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AI can reduce workplace bias, says CEO of leading HR group

AI technology may help HR reduce workplace bias, according to Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, an HR organization that has 300,000 members.

CHICAGO -- AI-type technologies have the potential to reduce workplace bias and help "equalize" the experience...

of employees, according to the head of the leading HR organization in the U.S.

Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, which has some 300,000 members, said he sees enormous potential in the use of advanced technology. And the 22,000 HR professionals who gathered at the society's conference were also hearing from others here about the need to increase their use of tech.

Vendors are developing AI-related technologies -- most often the pattern-recognition capabilities of machine learning -- to analyze job ads, employee performance reviews, promotions and pay-equity issues to root out workplace bias.

Although the impact of AI on the workplace is still a question mark, Taylor said during a meeting with reporters that he's " so incredibly excited about the prospect of what AI can do for us." The technology "will never eliminate full bias," but it holds the promise of reducing workplace bias in decision-making, he said.

AI will find trends HR is missing

AI will show you trends that you don't even recognize.
Johnny Taylorpresident and CEO, SHRM

The technology could show, for instance, unconscious workplace bias patterns that favor men over women for certain jobs, Taylor said. "AI will show you trends that you don't even recognize.'"

AI technology applied to HR will "ultimately help democratize and equalize" the workplace, Taylor said. "I’m encouraged by it."

The need for HR professionals to use these people analytics tools generally was underscored by Jennifer McClure, CEO of Unbridled Talent, an HR consulting firm in Cincinnati, who was speaking at the conference.

"People are a competitive advantage, and in order to be able to maximize that competitive advantage, we have to be able to quantify it, understand it [and] predict it," McClure said.

Microsoft uses homegrown sentiment analysis

Microsoft highlighted one AI-type technology that is seeing some user adoption.

Microsoft has built its own homegrown technology for sentiment analysis, according to Dawn Klinghoffer, Microsoft's general manager of business insights, which is part of its internal HR organization.

"We have a very data-driven culture," Klinghoffer said in an interview. But satisfying the interest in more data also meant growing the capability of Microsoft's internal HR organization.

Microsoft created internal training programs for its HR workers to train them on generating data insights and applying them, as well, Klinghoffer said.

A sentiment analysis will take a written response to a question and attempt to assess an employee's underlying feeling. The technology allows employers to analyze large numbers of responses and categorize them.

Microsoft uses the technology in pulse surveys of employees, and one thing that has helped foster employee interest in the surveys is feedback. When employees hear Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reference findings from the survey that "they've provided, the more they want to provide feedback," Klinghoffer said.

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