Can AI have a positive impact on placing diverse talent?

22 November 2019

Technology is continuing to re-shape the way that businesses operate and secure new talent. McKinsey’s Global Institute model predicts that approximately 70 per cent of companies will adopt some form of artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030, as a result, businesses need to be prepared for this digital shift and the potential impact on the hiring process.

AI has the potential to deliver additional economic output of around $13 trillion by 2030, boosting global GDP by about 1.2 per cent a year, if implemented successfully. However, using this within recruitment has proved controversial. In some cases, this has come under fire by critics for negatively impacting diversity hiring. Perhaps the most famous case was when Amazon decided to discontinue the use of their recruitment AI tool after it was found to be biased towards men in its process, potentially hindering their goal to improve levels of gender diversity.

Diverse teams have been shown to boost economic output as well as productivity. In fact, companies that place emphasis on diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above the industry median. So using Amazon as an example, any economic advantage they’d have gained by using AI may well have been undermined by the loss of diversity, and the economic benefits linked, in the broader picture.

Despite this high-profile case, many hiring professionals have also vouched for the positive benefits of using AI in recruitment to boost diverse candidate attraction. With this in mind what is the overarching potential impact of AI when locating and placing diverse talent?

How is AI effectively improving diversity?

Artificial intelligence can be moderated to ensure that businesses adopt frameworks for fairness. Removing implicit judgement from the hiring process, such as taking out personality traits, hobbies and other interests – otherwise known as ‘blind hiring’ – is an accepted and effective method of avoiding unintentional biases that may exist. 77 per cent of employers actually believe that removing personal information from CVs would serve as an effective strategy for reducing prejudice in the hiring process.

The use of algorithms to positively impact hiring decisions is already proving successful in some cases. The Zillow Group, for example, wanted to find out why women weren’t applying for roles with the company. Using AI analysis, the firm managed to identify that their corporate language was perceived to have a ‘masculine’ tone – awareness of this allowed the Group to reshape its presentation to candidates.

Finding the right person for any role needs to be at the core of all recruitment processes. 80 per cent of executives believe that AI can improve both the productivity and performance of talent acquisition efforts, enabling more time to be invested into the diversity mission of the company.

Is AI proving to be ineffective at bolstering diversity?  

Unconscious bias is incredibly hard to eliminate because of the simple fact that it is unconscious – we often do not realise we are doing it. But it’s not just human beings that have the ability to be biased; with AI using existing data to inform decisions, if this data is already intrinsically biased then firms may find themselves in a vicious cycle.

When succession planning, for example, positive performance data from a predecessor would be implemented into the data analysis. Given this, there is the substantial risk of hiring a successor in the same image – thus creating a monoculture. Already, reports have picked up on ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ AI programmes coming into existence through the data they have mined. Certainly, AI used effectively has the potential to eliminate certain unconscious biases, but it shouldn’t be left unmoderated.

Building on this, too much automation and influence from technology can remove the personal, human touch of the recruitment process, and as such, the role of an organisation’s HR department could become marginalised. A brand can seem unattractive and unwelcoming when technology takes over, potentially deterring diverse talent. Businesses need to strike a healthy balance between human touch and automation, especially where hiring is concerned.

Shaping a workforce

An important part of the process of introducing automation into the hiring process is re-examining where talent comes from. As such, designing a varied range of experiences for different workforce types and defining a plan to achieve businesses targets and goals is essential. This is particularly emphasised through a term coined by KPMG – ‘workforce shaping’. Across an array of sectors, this is a notion that looks at what the workforce needs in order to be able to successfully deliver on defined strategic scenarios for an organisation five to 10 years into the future. A significant step to businesses successfully embracing AI is ensuring that leaders are prepared for what the future of recruitment looks like and, too, the future workforce and their skills.

There are often conflicts within an organisation about the benefits of AI and automation to the future of the workforce. 60 per cent of HR executives say artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates, yet 62 per cent of CEOs believe AI will create more jobs than it eliminates. As business leaders look to the future and their talent needs, new technologies and the digital transformation that is underpinning areas such as the public sector are adapting to how this can revitalise their hiring processes.

While candidates and employers alike face confusion and concern over the impact artificial intelligence might have on their future careers and workforces, its potential to even the playing field is sizeable. Reaping the benefits of AI through both moderation and consciousness is an important step to consider in order to make a significant impact on ensuring that diverse placements are not few and far between.

Speaking of levelling the playing field, take a look at Audeliss’ diversity commitment and learn why we are taking steps to improving equality in the workplace.

Why diversity matters