14th February 2019
How much do big companies know about you through your Internet searches? How are you going to use that information? Large volumes of data processing through Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly entrenched in our lives. Just like the voice assistant can help you find out how much traffic there will be on your way to work from home, depending on the information you have provided, AI too can do so in other fields. However, such devices are not the only ones programmed to create a profile according to your habits and interests, large companies have access to such tracking, and even you too.
What data can a company draw from its employees daily? Although we may be unaware of it, through our schedules, the bulk of mailshots or opened emails, the corporate events we show interest in, or holidays, we are handing over a large quantity of information to our company, which it can already use to start establishing behavioural patterns.
So, aware that AI in the professional field is already a reality we must pay attention to, let’s delve into several issues where there is still no unanimity:
- Automation vs. Unemployment: AI use in companies is always shown linked to the concept of productivity, since it is mainly used in process automation. This enables cost savings as well as increasing production rates to be able to mechanize repetitive tasks. Even though this has occurred in all industrial revolutions ever since the mass production took off, many see AI as a threat to their jobs.
While it is true that process automation will lead to some jobs becoming redundant, studies by PWC on the impact of AI in the workplace offer another view: the creation of new jobs. Technological advances demand new professional profiles, so instead of job destruction, the experts carry on talking in terms of job displacement.
- Subjectivity vs. Neutrality: personal perceptions in the HR field can make a big difference that become decisive in employee recruitment or development processes. This is because it’s the people who evaluate such aspects as team spirit, proactivity or communication skills which are hard to compute using data and skills that a machine cannot yet analyse exhaustively: these are known as soft skills. Is it possible to evaluate all these aspects through data? Probably yes, but there is still a long way to go to be able to fathom these much-needed values in the digital age.
Although automation has not yet been achieved for these soft skills, Artificial Intelligence has many uses in HR. One of the most common is for filters in the recruitment process, based exclusively on the information we have on the candidates. This impartial data processing lead to a more fair-minded corporate culture, since the algorithm does not take into account personal perceptions that could otherwise lead to discrimination.
- Personalization vs. Privacy: how useful is it to us to know how much time it takes us to get to the office every morning, and what little importance do we give to the information that this detail provides to a third party. With just this single bit of data our rough profile can be established: income per capita, interests by residence area or the company we work for, and even our consumer habits by times. Hence, we obtain this seemingly free service in exchange for our information.
The same can happen in the workplace, since the company can personalize the employee’s experience by processing the information obtained from the employees. But then, what happens to your privacy? What kind of data would you easily hand over to your company and what would you not? And the most common question is typically: is this information a fair payment? The answer may be highly varied depending on each person’s priorities. Nevertheless, it is important to be clear to whom we are turning over the information, and above all, what they can do with it. In the case of your company, receiving this data can improve your experience in many aspects, since it can facilitate processes that, a priori, can be tedious. If for business needs, you take many trips annually, the company can offer services adapted to your circumstances, be it calculate tax deductions, automate expenses and allowances payment, or process visas if required.
- Segmentation vs. Homogeneity: access to a large volume of data, and above all, knowing how to use them to obtain relevant conclusions, leads systems to organize people by shared interests or characteristics. So, by knowing your profile, these can assign you to a specific group for launching personalized messages. Just as with political trends, consumer habits also have a social component. Moreover, if the algorithm used by AI has slotted us into a specific profile, it is likely that we will only receive the information for that type of person. What does this make us become? A homogeneous group from which it will become harder to distance oneself? Will we be stagnating around a single opinion, brand or product?
Yet advances in information processing enable both the consumer’s and the employee’s experience to be personalized to offer products or services aligned with their needs. In the previous section, we saw an example of personalization according to an employee’s planned trips, but AI can have important uses in HR in connection with recruitment or even onboarding. The ability to segment our collaborators will enable us to offer solutions that match perfectly to what they need at any given time, keeping them always at the centre of the strategy.
Owing to these four dilemmas, among others, we talk about the duality of Artificial Intelligence. And if we want to come to a valid conclusion from all of them, then we must also consider several aspects:
- It is our obligation as users and as employees to upskill ourselves in the new technologies and to be aware of the risks and possibilities of our actions. Knowing what happens to our data once it has been sent to the company is essential to be able to preserve our privacy in a digitally secure environment.
- To find the balance between both options, since there is no absolute truth. When confronting new scenarios, we are likely to choose to cold shoulder them, but it is important to be familiar with the advantages AI offers.
- To be aware that we are all part of the technology revolution and that we, as users and consumers, also have something to say. Demanding specific legislation for data protection may be one such issue we voice, but evolution does not end there. And the sooner we become aware of the change, the easier the path will be.