Published on 30th April 2023
Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers strong potential to support both workers and employers in their labour market journeys. AI plays a role in ensuring better and faster matching of supply with demand, improving the user experience, grounding labour markets in skills, and unlocking the data needed to do it.
However, as with introducing any new technology or system, we need to ensure that the use of AI in the HR services sector is grounded by the application of ethical principles that place the needs of individuals and society at their heart. As the global representative of an industry that plays such a crucial role in connecting people with work, the World Employment Confederation deemed it essential to take a stand early in the evolution and define a set of standards that we could align on. As a result, our Taskforce on Digitalisation led a cross-industry collaboration resulting in the adoption of a Code of Ethical Principles for the use of Artificial intelligence. It defines ten core principles that we require our members to apply in how they develop products, deliver services, and engage partners when using AI.
Artificial Intelligence refers to systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions to achieve specific goals. When applied to HR services, AI can contribute to a variety of operational improvements, including the current market focus on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion by mitigating the likelihood of unconscious bias in recruitment processes and improve the candidate experience.
Because AI has the capacity to break down large amounts of information, identify patterns and produce key learnings, it offers promising outcomes for companies, helping them to improve their performance by supporting them in assessing the skills of their existing workforce so as to understand better their in-house talent and how to develop it more effectively. And AI brings benefits for individuals too. It can help workers understand their own skills profile and how it can best be developed to both achieve their career goals and present themselves to prospective employers.
Our Code recognises that AI is evolving, and so represents a set of 10 living principles which can be adapted over time. Unsurprisingly several principles focus on the need for human characteristics in AI systems used in the recruitment and employment industry. Human Centric Design – that provides beneficial outcomes for individuals and society; Human in Command – in order that they are designed to augment human capabilities with clear processes in place to ensure that they always remain under human direction and control; and Building Human Capacity – enhancing workers and managing fair transitions through the implementation of life-long learning, skills development, and training.
Other principles focus on the need for openness and responsibility. Transparency, Explainability, and Traceability – to ensure that those using AI systems are transparent about their use of technology and provide workers and employees with information about their interactions with AI systems, explaining how these systems arrive at their decisions; and also, Accountability to ensure that those deploying AI systems take responsibility for their us at all times.
The protection of people and systems is also addressed in our ten principles, with Privacy requiring that AI systems used by the recruitment and employment sector should comply with the application of general privacy principles and protect individuals against any adverse effects of the use of personal information in AI; and Safety & Security to ensure that systems are technically robust and reliable, with monitoring and tracking processes to measure performance and retrain or modernise as necessary. Naturally, ethical governance also features as a principle, with WEC encouraging frameworks to ensure the ethical development and use of AI – including the involvement of relevant stakeholders such as government, civil society, and academia in the decision-making process.
Two further principles focus on broader societal objectives: Fairness and Inclusivity by design seeks to ensure that the AI systems used by the sector treat people fairly and respect the principles of non-discrimination, diversity, and inclusiveness. It requires that appropriate risk assessment and mitigation systems be implemented throughout the AI system lifecycle. Environmental and societal well-being aims to ensure that AI systems are designed and used in a way that considers the environmental and societal impacts of their use.
Keeping those principles in mind will guide us in our continuous evaluation of the perspectives offered by AI and in ensuring that its promising elements serve to impact the worker experience positively and speed up connecting that individual to the best work opportunity, while mitigating the risks that so many others choose to focus on. We recognise the potential for AI to introduce bias, but this is also a risk in analog business processes. Our industry is therefore committed to training staff to remove personal biases from recruitment processes, fully respecting the principle of non-discrimination enshrined in WEC’s Code of Conduct.
The discussion around the ethical use of AI is not unique to our industry. Yet, with so many people entering or re-entering, the workforce through our industry and its members, we recognise the importance of coming together to take a stand and, will actively monitor feedback from the candidates and workers whom we collectively support on a global basis.
First published by The Global Recruiter, April 2023