belgium), where the company was founded in 1919. Almost a century later, our products and services are available in over 100 countries around the world and, in many cases, are produced by our network of local subsidiaries. Above all, we aim to be ‘reliable partners in innovation’, helping our customers around the world to deliver nutritious and tasty food to their local communities. We have offices in 74 countries and over 9000 employees globally, with above 7% year on year growth for the past 20 years.

In recent years, as a part of our Global Talent Acquisition strategy (which drives delivery through direct sourcing teams), Puratos has built up successful partnerships with external partners such as LinkedIn and Indeed – our first and second source of global external talent respectively. Both partners have automation through Artificial Intelligence and machine learning processes, which help to better target relevant profiles for our job adverts and searches. Puratos has just been nominated for a second successive year in the category of “Best Employer Brand on LinkedIn” in their upcoming Talent Awards, thanks to our gains in global followers and the engagement of our candidates, much of which is driven by these automated processes.


With innovation as Puratos’s key ingredient, what advances are you looking forward to in 2020?

Puratos has additionally implemented SuccessFactors Recruitment Module, as well as Recruitment Marketing, around the world. We had already been using SAP SuccessFactors to manage the cyclical evaluation of our in-house talent for several years. SAP SuccessFactors is working on building automation and AI into their tools in these areas, and whilst we are at the beginning of that journey, we are fully signed up as testers of the latest innovations in automation, which are gradually being added to our in-house HR tools. Puratos is also planning to add an Artificial Intelligence “Chatbot” to our new Recruitment Platform in 2020. Regarding this platform, we were honored to be announced as winners of the SAP “Gold Award” for “Fast Delivery” recognizing the speed of implementation and adherence to SAP Quality principles during its implementation project.


What is the biggest difficulty to overcome, that you have seen, when implementing AI into HR practices?

Firstly, cost: the automation solutions proposed today represent, for the most part, an annual investment equal to or more than our existing, established HR systems. Implementing the solutions within our in-house workflows also requires running projects over several months, sometimes stretching into the better part of a year, which requires considerable internal resources being dedicated to this effort. There is also a common view within our peer group, that AI and Automation technologies within the HR space are not yet perfected and delivering the claimed value.

A principle application of automation in Talent Acquisition at the present time are tools such as Hirevue and Gecko, which use AI to pre-select candidates and reduce the numbers seen by Talent Acquisition Specialists. For companies receiving vast numbers of applications, this type of solution clearly makes sense. Puratos, however, is working in B2B sectors and does not receive the numbers of applications that would necessitate such a service, apart from in a very limited number of countries. We are still in a phase of building and promoting our employer brand amongst the specialized, technical workforce we require, and for the moment, the “human touch” is key. We do, however, make use of SuccessFactors’ automated processes in selection, such as “Smart Questions” which filter applications on the basis of their relevance through questionnaires which our teams create individually.


What is the biggest opportunity in your opinion by adding new technologies into your HR workforce?

Clearly, the addition of modern HR systems over the past decades has revolutionized the manner in which we work, moving from paper-based administration to state of the art business partnership, tied to attractive employer branding and the synergy with social media platforms. In-house, these platforms enable us to better manage our annual employee evaluation and career cycles, boosting both HR efficiency and the engagement of our employees. Over the next decade, the addition of automation, AI and machine learning technologies will clearly help us to get to the next level as a function, by helping to reduce low-added value activities that are prime targets for automation and focus more on creating effective partnerships with our internal customers.


Many people are concerned HR automation tools will push human roles out of the workplace. What are your thoughts on that?

Whilst some low-added value activities are indeed likely to disappear through the addition of automated processes; other opportunities will be created, just as we have experienced with our development from paper to computer-driven processes. Research in the UK in 2018 by PWC suggests that AI, for example, will create at least as many new jobs as it renders obsolete, partly due to the fact that the subsequent gains in productivity will stimulate growth and the need for additional workers. Expertise within these new technologies will also be required on a large scale. The opportunities for new employment opportunities created via Automation are immeasurable!


What do you expect from this year’s World HR Automation Summit?

I am very excited at the prospect of listening to and taking part in vibrant and passionate conversations about the “challenges of HR transformation through technology, agile employee engagement, as well as recruitment automation”. Very much looking forward to taking in everybody’s contributions!


Interested in learning more about the World HR Automation Summit? Request your free brochure here!


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