• The Enabling Function

Ethics in Artificial Intelligence: Implications for HR

Engineers working on programming AI products will have a deep influence on the operating procedure of robots. As HR professionals, what role can we play in making sure that the impact created by engineers is positive & sustainable both for organizations and for society in general!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic for discussion for many years now. All of us are waiting to see the wonders that it can create and even speculating on how it would impact our lives. However, one of the topics that is catching more steam on this subject is ‘Ethics in Artificial Intelligence’.

While we are trying to robotize the world around us, how do we enable the process of decision making within a robot? Would a driver-less car identify a person on the road and the need to brake or would the car just breeze through as it has been programmed to achieve a task? In another situation, would it choose integrity over getting the task done? Or furthermore, would a robot listen to its customer’s requirements or just bull doze its way towards accomplishing the task?

In the absence of real information, a lot of it will seem imaginative or speculative. However, one thing is clear that the process of decision making in a robot will largely be influenced by the engineers who program them. The robots will possess the same value system, biases and the process of decision making as their makers. Just like all other products, our robots will have the influences and reflection of people who create them. This is a huge responsibility being bestowed upon our employees as they create pseudo – human beings. As HR professionals, we would be the last ones to wish for replicas of our problem employees 😊.

But to avoid this, do we as HR professionals know these employees within our organization who are creating these robots? How as HR professionals can we play an important role in positively influencing these individuals and through them their technology outcomes?

If you think about it, following could be a possible few ways in which HR can play an active role in influencing the product outcomes for their organizations:

Defining & reinforcing Organization Values in context of AI

It is quite clear that AI is the next disruption in technology that is going to determine the competitive positioning of organizations. It will not only impact the brand value, company’s reputation, customer satisfaction and revenue, it may also define the longevity of the organization.

Organizations are constantly being challenged on their approach on impact of AI on human existence. In these times of ambiguity and disruption, organizations will have to redefine their ethical standards and their organizational values. Organizations like IBM and Microsoft have taken a leap forward by defining AI principles for their organization. The image below reflects the Microsoft AI principles that would be relevant while developing AI products (reference article 1 by Josh Bersin)

HR professionals will have to play an active role in not only partnering with leaders on defining these values but also helping employees understand, interpret and apply these values while developing these products. Few organizations such as MindTree are known to leverage outbound activities for reinforcing the Organization Values among employees.

Identifying & developing the “right” talent

Contemporary sensitivities to bias are growing, and this will only increase with the proliferation and ubiquity of AI. Most of today’s AI systems are built via machine learning, a technique that requires any one of thousands of potential algorithms to “learn” patterns from extremely large stockpiles of data. This should produce a model that is predictive of future real-world scenarios, but bias skews the accuracy of these models. (HBR, Create an Ethics Committee to keep your AI activities in check)

While HR professionals have constantly focused on driving a balance between Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ), the emphasis on EQ and Individual Values is only going to increase. These attributes are going to be key differentiators on influencing the technology outcomes for organizations and will also create a long-lasting impact on the society.

HR leaders may consider investing in assessment tools or building capability that would help assess Emotional Quotient and Individual Values. Tools like Johari Window, MBTI, Hogan Assessments, Strengths Finder and Emotional Quotient 2.0 are a few examples of tools used in the past for developing self-awareness among employees. However, integrating these tools or probably newer and more predictive tools in the selection process would be essential.

Developing employees at all levels on enhancing self – awareness, increasing emotional quotient and aligning Individual Values with Org Values will become a necessity. HR professionals will have to focus their development efforts on making employees more aware of their biases and helping them overcome their biases through Individual Development Plans and other development programs.

Establishing the right culture

Leaders’ values, behavior and actions help reinforce the right culture within the organization. Identifying the right leader with strong personal values that are aligned with Organization Values will be job half – done. Leaders will have to live the Organization Values and represent them in their every behavior or action.

Marc Benioff, founder and co-CEO of Salesforce vocally advocates for companies to take responsibility for their contributions to society. Those values are highly aligned with Salesforce’s company culture, which prioritized the creation of two first-of-their-kind roles: Chief Equality Officer (Tony Prophet) and a Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer (Paula Goldman), to elevate the responsibility for protecting these organizational values to the C-suite. (HBR, "Create an Ethics Committee to keep your AI initiative in check)

However, in order to build an organization that is sustainable towards the impact of artificial intelligence, organizations will have to introduce additional checks and balances in the system.

For example, organizations such as Google or WITF – FM, a public radio, television and online broadcaster in Pennsylvania, US are creating open processes or forums for their employees to comment on the decisions taken or biases reflected by them as organizations. This would go a long way in not only enhancing the self – awareness of the organization at large but also reinforcing the values at the granular level. (reference article 1 and 2).

Having strong rewarding and disciplinary procedures in place will also help build the right culture in the context of AI.

I am sure that this list is just a tip of the iceberg. There would be many more ways in which HR professionals can influence positive outcomes on AI products. Would love to hear from you on what else can HR do to influence positive outcomes on AI products!

Sharing a few articles that I came across while putting my thoughts together on this topic:




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