Ben Zweig: How Data Science and Labor Economics Connects to Workforce Intelligence  


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Ben Zweig is the CEO of Revelio Labs, a workforce intelligence company. Revelio Labs indexes hundreds of millions of public employment records to create the world’s first universal HR database. This allows Revelio Labs to understand the workforce dynamics of any company. Revelio customers include investors, corporate strategists, HR teams, and governments.

Ben worked as a data scientist at IBM where he led analytic teams. He is an economist and entrepreneur and also an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and NYU Stern School of Business respectively. He teaches courses currently at NYU Stern School of Business including future of work, data boot camp and econometrics.

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Here’s the timestamps for the episode:

(02:56)- So, I started my career in academia, I was doing a Ph.D. in economics and specialized in labor economics. So I was always very interested in labor data, and understanding occupational dynamics, social mobility, things like that. My first job was a data scientist, this was very early on at a hedge fund in New York. It was an emerging market hedge fund. I started that in 2012. That was kind of interesting. I was like the lone data scientist on the desk. So that was kind of interesting. And then went to work at IBM, in their internal data science team was called the Chief Analytics Office.

(08:13)- The workers that were really hardest hit from remote work are really junior employees. They’re just getting started and they need that mentorship. And it’s much harder to feel like you’re developing and learning from others in a remote environment. But as we’re sort of going back, the more senior positions, will probably not have that same benefit as junior employees.

(15:53)- One phenomenon that we see quite a lot is that companies have a huge contingent workforce that is not reported on their financial statements. So, for example, I mentioned I used to run this workforce analytics team at IBM. And at IBM, we had 330,000 employees, that was like the number that’s in their HR database, but you go to their LinkedIn page, and it looks like 550,000 people say that they work at IBM. So, what’s going on here? Why are there so many more people that claim to work at a company, then the company claims to work there? And that, of course, is just a sample; only a sample of people actually have online profiles.

(29:33)- But when it comes to human capital data, and employment data, that really does not exist, it’s not even really close to that. There’s so much data that’s siloed in internal HR databases, which like I mentioned before, really only include a fraction of the overall workforce of a company. But what’s cool about this is that when an employee is stored in an HR database, that information is mirrored in the public domain.

(21:22)- So, we really have to create a taxonomy that updates that changes with an evolving occupational landscape and the changing economy. We also really need to infer the activities that people do, because those are the building blocks of a job, or the job is a bundle of activities. So, we really need to understand that when one person says lawyer and another person says, attorney, those are probably the same occupation, but when one person says Product Manager in Facebook versus a Product Manager at JPMorgan, those might be totally different occupations.

(30:21)- So, what are the HR tech companies that are really dominating, and then it gets even specific, who’s dominating the self-driving car market, how benefits help retention of women in the workforce, that’s something that we’ve seen some changes in the past couple of years. We did a piece that I really liked, which was tracking the rise and fall of hustle culture.