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The most successful businesses prioritise in this order: people, process, technology. This is because the key to success in business is strong, meaningful relationships that put people at the centre. Without valued and motivated people, any business, no matter how great its process and technology, will be heading for failure.

Yet the rise of technology is causing a shift. More and more businesses are prioritising  technology above all else. The effects of this can be seen across organisational behaviour management (OBM).

How technology can be a false economy
Technology is shaping behaviour in organisations before new staff have even walked through the door. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used in the early stages of recruitment. Unilever is just one of the companies using technology to analyse a candidate’s language, tone and facial expressions via videos recorded on the candidate’s mobile phone or computer.

The company behind the technology, HireVue, claim it’s faster, more reliable and more objective as it’s free from human bias.

Except that it’s not. It will have human bias built into it by the programmers who create it. We already know this kind of technology discriminates against some people, in particular people of colour and those with the darkest skin. So they will continue to be routinely discriminated against at the outset.

Joy Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and a member of the Global Tech Panel that advises world leaders and technology executives on ways to reduce the harms of AI. Writing in the New York Times she said:

“…artificial intelligence, often heralded for its potential to change the world, can actually reinforce bias and exclusion, even when it’s used in the most well-intended ways.

 HireVue’s ratings reflect the previous preferences of hiring managers. So if more white males with generally homogeneous mannerisms have been hired in the past, it’s possible that algorithms will be trained to favourably rate predominantly fair-skinned, male candidates while penalizing women and people of colour who do not exhibit the same verbal and nonverbal cues.

Given how susceptible facial analysis technology seems to recreating gender and racial bias, companies using HireVue, if they hope to increase fairness, should check their systems to make sure it is not amplifying the biases that informed previous hiring decisions. It’s possible companies using HireVue could someday face lawsuits charging that the program had a negative disparate impact on women and minority applicants.”

Hirevue’s chief psychologist Nathan Mondragon, said, ‘We get about 250,000 data points from 15 minutes of video per candidate.’ What this tells me is that we’re crushing humanity under a barrage of data points. Where is the whole person these data points purport to represent?

In another example, Singapore’s largest bank, DBS, is using a chatbot called JIM (Job Intelligence Maestro – you really couldn’t make it up) to screen potential wealth planners. They say they are doing this as part of their move from being a bricks and mortar bank to something more akin to a technology company. Yet poor customer service is one of the most common complaints customers have about their banks.

Alarmingly, although DBS claim they don’t want to lose the human element in the recruiting process, they do admit they are open to exploring whether it could be used during a face-to-face interview.

These kinds of development will lead to organisations that increasingly lack diversity. In the end there will be no need for OBM because organisations  and their workforces will be homogeneous. And we know that less diverse organisations perform less well than their more diverse competitors.

In addition, this kind of process, devoid of any human contact, can make a person seem like nothing more than a cog to fit into a machine, rather than an individual with something unique and personal to offer. We are seeing the degradation of human intelligence and the domination of artificial intelligence.

Actual intelligence versus artificial intelligence
Another area where technology can influence OBM is at the company door. It takes at least twice as long for me, a woman of colour, to pass through a facial recognition test than my white colleagues. If a company were to use this kind of facial recognition software as a security system at its entrance, how would that make people of colour feel? And what would the resulting impact be on the organisation as a whole?

As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, the speed of change means we’re losing control. We’re moving towards structures and behaviours that are dependent on and driven by technology. And that are leaving people behind. Yet technology should be supporting behaviour in organisations, not driving it.

If we continue down this road, HR and its associated fields such as OBM, will need to be carried out by software engineers rather than skilled people professionals.

Are we so blinded by the glare of technology’s promise that we are missing what’s most important: people.

So yes, embrace all the positives and advantages that technology undoubtedly brings. But I urge you to use it with care and keep people at the heart of your business. Value actual intelligence, not artificial intelligence.

Miti AmpomaFounder and Director – Miticom Communications Training

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