Keeping pace with technological advancement is critical to our long-term success as a nation. In many ways, the U.S. is lagging behind other nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that whoever becomes the front-runner in AI "will become the ruler of the world." Thanks to significant government support, China has announced its Internet Plus and Made in China 2025 strategies, which promise to make Chinese firms world technology leaders. Many question whether the US’s efforts fall short in comparison.
We’re living in the technological age. New technologies are flooding your workplace, and quickly. From artificial intelligence (AI) to natural language processing, to data mining, you’ve likely been overwhelmed with new, unfamiliar technologies. It’s easy to see these tools as shiny toys that are exciting. But all that glitters is not gold. As a leader, you must appreciate and understand the potential dangers associated with the new, untested technologies. This is especially important when it comes to AI, which has become a dominant force in workplace discussions. As Albert Einstein famously said, "The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it."
1. Understanding the hype
AI technologies have invaded many aspects of the workplace. But they’ve found an especially comfy home among hiring and recruiting departments. The reasoning is convincing. As humans with biases and prejudices (often subconscious ones), we inevitably can make mistakes when we trust our intuitions during hiring decisions. So, it stands to reason that AI-powered hiring tools have a lot of potential in terms of sourcing and screening applicants. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that algorithms outperformed human experts by at least 25% in predicting job performance, regardless of job type.
2. Treading the AI waters carefully
It’s important to tread slowly in embracing the shiny AI-powered tools. You shouldn’t blindly adopt AI-powered hiring technologies without considering their far-reaching limitations. AI technologies usually rely on real-world data. They are programmed by humans with pre-existing biases and prejudices. Their accuracy is subjective and based on our biased definitions of what a "desirable" or "undesirable" hire should look like.
3. Channel your inner student
AI is increasingly used in hiring. And, as IBM learned the hard way, you should do your research.
Be a student. Ask the important questions. What assumptions about talent have been built into
these tools? Are they valid? Says who? Who encoded the technology with their underlying
assumptions? The most effective leaders recognize that AI technologies are still in their infancy
and that human hiring managers should exercise the final word when it comes to important
There’s a lot of reason to be excited about AI in the workplace. You should explore the possibilities. But be cautious. We’ve already seen the harmful effects of AI in full color.
Remember Watson, the Jeopardy-winning cognitive computing system launched by IBM? IBM uses the Watson platform as part of its hiring and promotion efforts. Despite its potential, Watson has its flaws. Several years ago, Watson was taught all the words in the Urban Dictionary. It couldn’t tell the difference between polite and vulgar language.
Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. For example, it used the word bull**** to respond to a question. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) and others must exercise discretion before adopting AI-powered technologies. Proactive measures are much better than reactive ones.
I care deeply about helping leaders and advancing the human resources profession. I have authored two books, The Art of Executive Coaching and Stress-less Leadership, and maintain a regular blog. I am also a leading contributor for The Society For Human Resources Management, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Association of Talent Development.
As an active animal advocate, I donate 100% of all book proceeds to animal welfare.
The opinions in this article are my own, and do not reflect those of my publishers or employers.