Sector News

Building an inclusive workforce in the age of AI

March 12, 2020
Diversity & Inclusion

As members of the business community, we are rightly concerned about the gulf between industry needs and workforce readiness in the age of AI.

To address that concern, IBM makes a significant investment each year on reskilling and upskilling our employees, and we are deeply involved in education policy and programs worldwide.

But while the business community acknowledges that AI will change the way each of us works, what we may not fully recognize are the competitive opportunities presented by recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce during this transformative period.

Companies with diverse and inclusive workforces will thrive in the age of AI. That is because AI, through a combination of corporate purpose and precision regulation, can adapt itself to the needs and values of its users. Narrowly focused or culturally insensitive AI could leave its users behind the curve of worldwide demographic and societal trends. But technologies created and trained by and for the global population of the world’s markets can help propel their users to new heights of prosperity.

Who will help create the essential tools of the digital economy? Who will contribute their values and cultural perspectives—in addition to their technical expertise—to developing AI that serves all, and leaves none behind? The opportunity here—the one we must not miss—is the chance to include people of all backgrounds in the jobs that will help to shape the future. Providing education and skills training is a vital first step toward capitalizing on this opportunity, but we need to do much more.

How to Get There
Approaches to diversity recruiting should be holistic and nuanced. The following are some tips for creating a successful campaign:

  • Hire the best person for the team, not the job. Simply slotting someone from an underrepresented background into an otherwise homogenous group is far less supportive of productivity and retention than building a diverse team from the ground up.
  • Hiring managers must be from diverse backgrounds. This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how often this is overlooked.
  • Hiring decisions should be pooled versus individualized. People tend to choose others like themselves, and may be unaware that they are doing so. And when numerous members of a homogeneous group make individual choices of those like themselves, the net result is a non-diverse workforce. Pooling hiring decisions—even among a homogenous group of hiring managers—can help illuminate and temper this problem.
  • Diversity training should focus on mitigating unconscious bias. Whether manifested through interpersonal behavior, AI or testing, unconscious bias can create choke points in diversity hiring and retention.
  • Be mindful of timing. It takes longer to hire diverse candidates. They may be difficult to identify, and they may take longer to evaluate offers because of cultural concerns about both the job and community life outside of work.

Improving diversity hiring through updated methodologies, technologies and techniques can help improve business performance. AI is really opening the aperture to finding a broader range of talent, especially with our efforts to reduce bias in both hiring and our end-to-end talent process. It is time to discard unproductive practices such as recruiting underrepresented minorities without specific roles in mind, identifying roles exclusively as diversity set-asides or quotas, or leaving a company’s diverse constituency to address the issue in a vacuum.

Diversity recruiting should be a company-wide priority that has its basis in values and cultural sensitivity. It is only by working together that we can make the most of these otherwise missed opportunities.

By Obed Louissaint

Source: Forbes

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