Prior to Covid-19, the labor market was a hyper-competitive, strong employee market. But with the pandemic, the fundamental structural change in remote work combined with the rapid change in unemployment have significantly altered the dynamics of the labor market, says Dr. Christy (Whitehead) Petrosso, chief data scientist and talent economist at Workforce Logiq. In an interview with Staffing Industry Analysts, Petrosso talks about the different workforce trends that have surfaced, including using AI to get access to better talent and get ahead of your competition. One of Workforce Logiq’s goals is to help organizations make that shift back to work by re-imagining workforce management. Using a combination of human- and data-driven intelligence, Petrosso believes Workforce Logiq can use predictive market intelligence to transform the way organizations find, win and keep the talent they need to grow.
As a data scientist and talent economist, which market trends do you watch and why?
One of our core goals at Workforce Logiq is to help companies make more informed talent decisions faster and more cost-effectively. And so we look at four dimensions of talent — the people themselves, the roles they fill, organizations as well as geographies — and focus on how those dimensions intersect to form the labor market.
Through our algorithms, we’re analyzing over a billion data points a month from over 40,000 different sources — such as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, public profiles, news outlets and internal sources as well as data partners — to identify those trends that are relevant for our customers and that are hard to find and track in the general marketplace. One of those core algorithms that helps us to better understand the market is our Talent Retention Risk Score, which we developed and patented to gauge the risk within a particular company, organization or industry, and how likely the entity is to lose key talent in the next 90 days.
In addition to that, we’re tracking the impact of the pandemic. Where is it hitting hardest? What industries are affected? What is the worker sentiment? And more. One of the biggest trends, of course, is remote work. The shift was overnight, so we’re in this giant work-from-home experiment and we can tell that there’s a huge potential for permanent effects. We’re analyzing how it’s going to impact not only this current situation, but also the ongoing working relationship between people and their organizations.
We anticipate that a lot of organizations will continue to maintain a large work-from-home workforce — Facebook has already announced that they’re going to keep 50% of their workforce remote; Twitter’s going to be 100% remote.
How is the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the labor markets? When will the volatility end?
Prior to the pandemic, it was one of the tightest labor markets we’ve seen. Over the last two years, the number of job openings every month in the US was exceeding the number of unemployed people in the country. And typically, when you see a shift into a recession, it is more gradual; during the last recession, it took almost two years for unemployment to reach its peak. This time, the shift in unemployment was a flip of a switch — one day to the next 7 million were unemployed. It’s been one of the most unprecedented and high-pivoting employment markets that we’ve seen. Employers have been very focused on reducing their payrolls, tightening their budgets and making sure that they can ride out this potential economic recession.
Now, we’re thinking about how to help employers make the shift back to increasing employment. A lot of employers traditionally leverage the use of contingent talent during a recovery. But even during the pandemic, there’s still a skills gap within a lot of roles; there still is a limited supply of the talent that’s needed, such as software engineering and IT, many of those technical roles that we still need to fill. And, again, we want to help employers as they explore having an ongoing, remote workforce, help them be more flexible, think about how to save money on salary and future travel costs while helping them analyze the market rates across different solutions.
As far as when we think some of this uncertainty will end, right now, it’s hard to tell. We saw a peak in mid-June 2020 in our national Talent Retention Risk Score, which could have signaled a third-quarter recovery. But given recent conditions and how virus infection levels are rising, many regions are stalling or reversing their reopening process, we may see another peak in the Talent Retention Risk Score in the third quarter of 2020, which leads us to thinking about a fourth-quarter recovery.
How would you characterize the market going forward? Is it an employers’ or employees’ market?
There’s going to be a sort of push-pull between employees and employers depending on the supply and demand for certain skill sets. Software engineers, for example, are still going to be calling the shots. Their TRR scores, meaning the workers’ willingness to be open to new opportunities, are very high, not because of the uncertainty in their jobs and that they think they’ll be safer somewhere else, but because they are able to parlay their skill sets into better jobs and higher pay.
There will still be pockets of that, but I think there will be a fundamental shift to an employer-driven market through the boost in remote work. Being able to leverage remote workers for both full-time and contingent positions gives employers a wider pool to recruit from outside of traditionally competitive markets, giving them more power. So, instead of people moving to San Francisco to get a better job and demand higher pay, for example, the employer is actually able to say, “I’m going to go to Wichita, Kansas, and find somebody with the same skills and competencies and pay them less.” I think it will open up a lot more opportunity for people in those areas that maybe haven’t had those types of opportunities in the past.
How can artificial intelligence (AI) be applied to workforce management? Where is it in use today and what might the future look like?
AI is used throughout workforce management these days, from recruiting to finding talent, to engaging and retaining employees. There’s a lot of competition out there to help organizations find that talent, and in order for organizations to really gain that competitive advantage, they have to invest in AI to remain competitive with their peers, to help them move faster and more strategically.
One of the biggest challenges to AI is making it useful and actionable for the people who need it. A forecast is great, but if you don’t know what to do based on that forecast, it just becomes white noise. So we are trying to help solve those real-life challenges that HR leaders need to solve every day and help people work better and faster — not to replace people with AI, but help them to do their jobs better.
We have built what we call our Total Talent Intelligence platform. It’s an AI-driven solution that we can use to help companies optimize their workforce strategy, tracking the movements of their competitors and identifying where their biggest talent risks are internally. The solution then helps them find that best talent while identifying some of the most cost-effective places to hire that talent. We envision leveraging AI to help customers achieve what we call “zero time to fill” by helping them anticipate what their hiring needs are going to be, finding and nurturing that talent so that when a need for that talent arises, there’s already somebody in place to fill that role.
Workforce Logiq uses the term “Predictive Workforce Management.” What is it and why should readers care?
Basically, in today’s economy, if you were being reactive, you’re going to lose. The ability to be proactive and think about the future and what the future is going to look like enables you to get ahead of your competition, get access to better talent and give real-time insights and best practices to help your organization make the most strategic workforce decisions that you can.
We break that down into several categories. We’ve got predictive market intelligence — helping understand the demand and the supply of talent, the flow of talent, where the talent currently is, where it’s going, what skills are trending — to help you understand what your peers and your competitors are doing, the type of talent they’re hiring, the talent moves that they’re making, and to help you see how you stack up against your competitors, both your solution competitors and your talent competitors.
In addition to that, we help you understand and predict retention issues, what the risk for losing talent looks like within your organization. Are there pockets that are particularly at risk within your organization — a department, a location, or specific types of skills? This information enables you to think about, one, how to keep those employees before they leave and, two, if needed, how to prepare to replace those employees.
And, again, being predictive with your recruiting efforts for both contingent and full-time workers. That means helping to identify those workers who are most likely going to be interested in your organization and in a new job opportunity right now, and helping to optimize the candidate experience by creating that messaging and talking to them about what’s important to them in addition to helping to find not only the full-time support you need, but also potentially that contingent help that you need to supplement your existing workforce.
Workforce Logiq has generated some very interesting results using its patent-pending AI technologies. Please share a few examples and the impact it has had.
We already talked about our national TRR score and the pandemic, and how that helped us see that change in the economy before it really hit here in the US. In addition to that, we also help our customers and clients identify roles that are likely to be contingent in one of our other patent-pending algorithms. And that really helps us more efficiently target the right candidates, and again, helps reduce that time to fill for those roles and specifically those contingent roles that you are trying to ramp up quickly and get in place to meet the fluctuations in demand that your company might see.
And then, of course, one of our newest patent-pending algorithms is our IQ Location Optimizer. It helps our team to identify and prioritize those locations that are going to be the best place to find the talent that our customers need based on the availability and the engageability of the skills that they need while minimizing the cost to hire. Recently, we were able to help a major financial institution identify how they could save over $2 million in salary over three years by hiring in alternate locations in the US versus where they were initially intending to hire for those roles.
What is your recommendation for organizations that would like to get started using AI for workforce management?
I think one of the keys to really getting started is finding small projects that can have a big impact, because having early wins makes it really easy to sell the benefits of leveraging AI in your processes and within your organization. In addition, it can be helpful to leverage AI experts and solution providers that have been specializing and perfecting all of these solutions. Something that I talked about a little bit earlier is making the AI actionable, make it real for the user or they won’t use it.
And finally, one of the key things is building trust. I think that many people are very skeptical of the outcomes of a lot of AI and algorithms that are out there. So the ability to be able to provide the supporting evidence and show that it works and how they can trust the algorithm to help guide their decisions. The algorithms shouldn’t make the decisions for them but help guide them in their decisions and understand how that can help benefit them to make better and faster decisions.
For more information on Workforce Logiq and its suite of patent-pending and AI-driven predictive workforce management solutions, please visit www.workforcelogiq.com . Click  to watch a quick video on the company’s newest AI-powered solution: IQ Location Optimizer.