What is ‘Business New Usual’ and the impact of Artificial Intelligence?

COVID-19 has caused much disruption to the economy, and this will change business perspectives and what it means to return to business as usual (BAU) both now, and in the future.

Here at Huxley, we invited two well-esteemed guest speakers – Mark Dorman, our very own CEO of SThree, as well as Joel Bar-El, CEO of Trax Retail – to discuss the measures and impact on general businesses from COVID-19 as well as the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) over a virtual webinar. Moderated by our Sales Director of SEA, Alena Salakhova, the session covered valuable insights and answered many questions around AI and the impact on various industries such as Healthcare and Recruitment.

Below is a summary of some of the key points discussed during the webinar. You may also choose to watch the recording of the webinar here:


How prepared was Trax Retail & SThree during the pandemic? What were some measures implemented?

  • Remote working options

While remote working options and mobile communication systems were available before COVID-19 for Trax Retail, these systems are now their business-new-usual. The health and well-being of employees remains their highest priority and Trax have made sure to implement regular team meetings and newsletter send-outs to keep the company informed on updates.

  • Crisis and risk management steps

Similar to Trax Retail, SThree also believes that communication is key to ensure that our people are kept informed at every step of the way. In addition, we have done dry runs on risk management before COVID-19 and gaps were identified early, including operations.

  • Refocus of business strategies

Teams are shifting focus and adapting quickly to evolving market environments. For instance, marketing departments in Trax Retail that once took care of product launches on-site are refocusing their efforts of product promotion strategies online. There have been significant wins from this as they have experienced spikes in revenues in the recent months.

  • Active listening with our customers

An advantage that a recruitment firm like SThree have would be our exposure to a myriad of industries and putting together a crisis team prior to the outbreak. Early signs were also given through the feedback that was provided from our customers all around the world, which supported us to come up with a strong framework to tackle the pandemic. First on the list of our framework was to come up with an emergency response, then have ongoing management of the risks given the high volatility of trends, as well as recovery to the ‘new normal’.

Empowering people with new ways of working begins with TRUST

Both CEOs have agreed during the session that everyone across the world are on different level playing fields – some might have easy access to technology while some others have to struggle with keeping up with infrastructure. What every industry will need to be on par would be the trust they place in new ways of working. Questions to ask yourself would be – how would you best support your staff and people to do their work? Businesses will need to trust that their employees can work and deliver within different environments and constraints, while providing them the due support they need.

Soft skills that are now in demand

Listed below are the soft skills that are now more in demand than ever before:

  1. Being flexible and fluid

Originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory, the “survival of the fittest” have never been more apt in this time of age and circumstance.

With that being mentioned, Bar-El highlighted that being able to adapt and change quickly will be key both within and outside of the tech industry.

  1. Being comfortable with ambiguity

Dorman added that people, especially leaders, need to master the art of making decisions even in times of uncertainty. Things can change quickly and being able to adapt swiftly to changes will be essential.

  1. Have a clear North Star

Having clarity and being focussed on the output will be essential in the new norm. By having a directive means of working, one would be able to set clear goals (although these might slightly differ due to challenging times) and achieve them even during volatile times.

  1. Ability to collaborate and engage

In times where everyone is practicing social distancing and working remotely, it has been more crucial than ever to stay connected and seek support from your fellow colleagues or managers when needed.


Growing prevalence of AI and its impact

  • What would be the impact after COVID-19?

Dorman posits that AI has always been a long-term secular trend as businesses continue to adopt tech to interrogate data which can support leaders in decision-making. Bar-El too agreed on this note, having seen data growing exponentially with the demands of edge technology today to provide us the right information at the right time.

The greatest impact though, with a great area of uncertainty in today’s market, businesses will need to gather even more data at a higher frequency and granularity to understand what would be the ‘new normal’.

  • Privacy vs Ethics – can we strike a balance?

On this note, the speakers had two frames of thought – one believing that it is possible if we try to collect as little data as possible yet sufficient enough to make and support decisions, while the other believed that it is impossible to take into account ethics and privacy concurrently. This being said, El-Bar mentioned that the very existence of capitalism and businesses prioritising profit-making have inevitably led to the lack of strong legislations in place to ensure privacy in this transparent age.

  • How would it impact jobs in future?

Simply put by both speakers – roles will change. Manual work will be taken over by technology, software, automation and machine learning. However, this also suggests that the roles of humans will change as well. With technology at its best, it will allow for the elevation of human activity which would give us a higher purpose – until we reach a ‘tech singularity’. Dorman touched briefly on what it means to have ‘tech singularity’ where superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself at an incomprehensible rate which would ultimately signal a possible end of the human era. For further reading on the topic, the concept and the term ‘singularity’, you may look up Vernor Vinge in his 1993 essay ‘The Coming Technological Singularity’.

Nonetheless, it is clear that AI has already made its impact on jobs across industries like healthcare, wellness, pharmaceuticals and even the financial sector.


Looking for talent?

As we navigate through the course of this pandemic, the jobs market is set to evolve. We aim to keep you as informed and up to date as possible whilst supporting you with your respective hiring and job seeking needs throughout this challenging time. Therefore, we recommend you keep an eye on our LinkedIn for regular updates. Please feel free to get in touch to discuss any concerns you may have or fill up the form below to find out more about the recruitment services we offer. If you are looking for the next step in your career, then keep an eye on our live roles.


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