Amazon’s new AI tool may take work from employees facing layoffs and furloughs

Last week, Amazon expanded acquisition offers to hundreds of recruiters as part of what is expected to be a months-long cycle of layoffs. Leaving company employees throughout the company in a state of anger and stress. Now, Recode has seen a confidential internal document that raises the question of whether a new AI technology the company began experimenting with last year will one day replace some of those employees.

According to an October 2021 internal paper titled “Amazon Confidential,” the tech giant has been working for at least the past year to hand off some recruiter tasks to an artificial intelligence technology that aims to predict which job applicants across specific companies and warehouse jobs will be successful in a particular role and speed their path to an interview. – without the participation of a human recruiter. The technique works in part by finding similarities between the resumes of current, well-performing Amazon employees and those of job applicants applying for similar jobs.

The technology, known internally as Automated Applicant Evaluation, or AAE, was built by a group in Amazon’s HR department known as the AI ​​Recruitment Team, and was first tested last year. Amazon first built its AI recruiting technology back in the mid-2010s He stopped using his system after it showed sexism. In initial testing, Amazon’s human resources division believed that the new machine learning models successfully protected against biases based on race and gender, according to an internal document. became artificial intelligence Widely used in recruitment across industries in recent years, but questions remain about its role in introducing or amplifying biases that may occur in hiring processes.

An Amazon spokesperson did not provide comment prior to publication.

Amazon has invested heavily for years trying to automate different types of work. In 2012, the company acquired a warehouse robotics company called Kiva, whose robots have reduced the need for warehouse workers to walk miles at work but at the same time increased the pace and frequency of their work. Amazon has continued to look for other ways to automate its warehouses and Introducing new botsThis is partly because the company has far too many frontline workers as it sometimes has Fear of running out of people for employment in some areas of the United States. At the company’s booth, Amazon previously implemented an initiative called “Hands Off the Wheel” that took inventory orders and other responsibilities out of the hands of retail department employees and handed them over to technology.

Now, with the creation and widespread use of AAE technology, the roles of recruiters within the second largest private sector employer in the United States could be permanently changed, potentially reducing the number of people Amazon needs to hire.

That is, when the company starts hiring again.

Amazon froze hiring companies earlier in the fall, and just last week, The New York Times reports that Amazon will lay off about 10,000 workers, or 3 percent of the company’s employees, in what would be the company’s largest series of job cuts in the company’s nearly three-decade history. Besides laying off workers in the company’s Alexa and Amazon gadget divisions, the… The company sent purchase offers to large segments of the company’s HR department, including all low- and mid-level employees in the United States and India. If employees voluntarily quit their jobs, Amazon offers three months of salary plus one week of salary for every six months of service with the company. These employees must make a decision on the offer by November 29. Department leaders said involuntary layoffs could still happen in the new year, depending in part on how many employees agree to leave the company voluntarily. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy also said layoffs in the company’s core retail division will happen in 2023.

AAE technology removes one major role some Amazon recruiters serve, which is evaluating job applicants and choosing which ones to go to for job interviews. The program uses performance reviews of current employees, along with information about their resumes and any online job assessments they completed during the hiring process, to evaluate current job applicants for similar roles.

“[T]The model achieves accuracy comparable to that of the manual process and is not indicative of adverse effect,” the 2021 internal paper states.

The technology was first tested on applicants for medical representative jobs at Amazon, who work outside the company’s warehouse network. But since then, it has been used to select job applicants for roles ranging from software development engineers to technical program managers, opening up the possibility of future wide use across the company.

Within the technology industry, there is a realization that The big tech boom may be over. In many cases, pandemic-fueled business successes have ebbed or stalled. Now, tech giants like Amazon are looking to tighten their belts, apparently in part by making long-term bets that technology, AI in particular, can do what humans do — and maybe even cheaper.

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