Anyone can launch a DEI initiative. The big challenge is to succeed.
What’s the biggest roadblock? Human unconscious biases.
Psychologists have shown over and over in research studies that our biases are ingrained and automatic. Even if we think we’re champions of equality, the associations are likely still there. For example, studies show that it’s not just men that associate being male with being smart. Women do it too.
Why do we have unconscious biases? And why is it so hard to shake them?
Biases are shortcuts. They are quick ways to make choices. That doesn’t make them good ways to make choices. They just help us navigate our world quickly in a way that feels good. These biases become particularly prominent in situations where we have to make a high volume of decisions quickly. There is simply no time to be thoughtful in these cases.
In the world of HR, the steady stream of resumes and constant pressure to hire is the perfect setup for unconscious biases to have free reign. Recruiters hire candidates that feel like the “right fit” and base these choices on biases. There is really no other way for the human brain to process that volume of information in a more effective or objective manner.
So how do we move towards hiring equity and remove these biases? Embrace AI technology.
Using AI technology in HR can be off-putting for two reasons:
- Some feel concerned about the “ick factor” of having not enough humanity in the HR process. In other words, who are machines to tell us how to hire?
- Others feel concerned about having the worst of humanity hard-wired into the HR process. They wonder: What if the technology learns our bad choices and implements them more broadly?
In either case, the AI technology underpinning any HR solution must stay ethical. In the HR space, there are many AI solutions. But not all of them are created equal. To ensure the technology you’re selecting is part of the solution and not an unethical part of the problem, you must be an active consumer of these technologies.
How to find the ethical AI technology for your team
To keep AI tech providers honest and their solutions ethical, you’ll need to avoid the following common pitfalls:
- Baked-in biases: Unethical AI can embed inequity into the HR system itself. Make sure you are not codifying biases in hiring and making them more pervasive.
- How to avoid them: Start with good, bias-free data. Be choosy with the data that your AI learns on. Bad data is worse than no data.
- One-size-fits-all approaches: Unethical AI tries to be the universal solution for everything. AI doesn’t work well when its expertise is spread too thin.
- How to avoid them: Narrow your AI’s focus. AI is at its most powerful when targeted to a specific space like human resources. This keeps AI-driven answers fast and accurate.
- “Black box” systems: Unethical AI lacks transparency and may have unclear or opaque scientific methodology and/or output. This can lead to legal defensibility issues.
- How to avoid them: Create a feedback loop where the humans that make up your HR team and the AI tech they rely on can learn from each other. Make sure you understand both the science behind the technology and its output.
How to partner with AI technology
We shouldn’t be using AI tech to replace humans, but to augment them. AI can radically alter how work gets done and who does it. It can help humans amplify their strengths, extend their capabilities, and free up their time.
But humans also need to do their part to support AI in return. They need to:
- Help AI train to perform its tasks
- Be able to explain these tasks to relevant stakeholders (which sometimes includes the AI itself)
- Have a level of oversight to make sure these tasks are being completed responsibly
Creating a collaborative process where AI plays an objective gatekeeper role that is focused and transparent will help HR personnel feel confident adding ethical AI to their processes. It will also reassure HR professionals that the humanity of Human Resources will remain intact and can even be enhanced by incorporating AI. When AI and humans stay in the lanes that they excel in, everybody wins. AI gets to do what it does best, and so do humans.
Make sure to keep the lines of communication open between your AI technology and your human team. When AI and humans learn from each other, the people that you hire will feel the difference. And you’ll be confident you’ve hired the best person for the job–bias-free.