The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Leave Administration and HR Management: Issues & Opportunities
By Seth Turner
Chief Strategy Officer
Whether we want it to happen or not, artificial intelligence (AI) has a role in how information in our society is gathered, processed, analyzed, recombined, and then channeled elsewhere. As leave management professionals, we need to understand that AI is already fully embedded in our society and in the human resources profession.
Artificial intelligence can be used to better manage our leave administration programs and make predictions about how to serve tomorrow’s workers. AI also comes with challenges to privacy and ethics as we consider the risks to collecting, interpreting, and storing data. Our session at the 2020 DMEC FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference, Mar. 23-26, in Boston, Artificial Intelligence: The Opportunities and Risks, will break down these risks and equip employers with the knowledge to mitigate liability, while also helping to understand the opportunities AI provides.
Artificial intelligence is a concept in computing that has been used since the 1950s and 60s. It has a very broad meaning relating to the ability to use machines to find and use information. Although the “machines” themselves are programmed by humans, the deployment is done by automating rules and triggers, which are expert systems executed by a program or intersecting set of programs. These programs are taught to navigate and interact with data — sometimes in a manner that clones human decision making. To extract insight, the program may be set loosely to find patterns buried in Big Data, where a human brain would be overwhelmed by the scale and number of variables.
In terms of leave management, AI provides the ability to capture large swaths of information efficiently, compare that information, find patterns, trigger actions when situations are met, update information, and perform any number of activities that would be burdensome to do manually. In that way, the types of tools and services that incorporate AI are designed to save time, streamline processes, and support discoverability and tracking in the compliance process.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers use AI to analyze all kinds of information and solve a myriad business problems — from tracking changes in state leave laws to updating requirements for certain protected groups to creating discoverability around mandated FMLA reporting and communication protocols. For example, we use AI to inform our product offerings and to keep our clients up to date as changes are instituted in their jurisdictions.
AI can inform and benefit the leave management industry in these new ways:
- Forensically analyze patterns that can assist in detecting leave fraud.
- Make predictions and identify gaps in areas that are likely to arise with workforce changes.
- Optimize and automate actions so that leave administrators can perform their jobs more effectively and securely.
- Identify situations and create safeguards where humans tend to experience confusion, make mistakes, miss deadlines, or draw faulty conclusions.
- Find new ways to minimize risk and exposure in the organization’s leave management programs.
- Learn better ways to accommodate and communicate with employees and predict their needs upon return to work.
- Facilitate better outcomes through risk mitigation derived from patterns in certain conditions, and reduce worker’s compensation claims by providing a safer work environment.
For all its benefits, AI does come with inherent risk. HR professionals generally strive to avoid over-generalizations, profiling, and stereotypes so they can apply policies and enforce them fairly. Conversely, AI has the potential to generalize in order to identify patterns and correlations within data. Additionally, large amounts of data are bought and sold in the global marketplace, which brings data privacy concerns to the forefront.
As a result, it’s critical to support and protect the rights of your employees, seek out tools that collect and manage data properly, and establish workplace boundaries that preserve privacy and dignity.
Organizations that are already struggling to staff and meet requirements around leave will find that the future landscape of regulation will become even more complex. Adding to governmental pressures and privacy requirements will be another layer of employee expectations and their “user” experiences. Potentially, employees will demand prompt review of their cases and 24-7 access to “their own” information. These demands will require employers to evolve, if they haven’t yet, from a manual system to an employee-centric solution that also checks all the boxes for compliance.
As the late, great Stan Lee said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As artificial intelligence continues to open new doors in technology and data, we must be vigilant in our role as protectors, but also explore how we can integrate it into our programs. Join us for our session at the 2020 DMEC Compliance Conference to discover the potential benefits and pitfalls of AI. You’ll leave Boston prepared to capitalize on the benefits of AI while avoiding the risk.