HR Tech Interview with Dr. Christy Petrosso, Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist at Workforce Logiq

Hiring and developing a future-ready workforce is critical to business growth and success, Dr. Christy Petrosso, Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist at Workforce Logiq reveals some proven best practices in this interview with TecHRseries:


Tell us a little about yourself Dr. Petrosso, and how you ventured into this segment…

I have always had a passion for leveraging data and information to find solutions to both business and economic problems. I was drawn to labor economics because of its global and human impact. Work is the means for each of us as individuals to provide for ourselves and our families, and we spend most of our time at work, regardless of the company, role, or industry.

Creating an effective and efficient labor market is a win-win for both employees and employers. Helping companies find and retain the workers that they need to grow and succeed in business means new opportunities and growth for the people who work for these firms.

When I had the opportunity to work with an HR software startup back in 2010 as I was finishing up my PhD, I thought it would be a great way for me to help connect people with new opportunities and companies with great talent, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Given the current business climate, where employers and employees are adjusting to the new normal, what top tips do you have in mind for employers and leaders as they formulate strategies to adapt to the new challenges due to COVID-19?

The labor market has swung back in organizations’ favor for now, but even with a greater supply of talent, the outlook is still hyper-uncertain. My number one tip for employers right now is to leverage information and intelligence to cost-effectively build and sustain a reliable talent pipeline. There’s too much at stake – and too much data available – to justify making decisions that aren’t supported by data.

In this ‘now normal,’ organizations also need to be smarter and more proactive than ever before. They need to decide who they hire for a given role, at what cost, and how – whether in a contingent, part-time, or full-time capacity. They also need to figure out if they should staff talent in an office environment, or in a remote arrangement, which will depend on the specific role, among various other factors. Employers should invest in resources and context to make these decisions, especially in a time of severe economic and financial uncertainty. Predictive data science and AI gives employers the edge they need to navigate all this complexity and optimally plan their workforce in this new world of work.

What roles according to you should always be hired and maintained on a remote model, especially in B2B and tech?

Some of the jobs for which remote work should definitely be considered include support roles, such as customer service and technical support. These jobs often require 24/7 coverage which can make scheduling difficult for employers and employees. Enabling employees to work from home – and in different time zones – in these roles provides flexibility that can make follow-the-sun coverage easier.

Other technical roles, such as software developers, many operations functions, and professional and knowledge workers can also easily work from home, giving employees the flexibility to take advantage of their peak productivity times that may differ slightly from traditional office hours.

The biggest challenge with remote roles is making the concerted effort to ensure employees feel connected to the organization and colleagues. This is especially a challenge for individual contributors who may not have daily interactions with others within the organization. Hiring high-quality managers for people in remote roles is more important than ever to give these employees the resources they need and help them feel connected to the business and goals of the organization and their colleagues. This boosts morale, employee engagement, and productivity, which directly drives organizational performance and growth.

We’d love to hear from you on how you’ve seen companies use AI to improve their sourcing and hiring process.

Companies are currently using AI to make data-driven decisions that create new efficiencies and cost savings across the entire sourcing and hiring process. We’re seeing companies leverage AI to:

  • Decide on the best places to source and staff talent. Based on a job description and other specific requirements an employer has, AI can recommend the best geographic markets from which to source talent. The models look at market-specific talent supply and demand gaps, salary profiles, local commuting patterns, and more. For example, if you’re based in NYC and looking to hire a data engineer, AI can show you other hubs for tech talent you might not have considered – like Columbus, OH, Pittsburgh, or DC – and the quality and cost of talent in each market. Instead of hiring a data engineer in Manhattan and paying major city prices, you could find a data engineer with the same high-quality skillsets in Pittsburgh, and at a 25% lower cost. AI enables companies to analyze this data and make decisions at a level and speed that’s simply impossible for humans.
  • Determine how open positions would be best staffed. Algorithms can weigh an employer’s corporate culture, role requirements, and industry and similar role benchmarks to figure out the level of collaboration required of specific roles. The models then recommend whether those positions should be staffed onsite, near remote, or in a fully remote arrangement. Based on the predictive insight, you know if hiring that data engineer in Pittsburgh, and choosing to staff them remotely – which would save on relocation, commuting, office space costs, and more – would set both the candidate and the larger team up for success. We’re also seeing companies leverage this approach to decide which employees they bring back to the office first.
  • Understand whether candidates are likely to engage. AI models also predict which candidates are most likely to be receptive to exploring new roles and getting unsolicited recruiting messages. This enables employers to accurately identify and shortlist candidates most willing and likely to engage with recruiters and apply for and accept jobs, speeding the hiring process and ensuring teams don’t spend time recruiting the wrong people.

What are your thoughts on the impact of AI in HR Tech until now, and predictions for the future: what new innovations and capabilities can users hope to expect from AI in HR Tech?

AI has completely transformed the way organizations source, attract, hire, and retain talent. The industry has long been inherently reactive, where employers tend to scramble to find and hire new talent when someone leaves. There’s an urgent need for proactivity, and AI and predictive insights deliver.

Leveraging predictive intelligence enables employers to see the horizon and what’s beyond it. They have a newfound ability to anticipate future skills gaps, employee churn, new talent availability, and more, and can act before they find themselves scrambling for talent again.

We’re continuously seeing new use cases for AI. Predictive intelligence is now helping employers make more proactive, confident decisions on where and how to invest in talent diversity – increasing outreach to women, men, or specific ethnic groups – in specific roles and job levels to drive real diversity and inclusion (D&I) progress. Employers are increasingly using AI to identify and attract skilled diverse talent to boost employee representation at the frontend of the recruiting funnel, and understand how they measure up to competitors and their overall industry when it comes to diversity hiring.

The impact of AI has been tremendously positive so far, and we fully expect more and more organizations to actively adopt the technology in 2021 to help them address urgent issues and trends, such as remote work, D&I, COVID-19-driven labor market and economic uncertainty, growing talent gaps, and more.

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While several teams globally have been vocal about the benefits of the new shift to work from home, what do you think are some of the cons associated with having more employees working remote and how can organizations fix these challenges?

The biggest challenge is some roles aren’t ‘remote ready’ and still require high levels of collaboration. But it’s hard to know which roles won’t be successful in a remote environment until someone’s already working in that position. AI is instrumental to helping employers navigate these new dynamics and avoid suboptimal work arrangements altogether by deciphering where a role should be staffed before employers even make the offer.

Other challenges of remote work include decreased work/life balance, difficulty integrating new employees into the culture, and workers feeling isolated. Employees are also more apt to disengage while working from home because of a lack of visibility and facetime with their manager and colleagues. This can all negatively impact productivity and subsequently the bottom line. Thankfully Gallup recently reported employee engagement is at an all-time high even as we navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Make time for virtual happy hours, game nights, and other virtual culture events, and prioritize employee recognition and development. When employees are happy, engaged, and satisfied in their role, their work quality and productivity tend to be higher and they’re more likely to stay with the organization long term.

Overall, there are many benefits to remote work – lower travel, real estate, and salary costs, greater workforce flexibility, employee retention, and more. The answer to how much of the workforce you allow to work remotely looks different to every organization. Employers need to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that works best for them. It’s not always an easy decision, but data is an invaluable asset when exploring the options.

We’d love to hear about your future plans for the Workforce Logiq platform.

We’re committed to helping clients reimagine and transform how they build and sustain the workforce they need to win the ongoing war for talent. We’re continually innovating and building on our existing technology to empower clients to get the right talent, when they need it, at the right cost.

A big part of this is ensuring there’s a strong pipeline of diverse talent coming in the door so organizations can find workers with the right skillsets, boost employee representation in terms of gender, ethnicity, thought diversity, and more, and make a real impact from diversity and inclusion initiatives. Another key aspect is equipping organizations with predictive direct sourcing tools to proactively build their own talent pools of pre-qualified candidates interested in contingent, full-time or freelance/gig work, giving them immediate access to the best and most likely to engage talent for each role.

We’re also expanding our integration capabilities so we can seamlessly connect and interact with organizations’ pre-existing technology solutions. This is an important investment so more companies can access the data and intelligence they need to make more proactive workforce management decisions.

And of course, supporting our global clients is high priority. We’ve established ourselves in the Swedish market and look forward to growing even more internationally, specifically in Europe and India.

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Do you have a few general thoughts or tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current global pandemic?

Don’t forget about retention programs. Our data shows historically stable job categories, such as medicine and education, for example, are seeing higher worker volatility levels. Both fields saw increased risk of losing talent – doctors and medicine up 13% and education jobs up 10% — in Q3, according to our most recent analysis. Organizations heavily reliant on certain roles, especially those in highly competitive fields, should proactively retain existing talent. Just because it’s not a hot market for job seekers right now, doesn’t mean they won’t start to look elsewhere.

Workforce Logiq is a global provider of AI-powered workforce intelligence, technology, and services to large corporations, enabling organizations to win and retain the talent they need to grow.

Dr. Christy Petrosso is a Chief Data Scientist and Talent Economist at Workforce Logiq

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