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AI’s Impact on Workplace DEI: What HR Leaders Need to Know

AI has the potential to be a big disruptor in how organisations and people interact.

A fundamental challenge is the intersection between AI and DEI, how that disruption will affect people, and how underrepresented groups may be disproportionately impacted.

Employers must consider the impact this could have in your company, remembering that people are your most valuable asset.

Key questions to address include:

  • What impact is this technology going to have on your people?
  • What are the legislative, regulatory, and privacy concerns?
  • What are you doing to communicate trust in the way that you’re using AI?
  • Are you making sure people understand the fact that it’s going impact groups of people differently?

Organisations must approach AI from different lenses. One is algorithmic bias, because bias also exists in AI, either by the data set or by design.

This is because AI programmers bring their own bias to algorithm design.

Qqually, the dataset that large language models (like ChatGPT) are trained on also contain bias.

Recent research suggests that the larger the dataset used to train large language models, the greater capacity and propensity for bias to exist within that AI model.

Bearing all of that in mind, employers should:

  1. Make sure the team understands the way AI has been trained.
    This calls for high transparency, which is a wider issue, given that Open AI, Meta, and Google are training their large language models on data sets which are not open source, and so they’re not being subjected to external scrutiny.

    Make sure you understand what data sets your AI tools have been trained on, ensuring you remove hateful, biased content from that data set so that their output is fit for purpose in your workplace.
  2. Follow legislation governing the collection, storage, and processing of data.
    Many organisations don’t realise that under the Equality Act and the GDPR, people have a right for their data to be processed in a way that is non-discriminatory. And that extends to the AI platforms and the tools that you’re using in the workplace. One of the organisation’s responsibilities is to make sure that anyone’s data that is being processed by these tools is being handled in a way that does not discriminate against them.
  3. Remember that this is still experimental technology.
    AI has only existed for a short time. Whilst there is potential for massive benefit in terms of output and productivity improvements, there have already been multiple high-profile cases where AI has fabricated information and even generated legal records which are completely fictional.

    Help your employees understand the potential benefits of AI, and also caution them around the risk factors and the due diligence they must perform when using AI.
  4. Think about how comfortable your employees are using these tools.
    AI also has the potential to widen the generational gap in the workplace. And if suitable training and retooling opportunities are not provided by organisations, then that’s not only a missed opportunity, but could even be considered discriminatory.

    Training your whole team on the use of AI is less expensive than hiring people that are already qualified in its use.

    AI is supposed to be the great leveller. It may help to bring things in reach which were previously beyond the scope of feasible. Provide ample training for so your people understand all the shortcomings, limitations, as well as its potential benefits.
  5. Be cautious of its use in communications and stay accountable
    We’re starting to see AI tools being used for writing and scripting. One of the potential risks on DEI is organisations using these large language models to generate diversity vision statements or a response to wider societal events and that a lot of people, especially people from diverse communities, will see straight through it.

    Ensure all communications matches your company values, and not just the leadership team think or generic internet views. They must be representative of the organization.

    Make sure you bring authenticity, openness, transparency, and honesty on your AI adoption journey.

Fundamentally, it comes down to how you an organisation adopts AI. Use AI as a productivity aid so existing employees can become more productive, and generate more output is more likely to have positive results.

Use AI to replace job roles or entire functions, and you really enter risky territory.

Many repetitive tasks are perfect for AI and will help to generate more productivity. But key decisions, policies, and communications need to have a human element to them. AI can be used to help generate suggestions in those situations, but ultimately humans are still accountable for the output.

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