Automation is both a boon and a bane when it comes to recruitment. And it appears at every stage of the recruitment funnel - from assessments at the bottom, to advertising at the top, it is an approach which is increasingly routine.
The benefits are touted by advocates. Efficiencies, speed, cost-savings - these real things. The dark side, however, is that automation routinely screens out perfectly qualified candidates before they are even seen by a human on the hiring side, as well as not even reaching those candidates in the first place to make them aware a job exists to apply to. The algorithms used to power these tools are written by humans, and often contain flaws. As the tools scale and learn, they are doing so with those flaws baked in - and often, those flaws corrupt the entire purpose. As a result, there is a massive - and growing - group of people who are hidden from view.
In response, a group of the world's largest employers have formed the Data & Trust Alliance, an organization whose goal is to bring together leading institutions to learn, develop and adopt responsible data and AI practices. Alliance members share a common belief that data and intelligent systems will be critical for creating economic and societal value in the coming era, but must be deployed responsibly.
The corporate group is not a lobbying organization or a think tank. Instead, it has developed an evaluation and scoring system for artificial intelligence software. The group's members recently announced that they are adopting criteria to mitigate data and algorithmic bias in human resources and workforce decisions, including recruiting, compensation, and employee development.
"As businesses transition from 'going digital' to becoming 'data enterprises,' it is imperative to unlock the value of data and AI in ways that earn trust with every stakeholder," said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart, and the current chairman of Business Roundtable. "Developed and used responsibly, these systems hold the promise of making our workforces more diverse, more inclusive, and ultimately more innovative."
Alliance Establishes Algorithmic Bias Safeguards for Workforce
Alliance members are increasingly applying data, algorithms, and AI to identify talent in larger and more diverse candidate pools, to better match the right talent to the right opportunities and to personalize each employee experience. Like most employers, they rely on software providers, professional networking sites, consultants, and recruiting firms that are increasingly employing AI and machine learning in their products and services. While embracing these new technologies, member companies also identified potential unfair bias as one of the highest risks associated with using them to augment workforce management.
That concern led the Alliance to design its first initiative, "Algorithmic Safety: Mitigating Bias in Workforce Decisions," to help companies evaluate vendors based on their ability to detect, mitigate, and monitor algorithmic bias. Member companies can now supplement their respective vendor evaluation processes with education and criteria to evaluate suppliers of HR applications and solutions on their commitment to algorithmic safety, as well as a qualitative scorecard and guidance for integrating the Algorithmic Bias Safeguards into their processes.
"Every business strives to attract, motivate and retain the most talented and diverse people in the labor force," said Mary Barra, chair and chief executive officer of General Motors. "This initiative will play an important role in our overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by raising standards for trust and transparency in our human resources processes."
Companies adopting the Safeguards include American Express, CVS Health, Deloitte, Diveplane, General Motors, Humana, IBM, Mastercard, Meta, Nielsen, Nike, Under Armour, and Walmart. Collectively, they employ more than three-and-a-half million people. Additional Alliance companies are evaluating the Safeguards and are expected to adopt them in the near future.
The Alliance's Algorithmic Bias Safeguards include 55 questions in 13 categories that can be adapted by companies to evaluate vendors on criteria including training data and model design; bias testing methods; bias remediation; transparency and accountability; and AI ethics and diversity commitments.
The Alliance has support from top leadership. According to Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM: "Trustworthy AI is crucial for businesses. IBM is looking forward to working with members of the Data & Trust Alliance, which includes some of the world's leading brands, on making responsible data and AI practices the norm, not the exception. The alliance's 'Algorithmic Bias Safeguards' can help businesses ensure that they are adopting AI-powered human resource tools that foster trust and help organizations build a skilled, diverse and inclusive workforce."
Joe Ucuzoglu, chief executive officer, Deloitte US, added: "When organizations infuse ethical decision-making into the deployment of emerging technologies, it unlocks superior business outcomes while earning society's trust. At Deloitte, we're proud to take on these challenges in collaboration with other leading purpose-driven enterprises in the Data & Trust Alliance."
Evaluation criteria were developed by a cross-industry working group of member company experts in human resources, artificial intelligence, information technology, procurement, legal, and diversity, equity and inclusion. The criteria were then tested and refined with input from leading HR and AI vendors, as well as more than 200 subject matter experts from business, academia and civil society.
Education materials provided by the Alliance will help familiarize human resources, procurement and other professionals with algorithmic bias and to help improve their criteria and selection processes.
The Data & Trust Alliance
The Data & Trust Alliance, established in September 2020, brings together leading businesses and institutions across multiple industries to learn, develop and adopt responsible data and AI practices.
The Alliance, a not-for-profit consortium, is co-chaired by Ken Chenault, General Catalyst chairman and managing director, and former American Express chairman and CEO, and Sam Palmisano, former IBM chairman and CEO. Jon Iwata is the founding executive director.
"The Data & Trust Alliance is a promising example of the business community embracing responsible innovation, forging a path for both established organizations and start-ups to build thriving businesses that align with and contribute to the long-term interests of society," said Mr. Chenault.
"The companies that formed the Data & Trust Alliance come from a broad range of industries, but they have several things in common. They are staking their future on innovation. They are innovating their products, services and operations by embracing data and intelligent technologies. And they care deeply about earning trust with their full spectrum of stakeholders," said Mr. Palmisano.
"Many today are focused on the theory and policy of responsible data and AI, and that is important work. The Data & Trust Alliance is focused on application," said Mr. Iwata. "We are about changing the practice of business through real-world innovation. Our only measure of success is adoption by practitioners in business."
Data & Trust Alliance member companies span 15 industries, operate in more than 175 countries, and generate more than $1.5 trillion in annual revenues. Additional information on the Alliance and the safeguards are available at dataandtrustalliance.org
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