Innovation vs Regulation; the challenges of AI in HR


Tuesday 11th December saw Veran take on an Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Directors Forum entitled ‘AI Enhancing Customer and Employee Engagement’. The room was filled with tech savvy HR Directors and start-ups keen to share their passion for all things aimed at improving employee and customer experience. The event took place in the always impressive Shard in Gallup’s presentation suite, chaired by our good friend, Anton Fishman.

With bellies full after a networking lunch, the afternoon session about the practical challenges of AI began with a fireside chat discussing how this will impact people and people data, and the race between China and the West to innovate while you regulate.

Revolution, Regulation & Reputation As you no doubt have read elsewhere, AI, as well as having many advocates, has many sceptics who are uneasy about the potential of unleashing something that humanity simply isn’t ready for. Furthermore, the data that makes AI so powerful has its own ethical questions around what information we want others to have about us and what information they should be allowed to have.

Reputational damage could have damning consequences for those seen to be mishandling people’s data or failing to check algorithms properly. Facebook, Amazon and the US Elections are all examples of significant damage being done to organisations as a result of this new technological space. Hence there are huge rewards, but also huge risks associated with such huge quantities of data about people.

Giving others our data is nothing new and there is of course genuine utility to be gained by us as individuals giving access to our data. For example at work, having recommended learning courses to improve our own skillsets is a benefit to us as well as the company. Having personalised and timely help provided in the area of mental health and anxiety & stress reduction is another benefit. Furthermore, all of the aforementioned areas have innovative start-ups aimed at improving our work and home lives.


The fear around what could be done with what companies know about us is an area of extreme uncertainty. All this talk about the rapidly advancing industry that is artificial intelligence would be incomplete without a reference to the ‘jobpocalypse’. We’ve been wrong in the past about the industrial revolution taking our jobs, and the decline of industry in the west. Mankind has been quite good at adapting and generating new opportunities. Additionally, the current capability of AI does not threaten swathes of the population, but it could change the way we work, and the types of work we do. Only time will tell what the true impact will be.


Caught speeding?

The potentially sinister uses of data may be waiting just over the horizon. The problems in this area that are tricky to address surround the regulation of its use. Regulatory agencies; because the industry as a whole is moving so quickly are always playing catch up. Western governments too are yet to pass meaningful laws to combat these issues and safeguard individuals who might have unknowingly passed on more than we’re comfortable with. This is in part again because once you’ve managed to get your head round things, the very problem itself has evolved due to the nature of the industry. Furthermore with so much excitement and the blossoming of start-ups in this space, AI maturity is a race and money is out there to be made. Governments want to create a dynamic environment for start-ups, with the UK capital being no exception. Whilst governments of course want to protect their citizens, they will also want a slice of the AI pie. Hence, there is a fine balance to be struck between incubation and protection.

Interestingly China was brought up in discussion as a challenger to western tech powerhouses. For one, China has all the ingredients it needs to upstage the west, generous government coffers, a large population, a thriving research community and a society eager for technological change. Its investment in AI, microchips and electrics cars combined has been estimated at $300 billion. With little in the way of regulation and ethics as barriers to innovation, the horizon may see China taking the leading the way in the next decade. This is not to say that China is necessarily going about this research inhumanely, hitherto data privacy is thought about differently by the population. We must be careful not to dismiss them through our western lenses.


Indeed, the debate between opportunity and risk is one that is being had continuously and will continue to be one of the biggest over the next few years as the world gets to grips with artificial intelligence. There is an extremely saturated market, in HR and related fields there are hundreds if not thousands of tools to choose from, many of which satisfy very small market niches. There is no doubt therefore that in the coming years that number will boom and bust. Unless a start-up is incubated by a ‘large company’ or given the resources to thrive, it will fail to reach maturity.


Mirror, mirror on the wall which is the best piece of software of them all?

A topic introduced frequently at AI events is that of the sheer volume of aforementioned options in the AI in HR space. A couple of years ago, it was all talk, but now, use cases are emerging that show quite convincing evidence of tangible benefits from AI in HR. A lot of them might not be the ‘sexy’ solutions like Alexa and Siri that have invaded our homes, but that’s why its so important to get expert advice about the plethora of solutions that could resolve your challenges.


2019 is the year of Artificial Intelligence in HR


Veran are offering free workshops to share our research into how Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are being applied in HR, the benefits some businesses are already seeing and how you can get started in this area.


Get in touch with Becky to know more, at becky@veranperformance.com

+44 (0)20 3858 7379

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Veran Performance Limited

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020 3858 7379

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