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Why Human Capital Leaders Must be “Accountability Partners” in the AI Transformation

Sharmla Chetty

Sharmla Chetty, CEO of Duke Corporate Education, explores why human capital leaders must guide AI integration, prioritising decency, collaboration, and skill development. As technology reshapes work, fostering a people-centric approach ensures AI enhances human capabilities, rather than replacing them.

In the dynamic landscape of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the potential for fueling annual GDP growth and fostering positive societal impacts is immense. However, it also risks exacerbating inequalities and compromising privacy and trust. Generative AI features alone are projected to add up to $4.4 trillion to the global economy annually. Companies need to consider not only the value of AI to their organisations but also how AI will disrupt their workforce.

Human capital leaders can’t leave the questions around AI just to data scientists or technology teams, we as leaders and experts in human capital own this conversation, and it’s our moment to claim it. Here, I share how human capital leaders can work to ensure AI enhances human capabilities rather than replace them. This involves leading with decency, getting our teams ready for AI and taking a people-centred approach to innovation.

Human capital leaders as accountability partners

As the architects of organisational culture, human capital leaders emerge as essential “accountability partners” in the AI transformation. This proactive role involves ensuring that people remain the focal point, safeguarding against the dehumanisation and displacement of the workforce and steering AI towards enhancing human potential.

Beyond IQ and EQ in leadership, The role of business leaders is evolving dramatically. Edelman’s 2024 Trust Barometer highlights that business is trusted more than governments and the media meaning there is a responsibility to act with care. While traditional leadership traits include intellect (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), the current landscape of rapid innovation demands a third crucial trait, first coined by former CEO of Mastercard, Ajay Banga – decency (DQ).

DQ is an aspect that’s been explored by Banga and William Boulding, Dean and J.B. Fuqua Professor of Business Administration at The Fuqua School of Business. Together, they view DQ as the piece that ensures IQ and EQ are used to benefit society at large.

AI, innovation and automation are changing the face of work and we’re seeing a heightened sense of distrust. Edelman’s 2024 Trust Barometer revealed that most institutions are not trusted to introduce innovations to society. While business leads, it’s still just below 60 per cent (trust is 60 per cent or

above). In this context, leaders need decency more than ever. Leaders must consider not only how AI can benefit their organisations, but what are the implications for society and employees.

A people-centric approach to AI integration

While AI can improve productivity, it cannot replace the benefits of bringing diverse individuals together to solve problems from different perspectives. Leadership strategies must shift towards a people-centric approach, facilitating collaboration between AI and humans.

Ensuring workforce adaptability and leveraging AI to augment job functions is vital. Over 85% of employees believe they will need training to address how AI will change their jobs, according to a survey of about 13,000 workers across 18 countries by Boston Consulting Group Inc. So far, less than 15% have received any, and this demands our attention.

Another key issue with AI is that it is inherently biased and acts on pre-existing information, meaning it can’t account for future uncertainties. Proactive skill development, with a focus on critical thinking, becomes essential for staying ahead of the curve and effectively managing emerging risks.

Safeguarding against the perils of AI

It’s up to human capability leaders to ensure diversity in the people working on the technology and continue learning and asking questions to educate and create shared understanding. Leaders must create organisations that are willing to learn. Edelman reported that when people feel in control over how innovations affect their lives, they are more likely to embrace them, not resist them. Employees should be brought along on the journey and encouraged to share how AI can assist them in their roles while working within a set of guardrails that the company sets.

We need to devise policies and standards for using AI in the workplace. The borderless nature of AI means regulation and questions of accountability are difficult, so businesses and governments should work closer together to ensure the safety of this technology.

Human capital leaders, by fostering decency, collaboration, adaptability, and skill development, can shape a future where AI aligns with ethical principles. The goal is to create a symbiotic relationship between technology and humanity, where AI elevates productivity without overshadowing the core values and creativity that make us human.

By Sharmla Chetty, CEO of Duke Corporate Education

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