Building Trust Between Workers and Machines: The E&C Pulse - February 12, 2020

February 12, 2020 Ben DiPietro

Feb. 12, 2020

Building Trust Between Workers and Machines


As we move forward into a world where uncertainty is the only certainty, it’s important to step back, pause, and reflect on what lies ahead, and think about what it means to be leaders in a climate where daily disruptions roil the business world. 


No one knows for certain what will come next; what we know is the pace at which this upheaval is occurring is unprecedented. Keeping pace won't be good enough, because what we also know is, no matter what happens, the chances for success are increased when the focus is on ethical behavior, inclusive culture, transparency, and accountability throughout all levels of the business universe.


As companies adapt to new ways of conducting business; as technology, automation and artificial intelligence reimagine the workplace, I moderated an LRN panel last week discussing the importance of putting people first with a group of insightful chief ethics and compliance officers.


The panel--Ellen Hunt of AARP, Antonio Fernandez of PSEG, and Louis Sapirman of Panasonic North America--talked about what this upheaval means for business, for employees, and for E&C professionals.


For business, it means retraining workers, retooling processes and procedures, and reassuring workers agitated and unnerved by the rapid pace of change and uncertainty. 


Workers have to become nimble and adept at working in fluid environments, develop a passion for lifelong learning to keep up with the technological innovations, and must learn to work cohesively with robots and other machine-based workplace innovations.


E&C people will need to build trust between workers and machines, while reimagining their own futures, as they will have to learn new skills to remain effective in their roles.


The focus of the conversation was on what can be done to engender greater trust between workers and the technologies that will be working alongside them.

Hunt said everyone affected must embrace the idea that disruption is happening, and is going to be part of our future. 


“If you haven’t thought about how your organization is going to use artificial intelligence and machine learning, you need to...and you need to talk to your board and your executive team about how you’re going to govern it,” she said. 


“You can’t really utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning in a way that violates your values. You’re going to have to figure it out. What’s your framework? What’s your governance?...How are you auditing, monitoring, and assessing to make sure they are performing as intended?”


Turning to machines and AI to do many of the monotonous, routine tasks now done by people will free up those people to do more value-added, higher-end work, putting humans in positions where they make higher-level decisions that can have more significant consequences if made outside of the rules, or in violation of ethics, standards, and values, said Fernandez.


“The challenge is--or opportunity, maybe, is...this process could end up de-risking a lot of activities,” said Fernandez, as machines are going to make a lot less mistakes, and will ensure there is more fidelity in the data and information being used. 


“The more we have human-machine interaction in the workplace, the more significant the role of the ethics and compliance program is going to be, because a lot of the work that has been taking up a lot of our time...for the most part, we hope AI and machines will minimize that,” he said. “But now it raises the issue that you may have more opportunities for ethical lapses that can create bigger, more significant issues.” 


Sapirman said ethics and compliance in the last five to 10 years started to see itself as the driver of culture. But one area that will become more important in the world of ethics is governance. 


“Instead of just driving great ethical culture, which we still will have to do, because of the nature of the data that’s being brought in, and the way it is being used in the future-world of AI, the things you do are only as good as the data, and the machines that are built,” he said. “So you actually have to have governance around ethics. When it was built, what did you do to think about the ethical challenges that went into that machine?” 


That hasn’t been the way ethics and compliance has been talking about this, instead focusing on making sure there is a culture where everybody is doing the right thing, he said. 


“It’s impossible for one person on their own, who is building a new machine, to simply ‘do the right thing,’” said Sapirman. “You actually have to think about it; you have to drive governance into the process to ensure…everybody who is involved is thinking about the ethical implications for the way it’s going to operate. That’s one of the challenges I think we are going to have to face.”


Hunt, asked if the approach to building trust between people and machines is the same as building trust between people, said there has to be a personal approach.


“When you look at all of the tasks you are replacing by machine, the person who is doing them knows them the best,” she said. “We need to involve that workforce in helping us design these machines. because they know how these things should work.” 


Also, most employees want to be in an organization where they feel they serve a purpose--and the purpose of your organization doesn’t change if you are utilizing artificial intelligence or machine learning, she said. 


“That dedication that your employees have, and the knowledge they bring, that doesn’t change,” said Hunt. “It may be utilized in a different way, but it’s still there. I think that’s a very important connection that helps build that trust. … That’s how you really have to connect the machines and the people.”


                                                                                                            BEN DIPIETRO




A record number of workplace discrimination cases were filed last fiscal year with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We take a look at why in our latest blog post.





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Workers worldwide were asked by Edelman for its 2020 Trust Barometer about fears of losing their jobs, with 58% saying they fear losing their jobs because of a lack of training and skills, and 53% saying they worry about automation. 



Four people affiliated with China's military were indicted in the U.S. on federal charges they led the hack into credit-reporting company Equifax, Hill reports.


Whistleblower advocates are upset the U.S president is retaliating against government officers who testified in his impeachment investigation.


A former Major League Baseball player is suing the Houston Astros, saying their sign-stealing cheating amounted to unfair business practices, CBS Sports reports.


Baseball has an integrity problem, Thomas Boswell writes in Washington Post.


Airbus agreed to pay a $4 billion fine to settle corruption probes in three countries.


The U,K.'s departure from the EU will create data privacy issues for companies.


How is Germany handling GDPR? Compliance Week takes a look.


The coronavirus outbreak could do more harm to China's economy than its trade fight with the U.S.


While the world worries about coronavirus, the flu has killed more than 10,000 people in the U.S.


A commissioner with Securities and Exchange Commission wants to give startup cryptocurrency companies a three-year safe harbor period for crypto token sales.


Twitter's CEO says the company will start diversifying its employee base outside of San Francisco, saying that concentration no longer is serving the company. 



"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

- Simon Sinek, author



LRN hosted a forum last week, "25 & Beyond: The Future of Ethics and Compliance," in which author Paul Zak and two panels of ethics and compliance experts examined the ways ethics and compliance could play a central role in determining which organizations will adapt successfully to the changing world. The main takeaway from the three presentations: Even though new technologies will continue to disrupt the workplace, and the way companies do business, the emphasis must remain on people. The only way to develop trust between employees and machines is to empower people and give them a personal connection to the technologies, and how they are designed.


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