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3 steps to get started with ethical AI for HR

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Siobhan Savage
Siobhan Savage is an award-winning workforce futurist and one of the top global experts in the intersection of workforce strategy and artificial intelligence. As the CEO and co-founder of global workforce intelligence platform Reejig, she led the efforts behind the world’s first independently audited Ethical Talent AI™. She has earned the status of World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, Forbes Cloud 100 Rising Star and LinkedIn’s Top Start Up in 2022.

Human resource leaders are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to streamline their processes and gain deeper insights into their employees to improve both workforce optimization and the overall employee experience.

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Wait a second. Let’s try that again …

Artificial intelligence is here, and it’s helping HR leaders do everything from identifying and intervening on quiet quitting before it’s too late, to avoiding layoffs during a tenuous economic climate, to achieving zero wasted potential within an organization. That’s right—AI can unlock every skill potentially lying dormant within your workforce for more efficiency, productivity and, perhaps most importantly, employee fulfillment.

Can you tell which intro AI wrote for me here?

While ChatGPT may still be honing its creative writing skills (it wrote the first intro), AI is already helping HR business leaders move the needle on aspirational goals at light speed. It enables you to connect employees with the work that best fits their passions, preferences and skills while also capitalizing on their potential in your organization. And by doing that, you’ll drive employee loyalty, cultivate a competitive talent bench across the workforce, and build a strong employer brand and organizational legacy.

But just as if it were a recruiter or HR practitioner making these recommendations and changes, there is a non-negotiable responsibility to make fair choices that don’t harm your employees. And just for that reason, there are laws and regulations surfacing to make sure that when we use AI to support our decision-making in people management, we do so in an ethical way.

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At Reejig, where we deliver AI-powered workforce intelligence to global enterprise organizations, I knew ethical AI would be fundamental to how we empowered people leaders to make super-fast, super-smart talent decisions when hiring people, moving people to new roles, guiding employees on personal career pathways and more. Early in our journey in 2019, we assembled a team of data scientists, engineers, legal professionals, ethics experts and partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to become the world’s first independently audited ethical AI.

There was no roadmap for something like this at that point, and so it took some time and we learned some lessons and we even sold our houses to finance the project—a story for another day! But, in the end, we had our first audit report and clear guidelines on how we could confidently use the power of big data, natural language processing and machine learning to support businesses in making the best, unbiased talent decisions.

And we weren’t alone in our pursuit of AI for HR—from chatbots to generative AI, more and more organizations are putting AI to work across their HR department each year. A study by Mercer showed that, even a couple of years ago, more than half of U.S. companies were using AI for HR decision-making. But how many are aware of the growing regulations surrounding its use and have an action plan to make sure their organization is compliant? That’s the million dollar question (or multi-million dollar, in this case).

Drawing on my own experience in building an ethical AI solution, here are three best practices that any organization using or considering the use of AI in their talent management strategies should consider in order to ensure not only regulatory compliance, but also fairness and equity when it comes to talent decision-making.

How do I make sure my AI for HR is ethically sound?

Talk to your privacy and risk leaders

This may seem obvious to some, but I’d be remiss not to say it. When considering AI for HR, it’s important to involve your privacy and risk leaders in the conversation. The use of AI at your organization should be one that everyone is aligned on and excited about to make sure that you’re using it for the right reasons, in the right way. These experts can provide guidance on data privacy and security issues, as well as help identify potential risks associated with the use of AI. They can also advise on best practices for data governance and risk management, which are critical when dealing with sensitive employee data.

See also: What HR needs to know today about the EEOC AI guidance

Understand how the data has been trained and the team that created the AI

It’s important to understand how the AI algorithms have been trained and the data they were trained on. Biases in the data can lead to biased outcomes, which can have serious implications for your workforce. HR leaders must also consider the team that created the AI. Is there diversity of thought baked in, or is the team homogeneous? A diverse team can help ensure that the AI is built with a range of perspectives and experiences, which can help to reduce bias and improve outcomes.

Look for tech that has been independently audited

It’s important to look for AI vendors that have been independently audited to ensure that their technology is compliant with regulations and ethical standards. Grading your own homework doesn’t suffice when it comes to ensuring ethical AI. Independent audits can help identify potential issues and ensure that the technology is being used fairly and responsibly.

Once you’ve done the hard work of ensuring your AI has been sufficiently trained and vetted for biases, don’t forget to let people know. Publicizing the fact that any talent AI you’re using has been independently audited can go a long way in reassuring talent that may have concerns about bias within your tech stack.

This is simply a surface-skimming overview of what to consider to make sure your use of AI is fair and dutiful as an HR leader. If you want to dive deeper, you can check out a couple of resources we’ve put together to help businesses along their journey:

These are exciting times! We have never had such intelligent capabilities and powerful tools to amplify the quality and speed of human thinking. As Marie Curie, the great scientist and first woman to win a Nobel prize, said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Let us be the ones to lean in and discover how to use emerging technology in a conscientious way to make us even better at what we do.