AI is powerful, but it’s not infallible. Issues around bias, privacy, and decision transparency are legitimate concerns. This will also present a challenge for leadership to overcome with employees. They will want to ensure that AI is not running untethered in the background and/or will not unintentionally produce results that might reflect poorly on them.

Indeed, despite AI’s immense capabilities, most will acknowledge that its present rate of development has outpaced its cautionary oversight. 

Enter AI ethics.

AI ethics 101

What are AI ethics and why are businesses of all sizes (especially leadership) starting to take notice of them?

AI ethics refers to a set of moral principles designed to promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence.

According to trendspotting newsletter Exploding Topics, searches for “AI ethical issues” have grown by 7,519 percent in the last five years. Searches for “responsible AI” have also increased by 3,450 percent in that same time frame.

Because ethical issues around AI have the potential to cause product failures, damage brands, and present legal challenges, countries are starting to implement regulations around how AI should be used, especially in business. Most notably, the EU has created “The AI Act,” which would regulate AI usage and offer ethical guidelines around it.

How leadership can step up

Leadership should be able to ensure their employees that AI is being thoughtfully managed. For example, McKinsey noted the realities with AI bias, stemming from the data used to train AI models, is a significant concern as it can perpetuate and even magnify existing societal prejudices. This necessitates a careful evaluation of data sources to ensure equity in AI systems. Privacy is another serious concern due to AI’s capacity to process vast amounts of sensitive data, highlighting the need for stringent data protection measures and strict compliance with data protection laws. There are many other areas within AI’s advancement that people are concerned about within the workplace. Here’s what we have found to be successful in addressing these issues.

1. Leadership transparency

As your organization openly engages with AI tools, be transparent about how AI systems make decisions within your organization. Explain the concept of “black box” AI and the steps your company is taking to ensure accountability. Let employees know how AI is being used, the benefits of it, and how it will help grow the company from what it is today. The longer AI tools, that are utilized within your organization, remain “mysterious” the more anxiety you will be creating which will lead to emotional burnout, fear, uncertainty, an enhanced rumor mill, and it will eventually lead to attrition. 

2. Company/brand ethics

Perhaps with the partnership of legal counsel, implement an AI ethics policy and communicate it clearly and often. This should detail your company’s commitment to avoiding algorithmic bias and protecting user data. Further, this messaging should be delivered to your employees by the leadership team. It’s essential for your employees to believe that your entire leadership team is monitoring and ensuring their safety. This is NOT just the CEO’s responsibility (I’m speaking to you HR leaders). 

3. AI-based legislation

Keep your team informed about AI-related legislation (as slow as it will continue to be). Discuss how it impacts your operations and their roles, fostering an understanding of the legal landscape. Moreover, forthcoming AI laws may impact your entire industry. Plan ahead, anticipate how and when AI will impact your business and be the first to address these realities with your employees. Note that the rumor mill has already got the jump on your company communication strategy on AI — catch up and stay ahead of rumors and the evening news cycles.

Looking ahead

Responsible AI is the future of this mega-tech movement that will likely become mainstream in the next 5-10 years, Exploding Topics predicts. Understanding how to implement AI without compromising best business practices will be critical to any organization’s long-term success, and that starts with leadership.

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