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Matter of Life and Tech: AI to the rescue (for HR)

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Do you smell that? It’s nearly everyone around you sweating about workforce issues.

We’ve seen these problems coming for a good nearly 20 years, but recent events accelerated almost every talent-related challenge companies were facing. Not the least of which is fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

But guess what? There’s an app for that.

In fact, there are lots. There’s HR software that will assess job applicants, recommend interview questions, and advise about what that person will need to be successful on the job. Now, there’s a hungry market for solutions that employ artificial intelligence to support DEI efforts. Even before the most recent wave of racial reckonings started last year, DEI tech companies were seeing more than 101% growth year-over-year, according to a report by Mercer, a global consulting firm.

The main promises of DEI tech are to identify or mitigate bias consistently and at scale. Lately I’ve been learning about machine learning — a.k.a. AI solutions — which can do a much better job of listening to employees and making objective sense of what they’re saying about their experiences. The machines’ outputs evolve as their inputs change. The idea is that more of those inputs are coming from marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

Now, we all know AI has a serious garbage-in-garbage-out issue, reflecting the biases and assumptions of those who design it. (We DO all know this, right?) So, anyone investing in AI tools for DEI needs to scrutinize the company and processes behind it.

Assuming all is well on the back end, it’s fascinating to consider this: After the social and shocks of 2020 fade from human memory, they won’t fade from the algorithms.

The machines have less than a snowball’s chance of ever replacing Chief People people, but I’m hopeful they’ll help ensure the lessons we’ve learned (or should have) stay integral to how we achieve DEI.


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