What if helping companies find and develop the right people could change the world? For Ashu Garg, board member at Eightfold.ai, that is not a dreamy idea.
AI in the Service of Good at Eightfold
But before getting into Ashu’s vision, let’s look at the Eightfold Talent Intelligence Platform itself. Built with artificial intelligence (AI), the solution harnesses massive amounts of data to help recruiters pinpoint, engage, and retain qualified talent. And it does so while eliminating bias to help meet diversity goals – essential for creating teams that can build products and services for a diverse customer base. While AI is often blamed for being biased, this solution does the opposite.
And there is proof of its effectiveness, according to Steve Feyer, director of Product Marketing at Eightfold.ai.
Eightfold studied outcomes with Tata Communications Limited, a joint SAP SuccessFactors and Eightfold customer, finding results that include the following:
- 19 percent increase in hiring of external female candidates
- 81 percent increase in internal hires (transfers)
- 88 percent increase in employee referrals
Impressive numbers! I asked Steve to explain further. “Everyone is talking about the importance of diversity, but they have no answers about how to do it,” he noted. “There are point solutions that help with writing better job descriptions, for example, but that gets you only so far. Our solution takes a platform approach, using analytics to identify bias throughout the process to make it holistically minority- and gender-friendly.”
Key to this approach, Ashu pointed out, is the ability to capitalize on data about existing employees through integration with the company’s SAP SuccessFactors solutions to build rich pipelines of candidates for any position.
“Next time you have an opening, look inside instead of outside,” Ashu said. “Here’s an example. Say you want to build a phone app, and don’t have anyone with the right skills. But what if someone joined you in a different capacity three years ago, and has actually done something like that in a previous position or in school? This is how the technology works: It can predict the likelihood that an employee can easily acquire needed skills.”
Ashu went on to say that 62 percent of women report that they hesitate to apply for an opening for fear of rejection, according to a survey of non-managerial workers that Eightfold conducted in 2018. Instead, the Eightfold solution identifies potential candidates – regardless of age, gender, job title, ethnicity, or other arbitrary factors – and proactively shows them why they might be a match.
Amazingly enough, it does this with the external universe, as well. That includes Eightfold’s tools that bring its AI to external sourcing solutions a customer might use, such as job boards, so that they can see how a person matches job requirements, without bias, and pull them into the Eightfold recruiting solution. According to Steve, “The solution makes sense of a lot of ‘noisy data’ – job titles and department names, for instance – to identify meaningful characteristics.”
Vision for Positive Societal Change
By now, you might have a better idea of Ashu’s vision. “Employment is the backbone of society, and to personal well-being,” he said. “Think of employment as a marriage between employer and employee. The better that relationship, the better they both will thrive. In Buddhist philosophy, the Eightfold Path guides each person to wisdom and nirvana. Through our work, we wish to empower each individual to pursue the career path of their choosing, gaining the knowledge they need to achieve their goals and aspirations.”
In his own career, which spans tenures with IBM Research and Google, Ashu recognized a basic problem that became more pronounced with the launch of an earlier startup he founded called Bloomreach. “That transition from employee to employer was a huge challenge for me. From being impossible to find the right job, it became impossible to find the right employees. In short, I recognized that organizations are not making productive use of their data. They might have a tracking system for compliance, but job applications fall into a black hole if the person isn’t hired for a specific position. Then all that information is lost.”
Eightfold.ai, launched in 2016, is the result and its growth has been explosive. Within a few months, Ashu approached a large enterprise in India on a visit there. Three weeks later, the company became Eightfold’s first customer. Now, Eightfold.ai employs more than 70 people at a headquarters in Mountain View, California, that it has already outgrown. Ashu recently published a book that further explains his vision for Eightfold, “What’s Next for You: The Eightfold Path to Transforming the Way We Hire and Manage Talent.”
“Phenomenal” Synergy with SAP App Center
I asked Ashu about SAP App Center. “We didn’t waste any time connecting with SAP App Center – based in part on experience with Bloomreach. It’s been phenomenal,” he said. “There’s a high level of synergy with companies using SAP SuccessFactors.” Steve added: “There’s a personal touch with SAP that’s been very helpful. But most importantly, the [SAP] App Center is a great way for us to engage with large enterprises.”
Bill Rojas is senior director of Digital Transformation and Partner Engagement at SAP.