Companies are coming down on both sides of the debate on employee use of third-party A.I. tools in the workplace. Some leaders encourage staffers to explore the technology, viewing it as a way to usher in innovation and enhance productivity, while others have banned it altogether, expressing privacy concerns. The chatter has grown so loud that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) chimed in last week, issuing guidance on using A.I. in employment selection procedures and warning of possible discrimination.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest guidance and where employers are landing on the issue.
Understanding the EEOC’s guidance. Per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers will be held responsible for any adverse discriminatory impact of A.I. technology on employee selection procedures such as hiring, promotion, and firing, even-and in many cases-if performed by a third-party vendor.
HR teams should be cautious about platforms that use A.I. and potentially biased algorithms, such as résumé scanners that prioritize keywords, employee monitoring software that rates employees on the number of keystrokes, or virtual assistants and chatbots that reject candidates based on predefined requirements.
“What will happen is that there’s an algorithm that is looking for patterns that reflect patterns that it’s already familiar with,” Charlotte Burrows, chair of the EEOC, told the Associated Press. “It will be trained on data that comes from its existing employees. And if you have a non-diverse set of employees currently, you’re likely to end up with kicking out people inadvertently who don’t look like your current employees.”
What employers say. Most leaders seem to be shunning ChatGPT’s use in the workforce due to privacy risks. In early April, Samsung employees accidentally leaked confidential internal source code and meeting recordings while using the chatbot. Few companies have publicly aired discrimination concerns, though many, like Samsung, are building their own internal A.I. platforms.
Embracing A.I. As expected, several tech companies are moving full speed ahead on A.I. Sumit Chauhan, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s office product group, shared with me at Fortune’s MPW Next Gen conference that Microsoft is, of course, already using generative A.I. internally with tools like Copilot, an A.I. assistant embedded in Microsoft tools. (The company is also a major investor in OpenAI.)
“If you think about our life today, especially at work, so much of it is consumed by drudgery. We dread getting up in the morning and going to our inbox,” said Chauhan, who uses the tool to summarize and synthesize her daily emails and internal documents and “get the rote [tasks] out of the way so you can focus on being creative and being strategic.”