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Could Artificial Intelligence Make Our Workplaces More Civil?

If you’ve chosen a career in human resources, you might not have predicted that your work might one day rely heavily on futuristic artificial intelligence tools.

But you might indeed find yourself working with AI soon, if you aren’t already.

That doesn’t mean we’re in the midst of a robot takeover, though. AI, or the ability of computer systems to “learn” from data inputs and adjust their “behavior” accordingly, is being found frequently in modern apps that promise to help companies evaluate job applicants, train employees, and prevent fraud.

Through these programs, AI is poised to have a wide-reaching impact on the way organizations manage their employees.

However, reliance on pure data can actually do more harm than good if that data is used without the right big-picture insights and understanding.

Read on to explore whether some of these tools can help you create a more civil working environment at your organization.

Better Equity in Recruiting and Hiring

Workforce diversity is a benefit to any business or organization. It makes sense that the more ideas, backgrounds, and creative approaches are welcomed on any given team of employees, the more creative and adaptive that team will be.

But diversity also plays a key role in creating a civil workplace.

When work environments reflect the cultural makeup of their communities, they make it clear that the company or organization is prioritizing the work and the mission over the personal attributes of employees. They make it clear that they value and celebrate when people are not all alike. They send a clear message that everyone is welcome.

AI may be able to help promote diversity in your workforce by helping to eliminate unconscious bias in the recruiting and hiring process.
Using algorithms to predict candidate success can backfire if the algorithms are rooted in past discriminatory practices. Click To Tweet

The argument is that when software and data guide the hiring process, there’s little room for the unconscious bias that can sway the recruiting and hiring process. Instead of selecting job candidates or candidates for advancement based on gut feelings or similar personal backgrounds, you can let the algorithms and skills tests / assessments handle those tasks based on the criteria that you specify.

However, basing hiring success based on data can also backfire, as Josh Bersin explains on his website. That’s because the systems often use past data to judge what works.

“If your current management practices are biased, discriminatory, punitive, or overly hierarchical, you may just wind up institutionalizing all the things you hate,” he explains.

The solution is to make sure that the algorithms can be “inspected” to make sure that they’re working the way we want them to.

Better Employee Engagement

It’s hard to overstate the true value of an engaged workforce.

When employees feel personally invested in your organization’s success, they tend to be more dedicated and productive. When they feel valued and heard, they’re more likely to give valuable feedback and honest insights that can benefit your organization.

Engagement also helps with civility initiatives. Engaged employees tend to be more receptive to company initiatives and goals, including those for civility.

But engaging with employees more directly can also allow HR representatives to get a better feel for where potential obstacles to a civil workplace could lie.

AI in the Workplace

“Smart” engagement tools can do this through employee surveys and assessments. They ask employees how they feel about their jobs and workplace issues, or measure those sentiments in other ways such as language analysis or behavioral analysis (sometimes even taking advantage of wearable sensors).

These tools can display the results in helpful dashboards that are updated in real time or even send managers alerts to any potential problems.

Other than increasing civility and engagement, these tools may be able to help identify certain behaviors that tend to lead to problems, such as accidents, mistakes, or poor performance.

Finally, smart engagement tools can help employees feel more connected with their workplace by giving them a simple and easy way to reach out for what they need.

Free download: 4 Questions to Ask When Choosing Recruiting Software

For example, onboarding apps can guide new employees through the enrollment and orientation process in a way that feels natural. And self-service portals can make it easier for employees to see where they stand with their employer and even submit requests and complaints. Some of these programs even come equipped with chatbots that can make it easier for employees to make requests directly and naturally without bogging down your HR professionals.

Customized Learning and Training

When most of us think of creating a civil workplace, the first tactic that comes to mind is civility training.

Most employers understand that in order for their workplace culture to be a civil one, they have to make behavior expectations clear. They have to get everyone on the same page about what civil behavior is, exactly. And that requires education.

But it doesn’t necessarily require the task of gathering everyone together in a conference room and watching a PowerPoint presentation.

As we wrote in our post on How HR Professionals Can Keep Their Training Fresh, a big part of what makes civility training programs effective is their ability to conform to employees’ individual learning styles, schedules, and personal needs.

AI in the Workplace
AI programs will be able to suggest customized training programs for employees based on things like their training history, the nature of their role within the organization, their personal goals, and the company’s unique needs and mission.

Other AI programs could even analyze the habits and behaviors of the top performers at a company so that other employees have a better idea of what skills and activities they need to succeed.

Again, the algorithms and data that these programs use will need to be put in context to make sure that they’re not inadvertently enforcing the wrong values. However, they do represent a big opportunity for most organizations.

More Opportunities to Practice Civility Concepts

Although personal coaching seems too personal to be solely handled by computers anytime soon, it turns out that certain elements of coaching may be able to benefit from AI.

Just as AI can help with suggesting training courses, it can also work on a more intimate level by helping learners dive into specific areas of study. For example, programs can deliver short reminders of key concepts and perhaps even prompts to practice based on learners’ actions and performance.

These coaching tools can help learners in between live training sessions. Some can track participants’ feedback and comments, and may be able to intuit how to respond to that feedback and adjust training accordingly.

Don’t miss: 4 Questions to Ask When Choosing Recruiting Software

Other AI tools may also be able to use data to show how the teams compare to each other within training programs, and “nudge” managers in the direction that top-performing teams take. One client told Josh Bersin that within three months of using such a tool, their leadership teams showed a 25 percent improvement in corporate values.

In fact, practicing with a computer may be ideal when it comes to some of the especially awkward or difficult conversations that leaders must necessarily practice in the realm of civility. Practicing them alone with the help software may be a good way to try new behaviors in an environment where they feel safe before they practice in live training.

These programs may not be able to give the same level of insights that a trained professional can. But their feedback is still immediate and often quantifiable, making it helpful.

Has your HR department used AI tools to make your workplace more civil? Leave a comment below and let us know how it worked out.

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