The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | August 2020

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Here is your August guide to the latest in 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 IMPACT OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ON HIRING

A comprehensive stimulus bill has yet to materialize, stalled in part over the debate regarding whether people work less as a result of the expanded unemployment benefits. A new study out of Yale University finds no evidence of that happening.

“We find that the workers who experienced larger increases in UI generosity did not experience larger declines in employment when the benefits expansion went into effect. Additionally, we find that workers facing larger expansions in UI benefits have returned to their previous jobs over time at similar rates as others. We find no evidence that more generous benefits disincentivized work either at the onset of the expansion or as firms looked to return to business over time.”

While this does not preclude one-off circumstances, the impact has not been seen on a mass scale in line with the anecdotal impact on hiring challenges. 
https://news.yale.edu/2020/07/27/yale-study-finds-expanded-jobless-benefits-did-not-reduce-employment

Applications for unemployment insurance fell to its lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, but is still higher than at the height of the Great Recession. Slight increases in consumer spending, dining out, and public transportation usage are positive signals of life and movement towards recovery.  

COVID-19 cases have also seen a slight decrease in early August. Unlike previous recoveries, the current situation is highly dependent on getting the virus under control. 
https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/recovery-tracker/

WORKPLACE SURVEILLANCE AS A TRADEOFF FOR SAFETY

Even as the economic situation has yet to settle out, companies have and must continue to prepare for reemergence. Employers have had to consider work from home policies — indefinitely or through the end of the school year, to ease some of the uncertainty for employees with children — and policies to allow their employees to return to the workplace. These critical decisions have given rise to conversation about surveillance AI and the world of work, both virtual and physical.

The pandemic has forced the hand of many employers previously reluctant about their workforce working from home regularly, with an impact to productivity as the concern most often stated. To mitigate this concern, some employers have asked their employees to install software that tracks their mouse movements or keystrokes. 

Ensuring the health and safety of employees entering an office could mean collecting self-reported or requesting access to health data, contact tracing via work phone app, or even the ability to triangulate information between email, video conferencing tools, SMS, and internal messaging platforms to understand sentiment and detect health and well-being.   

“Employees must be able to trust their leaders to deploy new technologies, including AI, for good. Earning that trust requires a great deal of transparency — about why and how AI is being used, the key factors driving the system’s recommendations, the technology’s limitations, and the human judgment calls that feed the system and interpret the data. Employees need to feel that their leaders are truly interested in boosting their performance, improving their health, and keeping them safe, and that surveillance AI will make the company a better place to work. Even well-intended efforts to leverage AI to protect people will backfire if companies don’t have a culture of trust and employees are suspicious of those at the top.”

https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/can-surveillance-ai-make-the-workplace-safe/

The broader implication, beyond the current workforce, is the future workforce. As employers recruit new employees, transparency around new safety-focused surveillance practices may become a new interview topic to navigate.

ETHICAL FORESIGHT TO MITIGATE THE IMPACTS OF BIAS IN TECHNOLOGY

Past editions of The Scoop have provided perspective on decision making algorithms and bias. As the world of work, and society at large, continues to evolve its thinking on systemic racism and dismantling or augmenting current policies and practices that perpetuate inequities, new research out of DeepMind takes a unique lens on ‘decolonizing’ AI. 

“Everyone’s talking about racial bias and technology, gender bias and technology, and wanting to mitigate these risks, but how can you if you don’t understand a lot of these systems of oppression are grounded in very long histories of colonialism?” 

The underlying tenant of coloniality is that some lives are worth more than others. Historical context is not built into AI systems; this carries the potential for reifying, amplifying, and normalizing inequalities. The solution put forth, while not complete, provides a necessary step toward “ethical foresight” — evaluating underlying cultural assumptions in products and how it will affect society.
https://www.engadget.com/deepmind-oxford-decolonial-ai-paper-161535009.html

As companies consider new AI-driven solutions for talent acquisition challenges, taking a similar lens to implementation and activation gets one step closer to ensuring more equitable outcomes. 

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

Jahkedda Akbar Mitchell

About Jahkedda Akbar Mitchell

Jahkedda has many years of experience providing strategic guidance, data, and insights on job-seeker trends in support of TMP Worldwide 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 TMP Labs: a design thinking focused innovation lab.

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