The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | July 2021

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Here is your July guide to the latest trends impacting the world of work. Every month, we provide perspective on the biggest news affecting the industry and explain what to expect as new trends continue to emerge.

The Robots Aren’t Taking Jobs, but They May be the Key to Repositioning and Rebranding Job Opportunities

The narrative of robots taking jobs has been around since (I’m guessing) the advent of the conveyor belt and its introduction into the manual work process. So, it should come as no surprise that over the last few years there has been a consistent focus on jobs being lost to AI, Machine Learning (ML), and Automation tools. The chatter has settled, giving way to the reality of jobs created versus lost, and jobs evolving versus disappearing. That latter scenario may create an opportunity beyond greater efficiency and productivity.

Over the past year, faced with resource shortages – supply chain and workers – companies finally moved from evaluating to implementing new tech solutions. The inclusion of new technologies has meant evaluating the types of “low-tech” tasks that workers are no longer interested in doing.

When you take money out of the equation on the question of employment, it’s opening our eyes to what work people find desirable and, more evidently, what’s not. Specifically, the manufacturing, retail and service industries are taking the hardest labor hits, underscoring that tasks associated with those jobs – repetitive duties, unrewarding customer service tasks and physical labor – are driving more and more potential workers away.

Work in many industries has a perception problem. Workers on the sideline have had the opportunity to be more thoughtful about the work that they would like to engage in for 40 hours a week – a low- to no-skill office job rather than manual labor. However, integrating AI into the work stream could increase the attractiveness of certain jobs. As an example, for many mechanics their day-to-day tasks have evolved from manual diagnostics to a more tech-driven approach, elevating the perception of that job away from being a “grease monkey.”

While there is no one solution to get workers back into the market, as employers raise salaries to the point of diminished competition, those who have implemented new technologies to support the bottom line may be able to market their high-tech systems that replace some manual tasks as a value-add over their talent competitors. 

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/09/is-the-us-labor-shortage-the-big-break-ai-needs/ [TechCrunch]

Facebook has recently released its Blender Bot 2.0, which promises to move past the limitations of deep learning models that store massive amounts of trained information (long-term memory) toward a system that leverages both stored and real-time information (analyzing new information sieved through previous learning and understanding), which, by virtue of the internet, continues to grow at an exponential rate.

When presented with dynamic questions, the Blender Bot 2.0 would be able draw from saved information and scan for new information resulting in quicker response times. 

For companies moving toward greater AI enablement, this could mean offsetting tasks related to customer inquiries and reimagining those roles further down the work stream. For employers, this could mean having a conversational agent with stored knowledge of company culture and newer employee engagement activities, lending itself to a greater understanding of where the company is heading versus where it’s been. As is often the case, it’s a matter of technology catching up to its potential.   

Read more: https://www.marktechpost.com/2021/07/16/facebook-ai-releases-blenderbot-2-0-an-open-source-chatbot-that-builds-long-term-memory-and-searches-the-internet-to-engage-in-intelligent-conversations-with-users [marktechpost]

AI-Powered Hiring Tools Will Usher in a New Process, but Employers Must Thoughtfully Wade in

Coupled with employees looking for work, economists predict that many of the factors currently exacerbating the low employment participation rate may abate in the fall, with abundant job opportunities, expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, the end of summer vacation time and school back in session.

During the pandemic, many employers turned to AI-powered tools to realign the hiring process with the new realities of digital connection. Interview platforms are not novel, but they have been gaining traction over this past year. In addition to an ease of communication with candidates in any location, many of these tools also espouse candidate assessment functionality. 

Fortunately, market sophistication concerning the inherent potential for biased (inaccurate or inconsistent) results from these tools is higher than it’s been in the past. 

Instead of scoring [the] candidate on the content of her answers, the algorithm pulled personality traits from her voice … But intonation isn’t a reliable indicator of personality traits. We really can’t use intonation as data for hiring. That just doesn’t seem fair or reliable or valid.

As many anecdotal accounts suggest, the performance results derived from these tools are often only one of a few factors in the decision process. We are in a new moment, where our hesitation (warranted) must give way to resolve to utilize and test AI-driven tools to provide enough results from which to improve and evolve technology that may ultimately (with time and effort) result in increased fairness in the hiring process. 

Read more: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/07/07/1027916/we-tested-ai-interview-tools/ [TechnologyReview]

Amid Confusion Over Hybrid Work Policies, Purpose-Focused Companies May Be Well Positioned to Attract Top Tech Talent

Employers across sectors are contending with the beginnings of what is being dubbed “the great resignation” – or “the great exodus,” depending on your personal brand of catastrophizing. 

Adding to employees’ ennui, is the uncertainty over remote work policies. At the height of the pandemic, some companies who espoused the importance of flexible work, afforded their employees the opportunity to work remotely, attend to the needs of their children, etc., have now shifted to often clunky, hybrid, remote work policies.

In the spotlight are the tech giants Apple and Google, whose hybrid work schedules have given way to a seemingly more rigid stance, in contrast to some of their contemporaries, regarding factions of their workforce returning to the office.  

Apple is requiring employees to return three days a week and request remote-work days. Employees faced with more inflexible schedules are considering alternative work options.

In a survey on remote work conducted by employees in June, 36.7 percent of respondents said they were worried they’d have to leave Apple due to the lack of flexibility (1,735 people answered the question).

Read more: https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/15/22578804/apple-employees-work-from-home-request-denied-hybrid-model [The Verge]

Google’s remote work policies have also drawn the ire of its employees who traditionally worked at one of the hub locations. Similar to Apple, the tech giant has a remote work application process, in addition to potential pay cuts of upwards of 25% – depending on the location. The rub: the remote work policy varies based on role and tenure.

Employees say one of the most difficult parts of Google’s return-to-office system is the inability to plan for a future with their loved ones. “Google has been ‘vague and unhelpful’ about the process for most of the year,” said one employee. The confusion has meant workers have to leave crucial decisions, like schooling for children and apartment leases, up in the air.

Read more: https://www.cnet.com/news/google-angers-employees-with-hypocritical-remote-work-policies/ [CNET]

One person’s problem is another’s opportunity: Companies have long struggled to attract tech talent, especially in areas where they’re competing against the tech behemoths, FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google). While Facebook can position its more flexible remote work policy, this may be the moment for every company which, in the last five years, has pronounced they’re not a [insert traditional vertical], but rather a tech company who [insert traditional vertical output] (e.g., not a hospital, but rather a tech company that provides healthcare) to market not just their purpose, but their flexible, remote work culture as well.  

ROUNDING OUT THE SCOOP: PSYCH, SOCIAL, LABOR AND TECH

  • The double pandemic has pushed more companies toward greater transparency of their work policies and process. DropBox is giving the public a look behind the curtain with its Engineering Career Framework, providing job seekers a level of detail about work structure and expectations previously only afforded to current employees. This may mean (for certain roles) shorter job descriptions, and hub pages with more-detailed views of the work.
    Read more: https://dropbox.github.io/dbx-career-framework/ic1_software_engineer.html [DropBox] 

About Jahkedda Akbar Mitchell

Jahkedda has many years of experience providing strategic guidance, data, and insights on job-seeker trends in support of Radancy and its clients. She has also worked in-house on the candidate attraction team for a large fortune 500 company. Jahkedda has a passion for psychology and storytelling; understanding why we do what we do and how to change behaviors...only using her powers for good. Jahkedda is a member of Radancy Labs: a design thinking focused innovation lab.

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