Inclusion, Privacy, and Humans + Technology: Three Meta Themes for 2019

Looking across the social, economic, legal and geopolitical landscape for the meta-themes that will shape talent and assessment in 2019, Capp CEO Dr Alex Linley reports back on what he sees.

1. Inclusion Matters More than Ever - #MeToo!

We may remember 2018 as the year of #MeToo, but as with any social movement, what we see on the surface is only a reflection of tremors that have been building for years. Ensuring equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes has been core to Capp since our beginning over a decade ago. We are proud of the many awards that our clients have won for their work with us to improve diversity outcomes.

Ensuring inclusion across gender, ethnicity and social background are typically the three big focus areas for any organization. These drives for inclusion and diversity can be driven by the core belief that this is fundamentally the right thing to do, while also being encouraged by the social climate or the perception of our employee value proposition. In the United States, we have seen the focus on inclusion being owned by organizational leaders as a direct response to counteract the contrary tone displayed by some political leaders.

In 2019, we expect to see three influences across each of gender, ethnicity and social background that will add to the confluence of factors shaping organizational reactions to diversity and inclusion.

For gender, there will be a maturing of views as organizational leaders recognize that achieving a perfect gender balance may not be physically nor statistically possible when defined by the available talent pools. For example, we heard of one organization that (unwittingly) set an objective that would have required them to recruit every single female STEM graduate from any university north of the River Trent. As these expectations and understanding mature, organizations will set gender objectives that ensure equality and inclusion, but that are grounded in reality rather than political aspiration (however well-intended).

For ethnicity, the challenges of recruiting a diverse and balanced workforce could be impacted significantly by whatever happens to Britain’s immigration policy following Brexit, as well as what residency decisions are taken by foreign nationals who are already living and working in Britain. Globally, we are witnessing differing political and social reactions to population flows that may change the talent mix available. Notwithstanding this, we see continued desire across organizations to promote and harness ethnic diversity across their talent populations.

For social background and the desire for social mobility that follows from it, we expect organizations in 2019 to continue to work to widen their reach to be more inclusive of underrepresented and less advantaged social groups, increasingly using authentic assessment to help them achieve this, rather than relying on outdated target university recruiting.

A new trend that has caught our attention is just what organizations can do to promote social mobility from within, by enabling progression and development for their existing staff, as well as looking to broaden the mix of those they recruit. As Erzsebet Bukodi argues, social mobility in Britain has remained largely consistent for decades, but the real driver of difference is having upward opportunities into which people can progress. Organizations can themselves play a powerful role as agents of social mobility through the opportunities for progression that they afford their staff, and this is an area we expect to see accelerate in 2019 as organizations realize and embrace this difference they can make.

2. Private Property, Keep Out – Privacy is a Growing Theme

The date of 25 May 2018 will be etched into many people’s memories for a long time to come. This was GDPR day, or the day that the new General Data Protection Regulation (EU 2016/679), came into force. Although GDPR is a European Union law, it has quickly demonstrated far wider ramifications and precedents, as data controllers and data processors who interact with EU organizations have recognized that GDPR adherence is incumbent upon them as well.

In turn, this has raised the bar on the ‘norms’ of data protection and personal privacy that individual users can expect – and that organizations expect to comply with.

This is perhaps represented nowhere more than through the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which becomes law on January 1, 2020, and in some cases goes even further than GDPR. The Silicon Valley giants that did so much (unwittingly) to bring privacy issues to the attention of mainstream consumers will now have to contend with this legislation in their home state, with the possible consequence that privacy norms for everyone change (and improve) as a result.

GDPR was the first beacon for individual privacy rights and marked a sea-change in how people think about their individual data rights. This will continue to emerge and evolve as a theme over years to come.

In 2019, organizations that deliver a valuable quid pro quo for an individual’s data will flourish and grow. Organizations that don’t will wither and die, as the balance of rights and responsibilities tilts back against them. And organizations that willfully ignore these new data rights and responsibilities will find themselves becoming the new public pariahs.

3. AI, ML & Algos – or Humans + Technology?

Looking back, we wonder if we will see 2018 as the year when the wonder of AI peaked and the descent of the hype cycle slowly began. As the shrill claims of AI taking over the world and taking all our jobs grew louder, so did the clamour of voices saying that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and algorithms (algos) were not always the answer, and certainly not always the right answer – as argued compellingly by Cathy O’Neil in Weapons of Math Destruction.

In the recruiting world, the risk that the AI can get it wrong garnered a lot of public comment when it was Amazon’s AI that got it wrong – and this from a company that uses AI to get so much right.

Before we descend too far into the trough of disillusionment for AI, let’s be clear that it is an incredibly powerful technology, it just isn’t going to solve every problem known to man. Where we expect AI to make a big difference is in helping us do our jobs better and more easily. AI is going to become increasingly a partner and an assistant, rather than a replacement. It will be something that takes care of the repetitive and the mundane, in the same way that technology has improved our working lives for decades (remember the typewriter and the abacus, folks?).

In 2019, we expect to see a resurgence in interest of how humans can augment technology as well as how technology can augment humans. We have argued for a number of years that ‘humans + technology’ is where the best answers are to be found. We expect this trend to accelerate and become much more visible in 2019.

In practice, this means using AI, ML and algorithms, but also using human wisdom, values and social conscience to augment the recommendations made by technology. This doesn’t mean that we just feed the data into the algorithm and leave the AI to get on with it, but it does mean that we feed the data into the algorithm and have the AI work in partnership with the human to determine what the best decisions and recommendations are. Together, humans and technology will deliver far better results than either could alone.

And it is this, in the final summation, that leaves us optimistic for 2019 and beyond. Have a very Happy New Year!