AI Will Spur Creation of Ethics Groups Within HR, Analyst Says

Moral Compass

Ethics will move to the center of HR technology discussion during 2020, with “the first conversations” beginning around the idea that “every HR department needs an ethics organization,” said John Sumser, principal analyst at HRExaminer.

“Every HR department needs an ethics organization because we’re going to be installing tools in our companies without exactly knowing what they do. And these tools are going to have input into the lives and livelihoods of the human beings in our organizations,” Sumser said during an interview for a recent HCM Technology Report podcast.

The "first conversations" about HR-focused ethics organizations is sure to begin this year, says @JohnSumser. #HRTech #HR #HRTribe Share on X

The activities, if not the mandates, of these organizations will be far-reaching, Sumser believes. “They’re going to make recommendations about how to coach. They’re going to make recommendations about how to improve performance. They’re going to make recommendations about all sorts of things,” he said.

Sumser’s idea of ethics doesn’t focus on “never take a coffee cup that’s worth more than five bucks.” Today’s HR function lacks “a good way of thinking about what could go wrong,” he said. “You have to have a solid, disciplined process for anticipating what could go wrong and making decisions in light of what could go wrong.”

Sumser sees a number of signs that HR departments are examining ethical concerns in more depth. As an example, he cites Accenture opening a practice centered on the development of corporate ethics committees to address issues relating to AI. “The real meaty problem in AI is what happens in the HR department,” he said. “So it’s going to be critical for the HR department to take the lead.”

To be sure, talk about the ethical implications AI, machine learning and other advanced technologies bring to workforce management and HR has been growing. Some HCM technology vendors, such as HireVue, have created ethics committees while others, such Modern Hire have begun emphasizing transparency and publishing codes of ethics.

Ethics in AI is an area “adjacent to employment law,” said Sumser. “If law tells you what you can’t do, ethics is about figuring out what the right thing to do is. AI is going to force us to look very carefully at what’s the right thing to do.”

Sign up for our newsletter here.

Image: iStock

Previous articlePodcast: ADP’s Mark Chamberlain on the Public Cloud’s Complexities and Opportunities
Next articleUltimate Software Ranks #2 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2020 List