Inclusion: A challenge that technology can help address?
As we look forward to National Inclusion Week on 25 September, a lot of attention will be paid, quite rightly, to human behaviours in the workplace and how we can provide more inclusive workplaces.
The theme of National Inclusion Week this year is “Take Action Make Impact”, which is a message designed to get organisations and individuals thinking about what actions they can take and what positive impact these actions could and should have for marginalised colleagues.
As well as human behaviours, with the fast pace at which technology (and AI in particular) seems to be accelerating, we wanted to offer some thoughts on how AI might help to improve inclusion in the workplace, and some challenges that it presents:
Recruitment: On the face of it, AI-based recruitment (whether that is sifting through CVs/applications, or using technology to carry out interviews) could be invaluable in addressing the bias inherent in recruitment exercises undertaken by humans. This is not only addressing discriminatory biases, but also issues such as first impression bias and confirmation bias.
However, there are already cautionary tales arising from AI-based recruitment due to the risk of the algorithms and methods used perpetuating discriminatory biases in the underlying data. For an employer recruiting thousands of employees using such technology, if a discriminatory error is identified in the technology, class-action discrimination claims could be very expensive and damaging in terms of reputation.
Performance monitoring and progression: The attraction of AI-based performance monitoring is, in the same way as with recruitment, the idea that it can create a genuine meritocracy: an employee’s performance will be judged objectively and fairly without the impact of a human manager’s subjective biases. However, it is not necessarily that straightforward. Any such process aimed at identifying candidates for progression and promotion cannot just work to one ideal, otherwise those promoted will all have the same qualities and skills. Whilst on an individual basis, they might be the ideal candidate for promotion, promoting only those who conform to one ideal reduces diversity of thought and potentially reduces inclusion.
Accessibility: AI-powered technologies can enhance accessibility in the workplace for employees with disabilities. For example, assistive tools for visually impaired individuals or real-time captioning for employees with hearing impairments. Ensuring your teams are trained and systems are compatible with these technologies also needs consideration.
Employee engagement: Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment from day one of employment is important. AI-based information tools that help all employees, but particularly new starters, by answering their questions and easing the transition into a new role can help employees to feel welcome and part of the team, reducing the risk of marginalisation.
For those involved in leading the path towards inclusion in their workplaces, it is important that they engage with and understand how their organisation proposes to use AI in the workplace to ensure that it helps with that journey.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this article please contact Matt McBride.
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