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Artificial intelligence provides an opportunity to put restaurant professionals back to work

Photograph: Shutterstock

Aaron Allen, a longtime restaurant industry consultant who has personally led assignments in 70 countries, noticed something when traveling to the Middle East and elsewhere: Banks were recruiting from the restaurant industry. “Restaurants are a hunting ground to find tellers and other positions that interact with the public,” he says. 

In fact, Allen says, traits of restaur­ant workers are in high demand in many fields—traits such as empathy, compassion, attentiveness, and helping people before being asked to. Many companies, he says, appreciate the restaurant industry ethos of getting one’s hands dirty and doing whatever needs to be done. Restaurant workers, he says, would “much rather the restaurant be busy than slow.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used to help those workers take the skills gained in foodservice and apply them elsewhere. 

A new Talent Exchange is providing valuable opportunities for people in need of jobs by quickly matching them with companies hiring, using AI. A number of big-name corporations are involved, including Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Giovanni Foods, Instacart, United Airlines, Hertz, Walgreens, Mondelez, Walmart, Macy’s and Lowe’s. McKinsey & Company, the management-consulting firm, is also a key backer. 

This Talent Exchange isn’t industry-specific, but restaurants, where consumer spending has plummeted to 1984 levels, are a major part. That spending plunge kicked off a ripple effect of reduced restaurant hours, permanent closures of restaurants, and unemployment shooting up to over 35% in the foodservice industry

The goal of this Talent Exchange is to take what is an unfortunate situation for so many and give them the hope of a great opportunity—one they perhaps hadn’t even thought of. To get these former restaurant employees back to work, the Exchange bypasses a lot of the rigamarole involved in the job hunting process: agencies, job boards, placement firms and so on. Restaurants and other companies reducing their workforces can upload to the system a list of information on their furloughed or laid-off employees. Organizations that are hiring get a ranked list of candidates that are available to work immediately. 

That’s where AI comes in. AI recommends candidates based on how well they would fit in a role, with transparency as to why an individual is recommended. Managers can make offers quickly. 

As far as the companies doing the furloughing, they can use a dashboard to keep track of where their employees ended up and potentially reconnect with them in a couple of months to bring them back.

The artificial intelligence aspect of this Exchange is powered by a company called Eightfold, which has a technology that large companies use to hire, retain and move people internally by having AI look at job candidates’ and current employees’ skills. Interestingly, Eightfold has learned many of the same things Aaron Allen did in his travels; one of Eightfold’s financial services customers says that former bartenders are making good bank tellers.

With the Talent Exchange, the AI has examined so many millions of people’s work histories that it knows what skills someone is highly likely to have, just based on what jobs they have done and when.

For instance, someone who was a restaurant manager for 20 years might feel like all they know is food. But their true skills portfolio may include things such as hiring, developing and motivating people, managing inventory, budgeting, supply-chain, payroll, and more—all tasks that are crucial in many industries. The Talent Exchange can see how a laid-off restaurant manager might fit into a job in another industry altogether.

The range of both jobs and job seekers on the Talent Exchange system is huge, and is also still expanding. Many of the jobs available are with grocery stores, delivery companies including Instacart and other hourly positions. Other roles include white-collar positions such as in marketing, technology and a variety of other corporate departments in a range of companies. 

On the job-seeker side, there are candidates looking for hourly work after being laid off from restaurant, transportation or other jobs. Other job seekers are graduating from universities and graduate programs and looking for work. A number of the world’s leading universities are in the process of joining the Exchange to offer its services to their grads and alumni. 

For more information on how the Talent Exchange might provide either new hires for an organization or a new opportunity for employees who’ve been let go, visit eightfold.ai/talent-exchange/.

This post is sponsored by Talent Exchange

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