The Future Is Here: How Artificial Intelligence Can Help You With Your Studies

Artificial intelligence has had an enormous impact on many aspects of our lives, including education. Even UNSECO has acknowledged it! In 2019, they’ve created the Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence and Education, which includes recommendations on using such software in classrooms. As you can see, AI is here to stay.

This IvyPanda article will showcase top-notch AI-powered programs and apps that make your studying routine much more effortless. Whether it’s to help you prepare for exams, learn another language, or do anything else, AI software can be a very useful tool.

 How AI Is Used in Education

Artificial intelligence can optimize and improve any process it touches, and education is no exception. AI’s decision-making capabilities introduce new possibilities to every aspect of studying. Here are some examples:

The picture shows the ways in which AI is used in education.
  • Personalized learning and smart scheduling. AI makes it possible to develop a truly individualized approach. It can quickly analyze every student’s learning style and preferences and then create a detailed, personalized academic plan.
  • Online learning and tutoring. AI’s capabilities in this area are unrivaled. For example, it can seamlessly match students with tutors. AI is also perfect for creating a studying platform. Some online learning environments have proven to be as efficient as face-to-face classes.
  • Assessment. It’s faster and less demanding to let AI keep track of things. It can take care of tests, grading, and even assessing personal skills.

  • Recruiting. Finding new talents for your team of teachers can also be accomplished with the help of AI. Just find a suitable algorithm to use, enter all the requirements, and you’re bound to find the right teacher for your team.
  • School management. Almost every part of running a school or another institution can be automized by AI, including managing salaries, security, monitoring, and many others.
  • Learning content. You can even generate study resources with AI. Find a suitable program, and there will be no need to scroll through dozens of links.

Benefits of AI for Studying

As you can see, artificial intelligence can work wonders in the learning system. However, there are plenty of other perks that come with the implementation of AI in education:

  • Easy troubleshooting. When your management uses the help of AI, identifying problems within the classroom becomes easy. You can find all the information you need on any student and adjust their studying process accordingly.

  • Convenience. Automatic systems drastically reduce the amount of paperwork needed in educational environments, which lessens stressful work conditions — because, frankly speaking, nobody likes paperwork.
  • Engagement. Personalizing academic plans give teachers new opportunities to diversify the studying process. Knowing the needs and preferences of your students, you can transform dull exercises into exciting experiences. Finding supplementary materials like games, videos, or music also becomes incredibly simple.
  • Accessibility. Being able to study from home has its advantages. It no longer matters where you live since you can work with any teacher worldwide. Certain disabilities are no longer an obstacle either.
  • Easy to use. With AI, it’s easier than ever to find an answer to any question. There’s no need to bother your teacher with minor questions.

Schools and universities are not the only ones that benefit from AI education software. You, the student, can also enjoy many advantages. There are numerous tools that aim to help with homework or prepare you for finals. We’ll discuss some of them in this article, so keep reading!

Best AI Tools for Your Studies

Artificial intelligence can perform a lot of handy tricks for students:

The picture enumerates the ways in which AI can help students.

The list below will detail several opportunities that AI offers.

Top AI Tutoring Tools

These are some of the best tools for self-study. They rely on speech recognition and personalizing the materials you work with. You can install them if you need help with your homework tasks or just want to freshen up your knowledge on a required subject.

  1. Quizlet
    You can already guess what this one’s about. This tool sends you simple flashcards on a given topic so you can memorize everything with ease. The app offers detailed explanations of each answer, so you’ll be able to integrate the new knowledge after every quiz.
    Price: free.
  2. Socratic
    Socratic takes a picture of your homework and provides you with everything you need to solve it. It’s as simple as that. When you photograph a question, the app analyzes it through Optical character recognition. Then it sends you a list of cards with the necessary resources. These include definitions, YouTube links, and original Socratic content.
    Price: free.
  3. Quantiphi
    It’s a fully automated AI tutor. It recognizes speech and simulates teacher-to-student communication. You can ask it any questions on any given matter, and it will answer them.
    Price: starts at $14 an hour.

Top AI Writing Assistants for Students

These programs can be helpful if you need to write an essay or a research paper. They cover all the general issues you might have, from correcting your grammar to rephrasing a sentence. Check them out:

  1. Grammarly
    This app corrects any grammatical, lexical, or punctuation mistakes you make. You can also use it to check for possible plagiarism in your text if you feel unsure about it.
    Price: free. Premium starts at $29.95 a month.
    It’s a tool you can use to brainstorm ideas for your assignment. To do so, you must type in some keywords and phrases. After that, the app gives you some ideas that might inspire you to overcome writer’s block.
    Price: free.
  3. IvyPanda Paraphrasing Tool
    This one speaks for itself. Feel free to use it if you think your essay’s wording is poor or repetitive. It will convert your sentence into a better one, but the content will remain untouched.
    Price: free.

Top AI Tools for Language Learning

This is a list of programs that will improve your language skills. Such software usually focuses on making the learning process as personalized as possible. You can have your classes whenever and wherever you want. Sounds interesting? Feel free to check them out:

  1. Duolingo
    Duolingo is arguably the most popular language-learning app — and rightfully so. It offers various courses in virtually any language. It schedules your classes for you and is straightforward and fun to use. And no, the Duo bird does not actually threaten you with arson if you miss a class. Don’t trust the Internet.
    Price: free.
  2. Babbel
    Similar to Duolingo, this is another e-learning platform. The difference is that this one is a subscription only. It takes a less playful and more thorough approach and will suit people who are serious about learning.
    Price: starting at $12.95 a month.
  3. Rosetta Stone
    This educational software teaches you a language “like it is your first one.” Rosetta Stone relies on learning the language through visual imagery, text, and sound. It can also correct your pronunciation if you have a microphone.
    Price: $36 for a 3-month subscription.

Top Test Preparation Apps

Many tools can help you with upcoming tests. One of the most common methods is flashcards. They are simple to use and allow you to memorize things quickly. Other tools include planners and mock tests. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. Tinycards
    This is a simple app made by the creators of Duolingo. Tinycards is a fantastic flashcard generator that will save you from the dullness of cramming and make the learning process straightforward and exciting.
    Price: free.
  2. Exam countdown
    The name speaks for itself. It’s an app that tracks the dates of your tests. Exam countdown can come in handy if you need to plan out your preparation process. Or maybe you just have 10 finals in a month and are afraid of forgetting about one of them. It’s good either way.
    Price: free.
  3. Instancy
    This app allows you to take personalized tests for any exam. The test requirements are highly customizable. You can look for tests using keywords, difficulty levels, topics, time, and so on.
    Price: starts at $2 a month.

Top AI Tools for Students with Learning Disabilities

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there is also software that can help people with disabilities to overcome limitations. T is a list of some apps for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia. These disorders affect the ability to write and read but have nothing to do with intelligence. The following apps can help to manage these disabilities.

  1. NaturalReaders
    This simple text-to-speech software converts any document or text into an mp3 file for you to listen to whenever you want. You don’t necessarily need a text file: there is an option to take a picture of the text you want to listen to.
    Price: free.
  2. Kurzweil 3000
    Kurzweil 3000 is excellent software that focuses on educating people with learning disabilities. The creators apply various approaches and techniques for every particular case of dyslexia. Most of them involve text-to-speech technology.
    Price: A single-user license will cost $1065.
  3. ClaroRead
    This is a great tool that helps people with dyslexia read and write texts correctly. ClaroRead has many valuable functions. For example, it can pronounce the sentences aloud as you type. Performing text-to-speech conversion is also possible if needed. Furthermore, you can customize the program’s voice. The app even predicts words for you.
    Price of a basic copy: £59.

Top AI Tools for Focus & Productivity

Believe it or not, there is even software that can increase your attention and efficiency. It can schedule your workday or even block all time-consuming sites on your browser. Such programs are helpful for people with ADHD or if you just need a productivity boost.

  1. Serene App
    It’s a wonderful tool that helps you focus on essential things. Each day the app sets a goal for your and divides it into sessions. While working, Serene App turns off any unrelated applications, silences your phone, and even controls the lights around you if necessary. It also schedules your breaks and chooses appropriate music for them.
    Price: $4 a month.
  2. StayFocused
    This is another attention-enhancing app. StayFocused helps you steer clear of websites that take up too much of your time, like social media and useless articles on Buzzfeed. If you spend too much time there, the app blocks them for the rest of the day.
    Price: free.
  3. Forest
    Forest is a simple game where your goal is to grow a tree. When you open the app, the tree starts growing. Should you close Forest or start using your phone, the tree will wither. And you now have a dead plant on your hands. The horror! Jokes aside, the app is perfect for people who find themselves scrolling their phones way too much. The sense of achievement Forest provides might give you just enough willpower to enjoy the world around you.
    Price: $3.99.

Top Note Taking & Mind Mapping Tools

Things like time management, planning, and idea gathering can be tricky. But they are necessary skills for a student. The following tools can help you to organize yourself and your work. They are especially useful if you prefer to see information presented visually.

  1. Notability
    Taking notes is the foundation of getting organized, and Notability does precisely that. It lets you draw in your digital notebook freely, share it with others, and store your records in any order you want.
    Price: free.
  2. Evernote
    Evernote is similar to Notability. It’s a note storage tool that lets you make to-do lists. Although you can’t draw in this one, the euphoria of crossing your tasks off the paper might be a good enough substitute for drawing. Other functions like attaching a PDF or audio are available.
    Price: free.
  3. Mindmup
    You probably already guessed that this one is a mind mapping tool. Mindmup allows you to create graphs and outlines for any purpose. Students who write a lot of essays will appreciate this one. You can share your mind maps with other users and access them on any device.
    Price: free.

Top Dictation Software for Students

Speech-to-text tools can be valuable for many reasons. If you are too lazy to write down the lecture, that’s no big deal. You can simply try one of the apps below. Students with much more serious problems like dysgraphia or deafness can also make great use of them.

But working with such software needs some adjustments. You have to work on your pronunciation for the program to start recognizing what you say. Dictation apps also need time to distinguish your voice and speech mannerisms correctly. Keep it in mind if you choose to download any of these apps:

  1. Dragon
    Dragon is a simple dictation tool. The app listens to your voice and creates a text document. You can also set custom words in case you tend to describe things like “humongously dangdastical.”
    Price: $15 a month.
  2. Audio Note
    Audio Note is another dictation application with functions like Dragon. Its distinctive feature is the possibility to make notes in the final text. It makes finding certain parts of the recorded speech easier.
    Price: free
  3. Speech Texter
    This is a website that allows you to quickly transform your speech into a text file. You don’t need to download anything, let alone pay for it. So, if you don’t need a dictation app very often, it’s the perfect choice for you.
    Price: free

And that ends our article on AI tools in education. We highly encourage you to incorporate some of them into your life. They are mostly free and can make your studying much easier. Have a great day, and don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments!

Source: The Future Is Here: How Artificial Intelligence Can Help You with Your Studies

Related contents:

Future of Testing in Education: Artificial Intelligence: American Progress

The Benefits of AI in Education: Capacity

An Interaction Design for Machine Teaching to Develop AI Tutors: Association for Computing Machinery

Best AI Writing Assistants in 2022: G2

The Best Assistive Technology for Dyslexics: Wired

Best Productivity Apps: Study International

Easy Ways to Bring Assistive Technology Into Your Classroom: Edutopia

Assistive Technology in the Virtual and Physical Classroom: American University

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The Real Reasons Big Tech Hates Unions

Tech companies don’t like unions. Here’s why — and here’s what happens when they call in the union busters. Around this time last year, Mapbox’s Slack workplace descended into 24/7 chaos, the virtual equivalent of an office-wide shouting match. It was a few weeks before workers were to vote on whether to join a union, and Mapbox leaders and workers on the “anti-committee” were posting about their opposition to the union at all hours of the day and night.

At anti-union all-staff meetings and on Slack, leaders accused union organizers of xenophobia because they opposed offshoring jobs to other countries. Staff members on the “anti-committee” blamed union organizers for creating division, chaos and conflict, and then piled on to endless Slack threads that bubbled with bickering posts and sometimes snarky laughing emojis when someone posted a pro-union message. “They would say, ‘How can you be doing something like this? You’re putting our livelihoods in danger,’” said Josh Erb, a Mapbox software engineer who helped organize for the union and who left the company in January 2022.

“Because of Slack being this virtual workspace that you can’t ever actually get out of, like 24 hours a day the anti-committee … at 3 in the morning would post,” Wes McEnany, one of the former union organizers with the Communication Workers of America, told Protocol. Mapbox did not respond to Protocol’s requests for comment.

Mapbox’s union opposition was industry standard. A wave of unionization has swept white- and blue-collar tech workplaces over the last two years: In addition to the attempt at Mapbox, workers have unionized at Amazon and Activision Blizzard and are in the midst of union organizing at Apple retail stores, to name just a few. The leaders of those companies are among the litany who have made it clear they want unions out.

So they have done what every anti-union company in the United States has done since the first organized labor movement more than 100 years ago — hired what companies call “union avoidance experts” and what unions call “union busters.”

And it works. The playbook mastered by consultants and attorneys at major law firms and strategy groups is effective at forcing a union vote to fail or collapse. What companies rarely consider are the long-term consequences. “It was like watching this beautiful thing wither up and die,” Erb said of the fallout at Mapbox, where workers voted down the union. “Before, it was probably one of the best company cultures I’d worked at.”

The often chaotic and threatening atmosphere created in the lead-up to a unionization vote alters company culture. Especially in closely contested elections, trust erodes between workers and leadership. Companies that pride themselves on openness and communication find themselves unable to re-create the same atmosphere. Top talent, disturbed by the change in environment, often flees or is poached. Recruiting becomes more difficult because of the reputational damage caused by the fight.

To look at what company culture at this company had been a year ago versus what it is now, the vibrancy has just been sucked out of it. Mapbox epitomizes those consequences. The company lost nearly 300 employees in 2021, an increase of more than 100 people compared to the previous year, according to data from Mapbox organizers and from LinkedIn statuses reviewed by Protocol.

“To look at what company culture at this company had been a year ago versus what it is now, the vibrancy has just been sucked out of it,” one current Mapbox employee told Protocol. The alternatives could be less of a nightmare than the unionization one keeping tech leaders up at night. Microsoft President Brad Smith staked his claim last week as the one major tech leader who seems less afraid of this alternative future when he announced that Microsoft wouldn’t oppose union organizing among its ranks.

The company had an unusual opportunity to prepare its position on unions because Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, where 22 quality assurance testers at the company’s Call of Duty studio just formally unionized. Microsoft will have no choice but to deal with CWA, the union that represents those workers — and has even committed to a legally binding agreement to avoid the vicious, drawn-out fights that have embroiled places like Mapbox.

“If the employer treats employees in a good way, in my opinion a union’s not necessary,” Alfred Gray, an employment attorney who represents companies challenging unionization, said. “But once a union is in place, my attitude has been all along, I’ve gotta work with you, we might as well have an amicable relationship because we are going to get more done working together.”

At its heart, tech sector unionization has exposed messy political rifts at work. Whether someone favors unions or opposes them, their feelings tend to be rooted in political and ideological beliefs. Union organizers see union-busters as inherently malicious and opposed to worker rights; company leaders see unions as interfering pests with an anti-capitalist agenda. Enforcement of the laws that govern unionization changes depends on the political party in power in the White House, meaning that most legal fights create more mess, not recourse.

While tech companies proudly advertise progressive values on climate change, racial justice and diversity at work, unions are where most draw the line. (Aside from Microsoft’s recent commitment, the few exceptions come from small tech startups that build tech tools for progressive causes, like Mobilize.)

Mapbox, for example, touts that its first maps supported international development in partnership with the United Nations, USAID and Doctors without Borders. It cites “people first” values and advertises “an amazing community of friendly, diverse, and talented people who work together to achieve big goals.” One current Mapbox employee told Protocol that they joined the company in part because of its reputation for a caring and progressive culture. Mapbox’s own leadership tried to play on this progressive ideal, using the “xenophobic” label to try to make the pro-union crowd appear less progressive than the company.

“These tech companies which sort of might be liberal on some issues, when it comes to unions or regulation, they are very anti,” said Wilma Liebman, who was chair of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union laws, under the Obama administration.

“It poisons the well oftentimes,” said Ileen DeVault, a professor of labor history at Cornell University. “It makes workers not trust each other as much anymore. It tightens all sorts of conversations and cultures of companies. And I think that may be especially important in some of these tech companies, where, for the programming folks anyway, the culture was always relaxed.”

Why fight?

Companies articulate three primary reasons for fighting unionization: They don’t want another group mediating their conversations and relationships with their employees, especially a group without industry knowledge; they usually lose money because they are forced to increase pay and benefits; and they lose control over their ability to hire, fire and lay off whenever they choose.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy made some of these arguments in a June 8 talk, saying it’s easier and faster for teams to make change and for managers to incorporate feedback without a union. “We happen to think they’re better off without a union,” he said.

Liebman suspects that’s a view shared widely by tech company leaders, who might view unions as fusty relics. “My sense is that they view traditional collective bargaining relationships as probably being 20th century and out of sync with their business model, and they probably think that they can’t deal with a third party. ‘We have to make decisions fast, we can’t go through long negotiation processes,’” Liebman said.

Private sector unionization in the U.S. hit an all-time high in the 1950s, when more than one-third of workers at private companies were in unions. The majority of these unions were industry-specific; autoworkers were represented by the auto union, truckers by the trucker union. Every American citizen was either in a union or knew people in a union.

Today, private sector union membership hovers somewhere between 5% and 6% according to Department of Labor data, and most private sector employees don’t work in the same assembly-line style jobs that unions traditionally represented in the 20th century. “The average American on the street doesn’t know diddly-squat about how a union functions or what it can do and what it can’t do for workers,” DeVault said.

Union avoidance consultants and attorneys cite this shift as a key reason for opposing unionization. Gray believes that unlike historical private sector unions, unions today often organize workplaces in disparate industries and have little knowledge of how those industries actually function. When the teamsters won an election at a group home for people with disabilities, Gray said, citing an example, “it was problematic right from the get-go even from collective bargaining, because they didn’t understand the industry.”

Among other problems, Gray said the teamsters called for worker schedules to change to traditional daytime hours, even though the home only had residents in need of care during evening hours. “Now it’s just a numbers thing. They want as many people as possible,” he said of unions. There’s a fourth and less tangible ideological reason for union opposition: Depending on their politics, some people are inherently opposed to the idea of a union and question the legitimacy of the laws that enshrine their rights in the U.S.

“It’s almost like it’s an accepted part of corporate management culture, that this is what you do, this is how you are a good person in your role: You hear the word ‘union’ and you bring in the union-busters,” said Sara Steffens, the secretary-treasurer for the CWA. The CWA has spearheaded the effort to organize white-collar tech sector workers into unions over the last two years through a campaign called CODE-CWA, which has successfully unionized software engineers at Mobilize, Vodeo Games, Glitch, Raven Software and the New York Times tech department, among others.

Liebman agrees. “For some, I think it’s truly ideological; they don’t accept the legitimacy of labor unions or the legitimacy of this law,” she said. Still, about 68% of Americans approved of labor unions in a 2021 Gallup poll, a high not seen since the 1960s and a 20% increase from 2009’s all-time low.

The basic union avoidance playbook

When two-thirds of Mapbox workers announced their intention to unionize in spring 2021, the company quickly launched its opposition campaign, hiring labor consulting firm Lev Labor, LLC. (Lev Labor also consulted for Amazon in its anti-union efforts in the lead-up to the union votes in Staten Island warehouses).

The campaign went as most do: Mapbox management hosted all-hands meetings (known colloquially as “captive audience meetings”) where it suggested union talk was responsible for a lost $150 million investment in the company and could also discourage future investment. Workers were pulled into one-on-one meetings with managers to discuss the union movement. Our main channel just turned into a slag-fest between pro-and anti-union folks.

“One of the things I’d always admired about Mapbox from the outside was just the seemingly hard-to-quantify complete lack of assholes. It was a really good crew of people, everybody super supportive, very open with their own struggles,” one Mapbox employee told Protocol. “Then there was a palpable shift in the tone of any sort of public communications. Just like the general atmosphere, a huge palpable shift. Our main channel just turned into a slag-fest between pro-and anti-union folks.”

“A big part of the leadership strategy in [the] campaign was to pit the U.S.-based workers against the workers abroad who wouldn’t be covered by the collective bargaining group we were pushing for,” Erb said. Company leadership accused the union of making it harder to support the global workforce. “It definitely colored every interaction I had with one of my counterparts who worked in a different country,” he added.

Lev Labor wrote in its mandated disclosure forms that “the engagement was merely to educate, rather than to persuade” and that the roughly $43,000 Mapbox paid it was “just payment for providing education and information to employees.”

By August, the two-thirds union support had vanished, and the union lost its election 123-81. In the months after the defeat, at least three union leaders were fired, let go or agreed to leave, according to the Mapbox Workers Union and posts shared by former union organizers on Twitter.

That mirrors the basic union avoidance playbook, which is governed by one overarching law. “There’s a whole rule of thumb — TIPS,” Gray said. (TIPS means you can’t threaten, interrogate, promise or surveil). “You can’t threaten employees, you can’t influence them, you can’t persuade them, you can’t offer them salary information, you can’t make promises to employees.”

And so union-avoidance consultants have adopted a few central strategies based on what past labor rulings show they can do. Sometimes they make the union leaders managers, because managers can’t join a union and that can effectively suffocate the movement. Amazon, Apple, Mapbox and other tech companies have all used captive-audience meetings, where workers are required to listen to company leaders — without union organizers present — explain why they don’t want a union. When workers don’t appear easily dissuaded, companies deliberately create so much chaos that workers vote against the union just to end the misery.

While it’s a common strategy, Gray advises employers to pursue another popular route: find ways to give employees what they want, but in a way that isn’t technically persuading or influencing, in hopes they drop the union effort. Steffens sees this when the CWA tries to unionize a workplace. Workers will get raises, or the mileage reimbursement will suddenly increase.

The consequences

But in Steffens’ experience, those changes vanish when the union fight ends and the consultants disappear. “The way they see it is if they cause that election to be not held, or scare enough people into voting no, they’ve done their job,” Steffens said. At Mapbox, current employees described a scorched-earth reality after the union lost the election in August. While those that remain are still happy with their individual teams and work, those that spoke with Protocol described trying to avoid thinking about the broader company culture and their relationships with senior management.

Waves of workers have also left the company over the last year, including some of the company’s longest-tenured talent. “It’s the absolute carnage of U.S.-based employees, folks who would have been in the bargaining unit leaving or being forced out,” one employee said. “The shock wave of losing so many creative and contributing employees, there’s certainly a possibility that they don’t immediately emerge from that,” the same employee said.

Erb stayed at Mapbox until January, five months after the failed union vote. “It became kind of like a ghost town in a sense where people were leaving faster than they could hire for roles,” he said. When he’d started working at Mapbox nearly four years earlier, one of Erb’s favorite parts of the job was the ease with which engineers could disagree with their managers when problem-solving. He left the company in part because he felt like that freedom disappeared after the vote. “I had no ability, even in my professional capacity, to be critical of management’s plans for something. The general vibe I got by the end of it is, that was basically just everyone’s experience.”


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Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t a Solution To Government Problems, Though Starbucks and Domino’s Have Tried

Starbucks is sort of America’s bathroom. In cities like New York, where public restrooms are hard to come by, it’s the de facto spot to stop and pee. Mike Bloomberg, who tried to set up a network of public toilets when he was mayor, once reportedly shrugged that perhaps “there’s enough Starbucks” to address the city’s bathroom needs anyway.

But Starbucks is an imperfect public toilet because providing a public toilet is not the point of Starbucks. It has tried in the past to limit its facilities to employees, or, at the very least, to require people using those facilities to buy something first. That proved to be a problematic system after employees at a Philadelphia Starbucks in 2018 called the police on two Black men who asked to use the bathroom while waiting for a business associate. And so, the coffee giant has begrudgingly accepted its fate as many passersby’s emergency loo.

The solution is far from ideal. But in many places in the US, there aren’t many immediate alternatives. The government has failed to meet a very basic biological need, and so a private company fills part of the gap.

Across various segments of American life, the private sector has begun to take on tasks big and small that one might think should be tackled by the public sector. Domino’s filled in potholes. Dawn’s dish soap saved ducks. American Express pitched in on historic preservation. Walmart started selling low-priced insulin. A slew of companies help workers pay for school. Much of America’s health care system is still handled through private insurers and your job.

As people lose faith in government to act on sweeping issues such as climate change and guns, they’re increasingly looking to corporate America and asking whether there’s something they can do about it. If Congress won’t tackle gun violence, maybe Dick’s Sporting Goods can try.

It’s not a bad thing for brands and companies to try to make the world better. Starting a business often involves identifying a problem to solve, and it’s much better for companies to help than to do harm. Corporate social responsibility is fine. There are, however, limits.

“Of course we want businesses to be responsible,” said Suzanne Kahn, managing director of research and policy at the Roosevelt Institute. But she emphasized that this does not constitute a plan for how to organize society. “Private companies don’t, can’t, or won’t plan with the same values that we demand and expect the government to.”

Companies have a profit motive and are ultimately accountable to shareholders. Doing what’s lucrative often doesn’t align with what’s best for most people, and when they do nice things, it’s often because they know it will play well with consumers and workers. Domino’s helped fill some potholes because it was good advertising for pizza pickup customers, not because it’s overly concerned about the future of America’s bridges and roads. The issue is, the entity that should be driving the bus on America’s bridges is kind of asleep at the wheel.

The private sector is increasingly encroaching on the government’s space because the government is leaving so much space to begin with. Corporations are swooping in with solutions because the solutions coming from public officials and entities aren’t working or are nonexistent.

“I don’t think it’s bad for a company to say we’re going to do the Paris climate accord,” Kahn said. “It’s bad when we as a country say we’re going to let companies do what should be a public responsibility.”

Corporate America wants to be here for you … to a point

At the start of the pandemic, the airwaves were filled with commercials from brands promising solidarity and support. Corporate America was eager to reassure us “we’re all in this together” and highlight the myriad ways they were supporting their customers and workers. Insurers paused policy cancellations. Telecom companies gave away extra data. Retailers started calling their workers “heroes” and, in some cases, giving them hazard pay.

But many companies were here for us on Covid-19 until about the summer of 2020, after which many of those pandemic-related perks and benefits expired. Stores halted hazard pay for workers even though the hazard was far from over. Creditors wound down debt deferrals. We were all in this together for a limited time only. Ultimately, it was big government programs, such as stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and eviction moratoriums, that would make the biggest difference in people’s pandemic lives.

“It’s bad when we as a country say we’re going to let companies do what should be a public responsibility”

It’s illustrative of the greater landscape: The private sector can and should play a role in addressing society’s issues, but it will only do so to a point. Kroger just isn’t going to pay its workers an extra couple of dollars an hour forever if it doesn’t have to. The airlines started laying off workers the minute government funding dried up. Operation Warp Speed for the vaccines wasn’t going to be undertaken by pharmaceutical companies on their own.

Companies are under increasing pressure from their workers and consumers to do the right thing. According to a report from Kantar Monitor, more than two-thirds of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values, and nearly half of millennials and Gen Z expect brands to be brave and speak out. Research suggests that when companies do a good deed, their products are perceived as safer and consumers are drawn in.

Employees also have high expectations of their workplaces — being on the “right side” of issues such as climate and race can be a useful recruiting tool. But what matters more than companies talking a big game on helping their communities is whether they’re backing that up, or what else they’re doing in the background.

Companies have money and power, and major multinational corporations are often the only entities besides government with the clout to influence societal forces, said Jerry Davis, a professor of management at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “It’s very clear that some of the problems that we want to have solved are going to take scale, and that’s the kind of scale that only a government or a really big business can pull off. And if we don’t trust the government to do it, that just leaves Walmart and Amazon,” Davis said.

Alice Korngold, a corporate governance consultant, echoed the idea that companies are often the ones with the weight to tackle major global issues — though sometimes, once you dig deeper, the situation becomes much more muddled. “I’d never say, ‘This company is doing a particular thing, then this company is great!’ And it’s really industries that are often culpable for creating situations that need to be addressed,” she said.

She explains that, far from alleviating collective problems, some industries are complicit in creating them, pointing to the fossil fuel industry, a notorious driver of pollution and waste. If Walmart were to decide to stop selling factory-farmed meat or were to commit to selling only LED lighting, it could have a real impact on the environment. But companies can’t always, or even often, be trusted to wield all of their powers for good.

“We need big to do some good things, and yet big can be really bad,” Davis said. “Big in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg is a nightmare.”

If the government’s in the back seat, who do you expect to drive?

The cynical view of companies acting as a benevolent force in the world is that they’ll only do so to the extent that it somehow benefits their bottom line or is good marketing. That cynical view is sometimes borne out in reality.

Take the example of the internet. The government has given private companies billions of dollars to try to expand broadband internet access across the United States and often relied on going through telecom companies to expand urban and rural broadband alike. But some companies have taken the public cash without fulfilling their end of the bargain, or used public financial support to further their private financial interests.

Still, millions of Americans don’t have fast, reliable internet because it’s just not lucrative for telecommunications companies to get it to them. Americans who live in remote or low-income areas won’t generate a return on investment.

And yet, we keep looking to private companies to help fix America’s broadband problem because the government isn’t there to do it. The government doesn’t think about the internet the way it does, say, electricity — as in something everyone should have. It’s hardly the only example of the public sector ceding territory or leaving to the private sector tasks reasonable minds might think it should take on.

“We have to recognize that sometimes privatization arises because other systems don’t work”

The 1980s and ’90s saw a shift in political rhetoric to shrinking the reach of the government. Ronald Reagan told us, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” George H.W. Bush declared, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Bill Clinton announced, “The era of big government is over.” The neoliberal idea took hold that the government should set the rules of the road and take on some challenges, but the private sector and marketplace are equipped to do much of the driving.

Lower the taxes paid by the rich and by corporations, the thinking goes, and hopefully their money will trickle down and they’ll put it to good use.“ The premise of a kind of market-leaning libertarian is that the pursuit of private self-interest in the marketplace, aggregated across many actors, will turn out to be socially beneficial,” said Rob Reich, a professor of political science and philosophy at Stanford.

That’s not, in practice, how the market often works. The US has left health care up to private insurers in the Affordable Care Act, ultimately leaving a public option by the wayside. The result: a health care system that is still exorbitantly expensive. There are countless stories of GoFundMe drives that are supposed to be heartwarming, where people raise billions of dollars through a private internet platform to cover expenses for health costs or other financial setbacks in their personal lives.

As to how heartwarming these stories actually are, well, your mileage may vary — it’s not ideal that a crowdfunding platform has taken the place of a more robust public system to cover health costs. “Privatization, I think, is a very bad solution to certain problems. But I do think we have to recognize that sometimes privatization arises because other systems don’t work,” said Chiara Cordelli, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago and author of The Privatized State, which makes the case that privatization and government outsourcing weaken the legitimacy of the state.

Americans are also losing faith in the ability of government to act. According to Gallup, just 18 percent of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in big business. Their faith in Congress, however, is somehow even lower, at just 13 percent.

It’s understandable, given so much of the gridlock in Washington, DC. In the current balance of power, Democrats hold the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate — and they’re still struggling to get major legislation passed. Republicans won’t go along with much of what Democrats want to accomplish, and Democrats are unwilling to make the changes (as in, abolishing the filibuster) necessary to push their agenda through.

Capitol Hill has failed over and over to make real reforms on issues such as guns and immigration and climate. Many companies — which are subject to the pressures of their consumers and their employees — have at least tried. But, again, that trying has limits.

“We have these big, public, global and national problems that we need to address, and that’s not the length of time at which they think, it’s not the scale at which they think,” Kahn said. “And if they’re choosing to put some of these values front and center, we certainly cannot count on them to be thinking about how equitably their moves are affecting different communities.”

There’s a space for the private sector to fill public needs. But maybe not like this.

With threats as big and imminent as the Covid-19 outbreak or climate change, it’s important to have an all-hands-on-deck approach that draws in various players: the government, private companies, nonprofits, and philanthropy. And there are plenty of smart people who argue that while private entities are not the answer to the world’s problems, they need to play a role.

“You can look at almost every major issue of today … and it requires, to solve it, going across all these sectors and aligning interests, whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s climate action, whether it’s racial equity, what have you. None of this is going to be solved by government alone or by the private sector,” said William Eggers, the executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights.

“The role of government absolutely should be to protect our public interest,” Korngold said. “The problem is that so many problems are global, and the governments are national.”

Still, finding a balance is tricky. Take the example of billionaire philanthropy, which is often an outgrowth of extraordinary success in the corporate world. It’s nice that rich guys are trying to have a positive influence on the world. It’s also hard not to wonder whether said rich guys shouldn’t just be taxed more, or why the US and the world are in a spot where private entities, whether it be Bill Gates’s charity or his company, are filling in such obvious public spaces.

The government is by no means a perfect actor. But it is leaving problems to the private sector to address what it feels like should be directly in its purview, whether it be providing citizens basic health care or filling in a pothole in the street.

Even decent outcomes, like Starbucks as a forced public bathroom, can feel pretty uneasy. The pandemic gave it a good reason to shut those restrooms down, meaning suddenly a solution many people had adopted was no longer available. And even in normal times, it’s a little awkward to sneak by the barista without buying a coffee or muffin or water first. That’s because it is, and a private coffee company shouldn’t be standing in as a public restroom in the first place.

Emily Stewart

By: Emily Stewart

Source: Corporate social responsibility isn’t a solution to government problems, though Starbucks and Domino’s have tried – Vox


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Here’s How To Implement a Skills First Approach To Workforce Development

The American workforce is on the cusp of massive disruption, with 40 percent of employees actively looking to change jobs in what economists are calling “The Great Resignation.” This presents business leaders with two unique dilemmas: first, how to manage churn within their own organizations; and second, how to effectively hire new talent, while developing their existing workforce.

The traditional methods of matching people to work are not up to the task. Many hiring practices are outdated and inefficient, with layers of bureaucracy, lots of administration, and old assumptions about who is qualified to take on what challenges. At the same time, legacy workforce development efforts are not equipped to meet the new level of need. As a result, businesses are missing out on potential talent, and people are missing out on jobs or experiences that would make a powerful difference in their lives.

By the end of 2020, 80 percent of U.S. employers had difficulty filling openings because of current skills gaps. The World Economic Forum estimates that 42 percent of jobs will require different skills in the next three years, and over 1 billion workers will need reskilling by 2030. Replacing talent – or preventing its loss – is the number one challenge many organizations are facing in the near term. Underlying that challenge is a bigger problem: the lack of an adaptable, engaged workforce with the skills needed for a changing world. This presents a serious risk to the whole population in a rapidly changing, complex world.

For both businesses and workers, agility – the ability to adapt and respond quickly to whatever comes next – is essential. Skills-first strategy is a promising, emerging trend aimed at increasing agility. A skills-first approach requires rethinking the premise of talent and turning the traditional talent model on its head. Demonstrated skills are valued over job histories and degrees. Rich, varied career journeys are prioritized over unilateral, pre-defined paths. And rewards and recognition are influenced by skills and contributions, not just job level, tenure or location.

There is no quick and easy way to make the move to a skills-first strategy. But, once you take a skills-first perspective, the implications are far reaching, touching everything from recruiting and development to learning and rewards. As the Chief Learning Officer at Workday, I’m finding myself “unlearning” many of my assumptions. But I’m also inspired by this new approach, which opens up new avenues for solving today’s business challenges.

Whether you’re a company leader or in an organizational talent role, here’s how you can get started with a skills-first talent strategy:

  • Establish a unified skills language

Most organizations use confused and inconsistent terminology around skills. This makes it difficult for employers to identify which workers have the skills needed to fill open roles, and workers struggle to understand which skills they should develop to advance their careers.We suggest simplifying and streamlining so that everyone is on the same page. For example, at Workday, we are moving to a three-part shared language around skills: Core Skills, Job Skills, and Unique Skills. In other words: What is needed to be successful at this company? What is needed to do this job? What else does an employee (or potential employee, contractor, or freelancer) have to offer?

  • Consider your company culture

What aspects or attributes of your company culture support the shift to skills first? What might get in the way? What is required to operate with a skills-first strategy across the enterprise? You will need to build on structures and behaviors that foster connections across silos, candid communication and conversation, and psychological safety. These will help you to empower workers as you determine which skills are needed to accomplish business strategy and goals, identify who has those skills, and fill in gaps by moving, developing, or bringing in new people.

  • Leverage innovative technology

With products that are seamlessly connected, technology can drive key business outcomes: getting work done, reskilling and upskilling, driving performance, and creating opportunities for career growth. For example, Workday can match an employee’s skills to the skills required for an internal job or gig available in Workday Talent Marketplace. We can also make personalized skill learning recommendations in Career Hub, a centralized space where employees can use tools and resources to develop in their careers.

Skills are the fundamental currency of the changing world as we prepare for the future of work. A skills-first approach opens the door to exciting, dynamic careers for current and future employees, which further promotes ongoing learning and engagement – just what organizations need to ensure they attract and keep the right talent.

By Chris Ernst

Source: Here’s how to implement a skills-first approach to workforce development – CEO Magazine North America


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US Jobs Report June 2021: Payrolls Jump 850,000, Unemployment Rate at 5.9%

The pace of U.S. hiring accelerated in June, with payrolls increasing by the most in 10 months, suggesting firms are having greater success recruiting workers to keep pace with the economy’s reopening.

Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 850,000 last month, bolstered by strong job gains in leisure and hospitality, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The unemployment rate edged up to 5.9% because more people voluntarily left their jobs and the number of job seekers rose.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a 720,000 rise in June payrolls. “Things are picking up,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at the job-search company Indeed. “While labor supply may not be as responsive as some employers might like, they are adding jobs at an increasing rate.”

The gain in payrolls, while well above expectations, doesn’t markedly raise pressure on the Federal Reserve to pare monetary policy support for the economy. Even with the latest advance, U.S. payrolls are still 6.76 million below their pre-pandemic level.

Demand for labor remains robust as employers strive to keep pace with a firming economy, fueled by the lifting of restrictions on business and social activity, mass vaccinations and trillions of dollars in federal relief.

Read more: Black Men’s Labor Force Rises to Largest Ever Amid Recovery

At the same time, a limited supply of labor continues to beleaguer employers, with the number of Americans on payrolls still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Coronavirus concerns, child-care responsibilities and expanded unemployment benefits are all likely contributing to the record number of unfilled positions. Those factors should abate in the coming months though, supporting future hiring.

Wage growth is also picking up as businesses raise pay to attract candidates. The June jobs report showed a hefty 2.3% month-over-month increase in non-supervisory workers’ average hourly earnings in the leisure and hospitality industry. Overall average earnings rose 0.3% last month.

“The strength of our recovery is helping us flip the script,” Biden said in remarks Friday. “Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers.”

The Labor Department’s figures showed a 343,000 increase in leisure and hospitality payrolls, a sector that’s taking longer to recover because of the pandemic.

Job growth last month was also bolstered by a 188,000 gain in government payrolls. State and local government education employment rose about 230,000, boosted by seasonal adjustments to offset the typical declines seen at the end of the school year.

Hiring was relatively broad-based in June, including other notable gains in business services and retail trade. However, construction payrolls dropped for a third straight month and manufacturing employment rose less than forecast.

“Most of the new jobs now being created are in sectors that were slammed by the pandemic, while companies in other industries are struggling to find available workers,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note.

Read More

The overall participation rate held steady and remained well short of pre-pandemic levels. The employment population ratio, or the share of the population that’s currently working, was also unchanged.

Digging Deeper

  • Average weekly hours decreased to 34.7 hours from 34.8
  • The participation rate for women age 25 to 54 rose by 0.4 percentage point; the rate among men in that age group also climbed
  • The number of Americans classified as long-term unemployed, or those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, increased by the most since November
  • The U-6 rate, also known as the underemployment rate, fell to a pandemic low of 9.8%. The broad measure includes those who are employed part-time for economic reasons and those who have stopped looking for a job because they are discouraged about their job prospects

Stocks opened higher and Treasury securities fluctuated after the report.


By and

Source: US Jobs Report June 2021: Payrolls Jump 850,000, Unemployment Rate at 5.9% – Bloomberg



The labor force is the actual number of people available for work and is the sum of the employed and the unemployed. The U.S. labor force reached a high of 164.6 million persons in February 2020, just at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The U.S. labor force has risen each year since 1960, with the exception of the period following the Great Recession, when it remained below 2008 levels from 2009-2011.

The labor force participation rate, LFPR (or economic activity rate, EAR), is the ratio between the labor force and the overall size of their cohort (national population of the same age range). Much as in other countries in the West, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. increased significantly during the later half of the 20th century, largely because of women entering the workplace in increasing numbers. Labor force participation has declined steadily since 2000, primarily because of the aging and retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

Analyzing labor force participation trends in the prime working age (25-54) cohort helps separate the impact of an aging population from other demographic factors (e.g., gender, race, and education) and government policies. The Congressional Budget Office explained in 2018 that higher educational attainment is correlated with higher labor force participation for workers aged 25–54. Prime-aged men tend to be out of the labor force because of disability, while a key reason for women is caring for family members.

The Congressional Budget Office explained in 2018 higher educational attainment is correlated with higher labor force participation. Prime-aged men tend to be out of the labor force due to disability, while a key reason for women is caring for family members. To the extent an aging population requires the assistance of prime-aged family members at home, this also presents a downward pressure on this cohort’s participation.

See also

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