Leveraging artificial intelligence to build a better workforce

It’s time to discover how distinctive human qualities can elevate AI initiatives
By Trish Maguire
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/28/2018

In listening to Cindy Gordon, CEO at SalesChoice, talk about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on today’s workplaces, I find I have more questions than answers. Without a doubt, AI is our future: It’s happening and is accelerating. I can see how AI can enable organizations to make quantum leaps and accomplish new possibilities. At the same time, I can see how, if mismanaged, AI could potentially devalue, depreciate and debilitate the human spirit. 

At the 2016 World Economic Forum, the call for action was focused on “mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the wave of technological advances that are changing the way we live, work, stay alive and interact with each other and machines — is essential.” 

Clearly, we are beyond a debate based solely on how AI technologies can either destroy or create alternative jobs.

It’s time to discover how distinctive human qualities such as curiosity, connection, compassion and creativity can elevate AI initiatives. 

Various AI applications available today promise to enhance and improve management effectiveness by processing and evaluating wide-ranging resources to produce advanced data analysis for instance, employee recruitment, performance, productivity and retention.

Other applications are designed to analyze an employee’s email and alert managers about the individual’s level of engagement and dedication to his job.

The question is: How can these applications best drive a radical rethinking of yesterday’s organizational behaviour models and practices? 

Some of these applications raise interesting scenarios for leaders to think about.

For example, what would the impact be on an organization if some of its managers chose to rely exclusively on the resultant data to make decisions about an employee’s performance or engagement?

What guarantees are there that the AI application does not have its own unintended bias in the search for patterns within the data? How might a manager’s reliance on artificial intelligence analysis result in a failure to address systemic problems in procedures, policies or processes?

What’s the risk that automated decision-making could take priority over that of a manager’s because it is deemed to be as good as or better than that of a manager’s? 

As we all know, human psychology is not an absolute science and presents an infinite number of variables in predicting and maximizing people’s performance and engagement in the workplace. AI applications will continue to present leaders with fundamental moral and ethical challenges that surely necessitate an obligation to understand how these new technologies will impact their workforce.  

How prepared are today’s leaders for using tomorrow’s AI initiatives to create a better future for their workforce and organization?

How ready are leaders in embracing these new information technologies to enhance collaboration, explore innovative solutions, achieve exceptional results and build great workforces for the future?

Trish Maguire is a commentator for SCNetwork on leadership in action and founding principal of Synergyx Solutions in Nobleton, Ont., focused on high-potential leadership development coaching. She has held senior leadership roles in HR and organizational development in education, manufacturing and entrepreneurial firms. She can be reached at synergyx@sympatico.ca.

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