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Post pandemic working - How businesses can use AI to manage resourcing and survive the pandemic

(Image credit: Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock)

Throughout the pandemic, people have turned to technology for support. Whether it was reaching out to loved ones via Zoom, or relying on cloud technology to help businesses work remotely, technology has been at the forefront. From investing in hardware to support employees, making more use of social media to stay connected, or prioritizing investment in more sophisticated technology such as AI and Machine Learning to improve ways of working, it is clear that we would have been facing an incredibly different outlook if technology was not as advanced as it is today.

In particular, AI has been a powerful weapon in tackling the effects of coronavirus. From a medical standpoint, the technology has been utilized in disease detection via thermal cameras to use in contact tracing, assisting medical trusts in stopping the spread of the virus. It is fair to say that AI has been instrumental in navigating the last year or so. However, the capabilities of AI and ML to address the challenges of the pandemic extend far beyond healthcare. It can also transcend into the working environment, supporting businesses as they continue to find solutions to the permanent shifts created by Covid-19. While staggered returns to office working seem to be the most likely option as the world opens up again, machine learning and AI continue to help businesses respond to the problems of engaging and managing talent in a pandemic, while revolutionizing the way they work.

The pandemic-enforced working from home and unfortunately, furlough, have resulted in a great uptick in talent movement and people looking for work, sometimes in completely new industries. The rate of redundancies has accelerated and subsequently so have job applications: last summer, over 4,000 people applied for a single entry-level role. This sharp rise in job applicants has been combined with a revolution in the way talent is engaged. As more and more organizations are shifting their focus on their hiring policies they are looking to a new way of working that doesn’t just focus on full-time employees. 

Talent engagement

Instead, businesses are increasingly turning to gig workers, over permanent staff to deliver projects. Engaging gig workers allows companies to reduce overheads in this difficult economic climate, but it takes time to find the perfect person for a project. In both cases, teams face an uphill battle sifting through CVs and a loss of time they can’t afford. By engaging with the gig economy, businesses can see increased efficiency in project management, as well as freeing up time to engage with full-time employees on more long-term projects. 

This is where AI comes in. AI has been used in talent engagement for a while but its value has rapidly increased during the pandemic. Rather than an individual spending countless work hours reading through job applications, AI-driven data will instantly scan through CVs to pick those with the most suited skills, or run analysis on video interviews. This not only saves businesses precious time and resources, it leads to a fairer, more effective process as every application is considered. No more need for desperate time-saving tactics where only the first 50 submissions are reviewed and the rest are ignored. Businesses can now gain back time and make sure they’re choosing the right people for the role.

This ability to filter through candidates at speed is a game-changer during a pandemic and beyond. Using skills-matching tools empowers business to spread their nets wider and start engaging with talent overseas. It doesn’t matter that expanding the talent search abroad will increase the number of applications: the AI absorbs the extra work and means businesses can reach the very best international talent. It’s this edge that sets a company apart, allowing them to weather a global crisis and come out stronger on the other side.

Vital lifeline

Using AI to find team members can also help talent engagement address its bias problem. By partly removing humans from the equation, AI can go some way in removing the unconscious bias that a human assessor brings, for example in the judgment of a particular ethnicity of gender. However, it’s important to remember that AI is a tool, not a panacea, and won’t eradicate systemic discrimination on its own. It’s still coded by biased humans and can also be biased by its data set: as CVs are experience-based, they are inherently biased towards certain groups. This has led some companies to explore other options and look towards test-based models for engaging talent. As with all technology, AI needs to be approached with proper thought and care.

But it’s not just in engaging talent that AI helps teams adjust to the effects of the pandemic. There’s also a role for it to play in refining remote working. One of the biggest losses arising from remote working is the loss of in-office human interaction; interaction which is extremely valuable in sparking creativity and managing the health and wellbeing of teams. Whilst addressing this loss might initially appear beyond the scope of AI, there’s real capacity for creative applications of AI techniques to start bringing back this lost office dimension. If AI can be used in conjunction with cloud-based work management and collaboration systems, it can start to learn about a team, their work and the interactions between colleagues. This knowledge can then be used to flag when team members might be feeling stressed and help create solutions that recapture in-office creativity. Companies that can do this will be able to work more efficiently and productively and stand head and shoulders above the rest.

AI has been a vital lifeline for talent teams in the pandemic but its use won’t end with the return to work. It’s demonstrated how businesses can transform their working practices to be fairer, more effective and boost their bottom line. AI is the future of resourcing and the companies that recognize this will be able to survive and grow beyond the pandemic. The ones that don’t will simply be left behind.

Andrew Conway, CTO, Proteus developed by Xergy

Andrew is an experienced digital leader with over ten years of experience in developing technical concepts. Throughout his career, Andrew has advised organizations including Rangers Football Club, SSE, Virgin Money, St Andrews Links, The Open (R&A), Dundee City Council and Dundee Football Club on their digital requirements.