Could artificial intelligence help D&I achieve its goals?
By Jo Faragher on 11 July 2023
Some of the headlines we see about artificial intelligence sound like something out of a disaster movie. According to some reports, AI will be responsible for everything from decimating people’s jobs to “human extinction”.
For those working in the D&I space, it’s also easy to assume that AI would have a negative impact on their work: algorithms have historically been programmed by homogenous (usually white and male) teams; and major technological shifts in the past have not always taken accessibility and inclusion into account.
But what if the opposite was the case? What if AI, and tools such as ChatGPT, could actually improve inclusion or support organisations in their D&I efforts? Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief innovation officer at ManpowerGroup and a professor of business psychology, argues that one of the key ways AI will help is in reducing and exposing bias in businesses. “AI is a powerful diagnostic tool,” he explains. “It has great potential for revealing hidden patterns and dynamics. It can quantify the value that people bring to teams and organisations.” Through data and analysis, it can ensure career progression programmes aren’t favouring those that “suck up to the boss, are politically astute or Machiavellian”, for example, or help managers who look after remote teams understand more about how their behaviour impacts them. He uses the example of Uber: drivers are effectively managed by an AI and their rewards and feedback come via an algorithm. “With AI managing such systems, leaders or HR teams can focus on creating the conditions employees need to thrive,” he adds.
Curious and critical
Dr Chamorro-Premuzic believes that AI can democratise the workplace more. “It reduces the distance between performance and career success. It can tell you whether the people at the top are truly the ones adding value,” he explains. It is this data or evidence that can then feed into the AI systems so managers can train future algorithms to identify these inclusive behaviours, which helps with future hiring and building a more inclusive culture in the long term. “Better businesses understand that they need to be curious, critical, and have an experimental mindset to try things out. There will be mistakes – look at self-driving cars for example – but what about the human mistakes we make every day with bias and discrimination?”
Erika Brodnock, co-founder and CEO of Kinhub, an employee health and wellbeing platform, says AI’s ability to personalise experiences for individuals in the workplace could help to boost inclusion. “As AI analyses vast amounts of data, it has the potential to generate personalised recommendations and treatment plans for individuals,” she explains. “And while I don’t believe we will ever replace the need for real human empathy and expertise, in collaboration with humans AI could cut waiting times considerably while also having the ability to account for diverse patient needs, preferences and cultural backgrounds. People are inherently biased and hold prejudice, even those in the health sector, and this can act as a frustrating barrier for people trying to access care.”
And while “traditional” AI tools are helping to eliminate bias or expose patterns in organisations, the rise of “generative” AI tools such as ChatGPT could have an even more dramatic impact. The difference with generative AI is that – rather than mining for data and analysing it or using it to automate a response, it creates entirely new text, pictures or audio. As well as ChatGPT, which can be used to produce text from a standard D&I policy to a 4,000 word report based on how the user ‘prompts’ it, there are tools that can do graphic design; generate short video clips; or create logos for your campaign or employee network. In time-savings alone, there are potential advantages for D&I teams.
But these benefits will also be enjoyed by the wider workforce. “It could decrease the expertise and experience gap that exists for people who have no access to privilege or credentials,” adds Dr Chamorro-Premuzic. “It used to be the case that entering the labour market was harder for a young person without this, but now a privileged person could be competing with someone who writes great prompts on ChatGPT, who is pushing for a way to reimagine their job. I knew a candidate that kept getting rejected for jobs because their cover letter had grammatical mistakes and bad spelling. He asked ChatGPT to reformat a cover letter for each job, and admitted at interview that ‘he wouldn’t be speaking to you now’ if he’d not used AI to help him get past the screening stage.”
Research from CV-Library suggests this practice could become more common, too. It found that almost half of UK professionals intended to use ChatGPT in their next job search, and 63% did not feel this would be misleading employers. Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, argues that employers are right to be cautious, but candidates have every right to make themselves stand out. “Concerns over inflating CV content are valid but, if regulation is put in place and it’s used correctly, ChatGPT can help candidates create a powerful CV that stands out in the hiring process and helps secure an interview,” he says.
This is the essence of how AI will level the playing field and potentially even disrupt hierarchies at work. Janice Robinson Burns, a futurist and chief career experience officer at learning company Degreed, believes it’s early days but AI could really be a game-changer in terms of equity. “This tool does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at in an organisation, where you sit on the globe, everyone is in a learning process with it right now,” she says. “I can’t remember when we’ve had a technology that’s forced us all to learn at the same time in the same way. This can be an equaliser if everyone takes the learning process seriously.”
d&i Leaders is a global community of senior diversity, inclusion and HR focused professionals, looking to collaborate, network and accelerate their workplace inclusion strategy.