Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, most Australian businesses were looking into ways to use artificial intelligence in the workplace, mainly to increase productivity and streamline operations. Now, companies are also searching for ways to ensure their workers’ health using AI monitoring.
What can artificial intelligence do for the HR department
Human Resources departments were the first to implement AI software tools to make hiring processes and personnel management more efficient. At present, many of Australia’s large companies use AI tools that allow them to select the most promising candidates from the hundreds of job applications they receive. A software program can be tailored to scan the CVs for certain keywords, only selecting the candidates with the right qualifications for the job. At the same time, a program can look for gaps in a candidate’s employment record and flag them for review. Such programs save a lot of time, making the Human Resources managers job easier. However, this does not mean that AI tools can be trusted with making hiring decisions and, hopefully, it never will.
An AI tool can predict the need for more employees in a certain department so that the HR is not caught unaware, but it cannot decide how to fill those positions.
From body language analysis to background checks
There are those who advocate the use of AI programs who can interpret body language using the surveillance cameras that have become ubiquitous in the workplace and pretty much everywhere else. This raises an interesting question. Should HR managers use such programs to analyze the candidate’s body language during a job interview or should they rely on their own assessment? Most experienced recruiting agents have developed excellent character judging abilities and can decide if an individual seems trustworthy.
At the same time, HR departments now routinely use background checks before making a decision to hire someone. A process that was once time and nerve-consuming has been made easy by the apparition of accredited online agencies like the Australian National Character Check, which can send back a 100% valid background check in a couple of days and everything is done online. It is also the job of a human employee to determine if a candidate’s record is good enough and that individual can be safely hired. Obviously, one could also use an AI program to automatically reject all the candidates who have a certain type of offence on their record, but that does not allow for a real evaluation of that candidate’s particular situation.
While an AI tool would reject the applicant, a good HR manager can judge if that individual has changed and regrets his past behaviour, therefore he should be granted a second chance.
Monitoring employees health
As Australians as well as employees all over the world prepare for a return to the workplace there has been a lot of talk of using AI-based surveillance programs to monitor people’s health. Take for instance sensors who can monitor temperature or signs of illness – is it OK to use such methods to track people who might be infected?
On the one hand, catching an infection early and removing that employee from the office might help contain the spread of the virus. On the other hand, this is undoubtedly a breach of privacy. Someone might have a fever for a health problem totally unrelated to the coronavirus. Should this person be forced to answer questions related to their health which are of a very personal nature simply in the name of the greater good?
Artificial intelligence can be of great help in all aspects of our lives, including the workplace, but things should never be allowed to get out of hands by trusting software tools with decision-making powers.