Spoiler Alert!

Here’s the plot line that kicks off Ryley Learning’s workplace eLearning course “Anti-Racism & Unconscious Bias for Workplaces”:

The CEO of hypothetical company “Future Generation” enthusiastically embraces artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to stamp out bias in hiring and promotions…

But for CEO Mark, the promise of automated, “objective” decision-making turns out to be too good to be true. Future Generation’s state-of-the-art HR robot isn’t free of bias. It just replicates problems that have plagued the family business for years!

 

AI Can Perpetuate Bias, Discrimination

As a human rights lawyer and head of an eLearning company, I am intrigued by the harnessing of AI for certain human resources functions.

After all – in theory – AI could reduce the thorny problem of human bias in screening job candidates (eg. by removing certain identifiers).

But we all know there are major pitfalls too. There’s a litany of reported cases, like:

  • the New York company whose AI-powered hiring tool automatically rejected women applicants over 55 and men over 60
  • the “microtargeting” job ads on social media that exclude based on “data points” like race, gender, age (ie. the algorithm makes sure the ads are never shown to people from certain groups).
    Governments and other regulators are attempting to address these “pitfalls” as the use of AI skyrockets in all areas of work.

 

New Laws, Old Laws

Under a proposed Ontario law, job candidates must be informed when when artificial intelligence will be used to “screen, assess or select applicants.”

The City of New York’s Automated employment decision tools act came into effect in July 2023, and requires:

  • a bias audit be conducted on an automated employment decision tool prior to its use;
  • people be notified about the tools’ use in the “assessment or evaluation for hire or promotion.”

Some US states are working on their own versions. Look out for:

Massachusetts:

This state wins best bill title for An Act preventing a dystopian work environment.

Among other things, a worker must be given notice that an “Automated Decision System (ADS), or algorithm” will be used to “make or assist an employment-related decision.”

An impact assessment must be carried out: what are the risks of discrimination? Risks to workers’ health, safety and privacy?

Illinois:

Under an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act, an employer that uses predictive data analytics in its employment decisions “may not consider the applicant’s race or zip code when used as a proxy for race” to reject an applicant in recruiting, hiring, promotion.

But whether a jurisdiction has special laws directed at AI in employment decision-making or not, the traditional civil/ human rights principles still apply.

That is, an employer may not discriminate on the protected grounds (eg. race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age). Nor can they escape liability for blaming a third party AI software vendor.

 

Newsflash: Bots Can’t Express Human Emotion

What we can say for sure – at this point anyway – is that AI cannot convey the genuine feelings of real people.

Ryley Learning gets pitched all the time by purveyors of “top-quality AI voice generation software,” asking if we want to produce our eLearning courses with AI voices that have “humanlike intonation.”

The answer is a hard no, as actor Nigel Downer and I discussed in our recent webinar “Why Training is a Crucial Component of Your DEI Strategy.”

In our “Anti-Racism & Unconscious Bias for Workplaces” eLearning course, we rely on animated storytelling with relatable scenarios to build empathy and understanding.

We are only able to do this convincingly because real humans with lived experiences voice the animation.

As Nigel explains (watch video below), “AI doesn’t have that … it’s missing the empathy, that feeling, it’s missing the heart of a human experience.”

 

 

Animated four adults sitting at a table

 

Why Do We Use Professional Voice Actors?  

Digital voices and “lay peoples'” voiceovers on PowerPoints don’t cut it. We knew we had to match our top-notch video animation with quality voicing by professionals.

We went with an All-star cast. All the actors are members of the ACTRA union. We see and hear them in plays, movies, commercials, radio programs, and in live stand-up comedy.

During production, our actors knew when to make changes to ensure the script was more realistic for the character, or authentic to them as a person in the world.

Then we took multiple takes with a director to make sure the actor’s tone matched the message we wanted conveyed.

We Won an Award! (Pretty Much an eLearning Oscar!)

Ryley Learning is recognized for quality and credibility. We have some hardware to prove it:

Silver Medal, Brandon Hall Group 2022 Excellence Awards, Best Learning Program for Unconscious Bias Awareness! Our customer LCBO put us forward as a partnership. Very stiff competition across North America so we are very pleased and proud.