#49 AI in HR: An Ethical Minefield?
A deep dive into the benefits, ethical challenges and the way forward. Because even in the age of AI, we're still in the people business.
Hello, People People! This edition, we're venturing into the realms of tomorrow (well, today, we live in exciting/scary AI times) – specifically, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in Human Resources. Exciting, huh. I'm sure you've all seen 1 million articles, tweets and TikToks about ChatGPT, AI, and its inclusion in HR. However, before we get too carried away, we should address the elephant in the room – the ethical dilemmas accompanying this high-tech advancement.
Understanding AI in HR
Let's start with a quick rundown. When we talk about AI in HR, we're not suggesting a sci-fi scenario where robots take over human jobs (although. that's not all bad, a robot already vacuums my kitchen). Instead, it's about leveraging technology to streamline processes and facilitate better decision-making. This includes AI algorithms that can sift through thousands of CVs to identify promising candidates, predictive analytics that can forecast employee turnover, and chatbots capable of handling common HR queries. It could feel like we've stepped into a future episode of Black Mirror, and we all know how that will work out. But, like all good things, it comes with its challenges.
Unveiling the Ethical Concerns
The first hurdle is potential bias. Unfortunately, AI, the epitome of logical decision-making, can also fall prey to bias, even though it's mostly a robot. The reason is simple: AI algorithms are trained on existing data. If that data reflects societal or historical biases, the AI system can inadvertently perpetuate those biases. For example, consider an AI hiring tool trained on data from a tech industry historically dominated by men. The AI system may favour male candidates, thus perpetuating the gender imbalance. It's like teaching a parrot to talk – it only repeats what it's been taught.
Then there's the matter of data privacy. These AI systems Pacman and Power Pills regarding data gobbling up every bit of information they can access. But who's overseeing what data is collected, how it's stored, and who has access to it? Employees are entitled to know what you know about them. Let's not forget the legal implications of laws like GDPR. A person can request access to all their data (within reason) that you hold on them (or they can ask you to delete it all). This could be a logistical and technological nightmare when using Large Language Models (LLMs).
We must also consider the risk of dehumanising HR processes. While AI can undoubtedly process data more efficiently than humans, it's essential to remember that HR is fundamentally about people, not numbers. Treating employees as data points can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, turning the 'Human' in Human Resources into an ironic misnomer.
These concerns aren't just theoretical. They have manifested in real-world instances, making for some unnerving headlines. For example, remember the fiasco with Amazon's AI recruiting tool? It was found to be biased against women. There's also the case of the AI performance monitoring tool that attracted criticism for invasive surveillance. These incidents are stark reminders that navigating the AI landscape is a bold new frontier, and we're just scratching the surface of what it can do (and what it shouldn't be allowed to do).
Ethical AI in HR - A Path Forward
But it's not all bad news. We can harness AI in HR ethically and responsibly. Transparency is the first step – let's be open about what data we're using and how we're using it. Ensure your privacy policies and associated documents detail what data you capture, how long you keep it and what you use it for.
Accountability is also crucial. If an AI system makes a decision, who's responsible? Is it the HR personnel who used the tool or the developers who created it? Any use of AI should come with checks and balances to ensure you're doing right by the people you support. Human oversight is paramount. Regardless of how advanced AI becomes, having a human in the loop is critical to ensure fairness and empathy. This could involve HR professionals reviewing AI-recommended decisions or even employees having the right to have certain decisions reviewed by a human.
Moreover, conducting regular audits of AI systems is essential to ensure they work as intended and do not harbour hidden biases. This includes challenging the outcomes and asking hard questions. For example, is the system favouring certain types of candidates? Is it disregarding valuable employees based on flawed criteria? An audit can help answer these questions and keep the AI system in check.
Education is another part of the solution. We must train HR professionals to understand AI's limitations and ethical implications. With proper knowledge, they can use these tools wisely and responsibly without relying on them blindly.
Lastly, collaboration is vital. HR professionals should work closely with AI developers to ensure that the developed tools meet ethical standards and align with the organisation's values.
So there you have it. AI in HR – it's a bit of an ethical minefield. But with careful navigation, common sense, and a commitment to ethical practices, we can harness this technology to revolutionise HR without compromising fairness, privacy, or our fundamental human values.
The fusion of AI and HR presents a unique opportunity to enhance efficiency and decision-making while promoting a culture that values each employee as an individual rather than a mere data point. As we continue to tread this path, remember that we're in the people business. Our ultimate goal should always be to foster an inclusive, fair, and respectful work environment.
The next issue is a huge milestone for the People Post. It’s issue number 50! Which means I’ve managed to write 50 newsletters of varying quality over the past couple of years. At the beginning of this year, I committed to making it a weekly dispatch, which I’ve mostly achieved with an odd week missing here and there due to personal reasons.
I’ve had some great feedback about the content, so plan to continue delivering my nonsense for at least another 50 more issues! I’ve decided that, from the next issue, I’m going to switch on the subscriptions feature and see if anyone enjoys my work enough to support me with a small monthly sub. Don’t worry, the weekly newsletter will always remain free, so whether you support my work with a subscription or not, you’ll still continue to receive it. So, if you do enjoy my work and would like to help me realise my dream of becoming a full-time paid writer and X-Files nerd, then look out for the subscription link next issue. If you’re prefer to keep reading for free, then that’s OK too. Perhaps, instead, you could share my newsletter with some friends, send me message, or simply click the like button to show your support?
All the best,