AI platforms help swamped food manufacturers, retailers connect with recently unemployed

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19

Artificial intelligence platforms could ease pressures on retailers and food manufacturers that desperately need help to meet increased demand for their products, but which are struggling to connect with those who have been laid-off or furloughed due to disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the US Department of Labor, more than 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of March due to cutbacks attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 701,000 jobs were lost in the US in March. This brings the unemployment rate up to 4.4% from a near 50-year low of 3.5% and marks the highest unemployment rate since August 2017.

In the same month, Amazon announced ​it wants to hire 100,000 new roles “to support people relying on Amazon’s services in this stressful time.” ​ Walmart also announced it wants to hire 150,000 temporary workers to help meet increased consumer demand as the coronavirus pandemic continues. And countless other food manufacturers, retailers and players in the supply chain are following suit – searching for help to meet increased demand due to stockpiling and a shift in where and how people eat.

However, connecting with candidates while also navigating other facets of the pandemic is proving difficult for many stakeholders in the food and beverage industry – which is where innovative AI platforms could provide relief.

Connecting employers and employees

To help match newly unemployed and underemployed with hiring companies in the food industry, FMI – The Food Industry Association announced April 6 that it is teaming with Eightfold.ai’s artificial intelligence-based Talent Intelligence Platform, which promises to “rapidly match demand and supply of front-line workers in their local areas.”

According to FMI, Eightfold Talent Exchange uses AI algorithms to “match candidates with available roles, based on each individual’s skills and previous experience.”

To do this, Eightfold works the problems from three angles that bring together current or former employers, employees and hiring companies.

The first allows employers struggling to make payroll or provide sufficient work to invite their employees to register for the Exchange. Employers can then filter their impacted workforce by role, department and location and view talent needs of hiring companies. They can also keep track of their previous employees as they are placed into new roles.

The second allows employees to create and update profiles about their skills, job preferences and other key information that hiring companies can then filter to find candidates that match their needs.

Finally, hiring companies can search the database for candidates that they can hire and even onboard through the service.

Help beyond head count

Just as complicated as scaling quickly to meet demand is pausing business operations or shuttering completely – a move that many emerging brands, food service providers, startups and others in the industry have and will make as the coronavirus pandemic and orders to shelter in place continue to wreak havoc on the economy.

To help companies and entrepreneurs navigate these emotionally and legally difficult decisions, that AI-powered platform Alice has created a COVID-19 Business Resource Center​ to help business owners.

With help from its partners, including eBay Foundation, Verizon, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Amazon Webservice, Silicon Valley Bank and others, the Hello Alice team offers how-to guidance to either continue operations in a new environment or, if necessary, close down.

In terms of business continuity, resources include guidance on operating a remote team, creating an online presence, anxiety and mental health support, best practices and connection with a broader community.

Hello Alice also is offering $10,000 grants for small business owners impacted by the pandemic as part of its broader mission to ensure Business for all. The grants, which are being distributed immediately, also come with support from the broader Hello Alice community. The resource center also provides information on other financial aid options.

For those opting out, Alice offers guides for pausing and closing a business.

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