HR teams are increasingly embracing AI applications. These teams use the applications to help with recruiting, performance and succession management, and task allocation.
All this AI has triggered the need to develop compliance standards. But because technology has advanced faster than regulation, organizations have been responsible for self-assessing the effectiveness of their AI applications.
But that’s about to improve.
The European Union recently proposed a risk-based regulatory framework that holds organizations to new compliance standards for adopting AI. The proposal specifically identifies AI systems for HR, among others, as high-risk and advises adequate oversight and requirements to address concerns about safety and fundamental human rights.
According to the proposal, high-risk AI systems will require human oversight, added transparency measures, high-quality training data to avoid bias, and documentation for regulators and users to understand how the system operates.
What makes AI ethical
Good compliance standards are certainly required. AI systems in HR will make recommendations that impact millions of people. And we are not talking about recommendation engines that influence people to buy a PlayStation over an Xbox (I can help with that too if you need advice!).
This AI will be responsible for influencing serious and impactful personal questions like: Am I going to get this job or not? Am I going to get this promotion or not? Am I going to get access to the right training?
And that's why HR is being singled out as high impact and therefore high risk.
While we don’t know yet when the EU will adopt the proposed regulation or its final form, compliance standards are going to get stronger. It’s up to organizations to consider risk and operate ethically, whether they are already using AI systems or thinking about adoption.
By testing and monitoring the technology, developing a deep understanding of how it operates and increasing transparency about its utilization, HR teams can benefit from AI systems while protecting their people.
AI risk management in HR today
In the HR industry, we have not yet settled down the cursor of risk-management between “let’s be cautious and take the time to test” and “let’s innovate and move forward fast.”
HireVue, an enterprise video interviewing technology company, is an example of an organization innovating fast but ultimately pausing AI advancement due to concerns about fundamental human rights. The organization formerly used AI to visually assess a candidate’s hireability during video interviews. After recognizing that nonverbal data hardly contributed to the AI’s predictive capabilities and growing concerns about the technology contributing to potential gender and racial bias, HireVue removed facial expressions as a factor in their algorithms. And they reiterated their stance against this practice in a recent commitment to transparency. Risk-based compliance standards and regulations can help to avoid these issues.
How Cornerstone does ethical AI
At Cornerstone, we are looking to learn from these experiences and develop a secure approach that integrates risk considerations into development teams.
For example, the different datasets we avoid including information that may lead to discrimination. There are ongoing reviews of how the algorithms work. The algorithms don’t make decisions for HR professionals but rather allow individuals to review what the machine proposes as an input for their decision-making process.
This practice gives us a human review and allows us to work on the accuracy of the algorithm. If suddenly we realize people are rejecting the algorithm’s output at a rate of 90%, we know something is wrong, and we can investigate.
Our system positions our team to proactively address risk and safety concerns, which may help avoid compliance pitfalls — not to mention unintentional bias and discrimination — even as we develop more robust AI applications.
4 questions to ask when vetting AI systems
While companies like Cornerstone and HireVue are developing AI directly for HR teams, many outsource AI tools from vendors. As HR leaders assess AI solutions to implement into their organization, asking these questions can help reduce risk and maintain compliance.
1) Who built the technology, how and where does the data come from?
Understanding where and how the AI technology is developed can allow HR teams to investigate their vendor’s ethics framework. And knowing where the data comes from can give HR teams more confidence in and control over the outcomes.
2) What checks and balances are in place to reinforce ethical use?
Asking the vendor about their checks and balances provides HR teams with confirmation they are partnering with an organization committed to ethical use. Having a clear understanding of the vendor’s testing process also gives HR teams insight into what testing is being done during development.
3) How will I utilize the technology?
If HR teams simply accept every outcome the technology offers, they could be missing unpredictable deviations that point to red flags. And if they don’t monitor the technology on an ongoing basis, teams won’t be able to escalate concerns early on. And remember: If the humans utilizing the technology are not trained to identify bias, the system won’t be either.
4) How will my employees utilize the technology to detect bias?
It’s not always obvious where algorithmic decisions come from. I encourage users to look at AI outcomes and ask, “what’s the relationship?” While we may not be able to explain each recommendation at this stage of use, we can explain the logic behind the system as a whole in a way that everyone understands. Therefore, everyone can uphold in an ethical, risk-averse way.
Bring ethical AI to your organization
Vendors and users both have a role to play to ensure that AI use is ethical and compliant through shared responsibility of testing and monitoring. Providers must test the technology for biases throughout development, but there’s no way to guarantee that it’s going to be 100% perfect. This is why users also have a responsibility to continue monitoring the technology on an ongoing basis. Deviations may happen that are very difficult to forecast, which is why it’s necessary to test the technology as it is built and monitor the technology as it’s used.
As HR professionals take the next steps to enforce ethical AI use, they can conceptualize their role by imagining a pilot and an aircraft. While we all have this romantic idea of the pilot holding a joystick and directing the plane, it hasn’t worked like this for ages. Instead, the pilot enters numbers into a computer, and the computer makes the plane turns.
HR professionals are going to have to become pilots of AI algorithms. With more regulation ahead, guiding the technology in the right direction will be paramount to its success.
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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development
There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.
Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today
When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.
Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated
Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock