AI Takes a Bite Out of Bias

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” (Malcolm Forbes). The call for diversity, inclusion, and equality is being heard throughout our businesses, organizations, and society as a whole. Our world and workplace look very different than they did just 20 years ago, as more women and minorities are integrated into important and influential positions. And while we’ve come a long way, baby, there is still much work to be done to assure that each qualified candidate gets a “fair shake”, without bias or prejudice pre-judging.

One of the many promising outcomes of artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability to recruit, hire, and evaluate the value and effectiveness of candidates and employees without pre-conceived ideas and human bias. Bias comes from many places, most often in how someone was raised, while others have had experiences that they believe justifies their belief system. The reality is that everyone has some bias, so there’s room for everyone to grow in this space. Truth be told, bias is driven by fear, and sometimes those feelings in our gut that we get are meant to protect us. Make no mistake, everyone feels those. The problem is when we neglect, alienate, or deny opportunity to others, simply because of our bias. Bias shows up in racism, sexism, elitism, and even in ideas about where people are from (are they from the south?), education and more.

On the front end, it’s important to remember that AI is created and programmed by humans, however, it can also provide a great opportunity to avoid bias, even a bias that infiltrates based on available time for recruiters and HR personnel to find qualified candidates.

Bias in Recruiting and Hiring

If you’re an HR professional, you understand the pressure to find qualified candidates in a workforce that is inundated with a continual skills gap. From Boomers to Millennials, and from experienced to college graduates, sifting through the mounds of data that you can receive just via resumes can be a part-time job all in itself.

I spoke with a friend recently who told me he had been looking for someone to fill an administrative position. In a matter of 1 week, he received over 200 resumes. He was inundated with unqualified candidates, many of whom were applying for unemployment benefits, but had to show that they were applying for jobs to keep their benefits. The amount of time that it took to legitimately go through the first round of resumes (he ended up with almost 400), and begin preliminary discussions with potential candidates, was an enormous undertaking. He admitted to me that he just looked for the candidates that he felt comfortable with in just a brief view of their resume, and that he likely never saw other qualified candidates.

Advancement in AI has given us the ability to sort through large amounts of data quickly, and then deliver it in ways that can be understood and consumed. By searching through keywords or phrases, AI can deliver the potentially best candidates without bias in any area. Some candidates who may have been overlooked simply because of their name or some particular demographic, can now be “found” as programs driven by AI pull their information based on it’s merit and search requirements.

Bias in Performance Evaluation

Over 58% of companies don’t set goals or standards for their new hires, neither do they have ways to actually measure productivity. So how are most decisions made on how well some one is actually performing? Perception. While that sounds like a harsh reality, the old adage that “perception is reality” is true, even when it comes to evaluating an employee’s productivity. Of course there are other factors taken into consideration, such as how well they get along with others, their perceived engagement, and other factors.

However, technology today has the ability to construct identifiable markers that measure productivity. The power of being able to accurately determine an employee’s productivity via AI assures that those who deserve raises and recognition receive it, again, regardless of any bias a manager or leader may have. Everyone knows a good “schmoozer”, that man or woman who is highly relatable, but in fact, not the most productive. It’s not to say that they don’t deserve to have a job or work for your company, but by leveraging AI, you can assure that the most deserving producers receive the acknowledgment that they deserve.

For the Good

There are many positive aspects of the present reality of AI that can make HR more efficient, reliable, and profitable. The technology that allows us to more diversified and inclusive is not only a great opportunity for our businesses, but for mankind as a whole.