AI, Ethics Can Collide in the Workplace

August 12, 2019 LRN Corporation

Many companies see AI as a critical facet of their future success: According to a 2018 report from Adobe, 15% of organizations said they were currently using AI, and 31% had it on the docket for the next 12 months. 

The share of jobs involving AI has increased 450% since 2013, and a recent Deloitte survey found 56% of executives expect cognitive technologies to transform their firms within three years. 

AI is being used in recruiting, hiring and onboarding, with major implications for HR and ethics and compliance professionals. In addition to solving problems and handling repetitive tasks, AI can improve customer experience, identify fraud, augment the workforce, even help increase sales. What effects will AI have on ethics in the workplace? 

Deloitte’s survey found 32% of executives pointed to ethical risks as one of the top three concerns about AI technologies. One of the main risks involves pre-existing bias when training AI. AI systems are often trained by data sets, which creates the potential for biases--such as race, gender or income--depending on how the data sets are built and compiled. 

Another risk is invasions of privacy. Facial recognition, workplace surveillance, and unauthorized use or misuse of personal data--belonging to both employees and customers--top this list.

What’s clear is companies using or planning to use AI must emphasize ethics. Companies can preserve and build trust with employees and the public at large by facing AI ethics head-on, and by making it a priority. 

One early step might be for companies to talk directly to employees about how AI may affect them. With such sensitive data and decisions being made by AI systems, setting up a dedicated AI governance system is of great import. The governance system should cover everything from data handling, security and privacy to managing training bias risk and regulatory issues.

AI and automation could actually free up a company and its employees to be more sympathetic and sensitive; they’ll be able to focus on workplace culture, employee engagement and customer service. For that to happen, though, companies must have proper AI ethics in place.

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