Should HR use AI to better manage workplace investigations?

AI is already proving itself to work admirably in many HR areas - but what about workplace investigations? Does it have a place here too? We ask the questions:

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Apr 12, 2024

Last year, regular readers of TLNT might remember a series we kicked off, where we introduced a number of new HR artificial intelligence solutions, and (after having each on carefully demonstrated to us), gave our assessment of them.

The aim was to show what different AI tools could do for HR professionals.

Since then HR AI has already become a lot more more developed, and it is now making it presence felt in many HR processes.

For instance, it is now used in everything from hiring/recruiting (screening resumes, scheduling interviews, communicating with applicants); internal communications (answering questions about benefits/policies); onboarding; employee retention (spotting indicators that suggest staff might quit) and career planning (analyzing tasks and courses taken to suggest skills to work on and education opportunities).

But what about AI in areas you may not have thought about before?

To answer this question, this week and next week, we’re taking two big HR specialisms, and asking an expert whether AI is really suited.

Next week we’ll be looking at it’s potential role in payroll (so stay tuned for that).

But first up, we’re debating whether AI is suitable for in the complex world of workplace investigations – an area many definitely wouldn’t immediately associate with being linked to artificial intelligence.

To help tackle this topic, we spoke exclusively to Jakub Ficner, director of partnership development at Case IQ for his thoughts on the matter:

Q: AI for workplace investigations – what’s the driver for this?

A: “I think you have to look at what AI can do compared to the current problem of inefficient case management. Effective workplace case management is now a must-have for organizations of all sizes to protect investments in their people, products, and public perception. But human resources professionals often wear many hats, so they don’t have time to spend working on tedious tasks. The problem is, inefficient investigation practices risk mitigation, as well as creating barriers to- or lack of channels for employees to report issues. This has the potential to impact organizations in a variety of detrimental ways – everything from reputational and financial impacts from litigation, misconduct, or mishandled investigations; failing to meet changing and more complex requirements for compliance in recent and proposed regulations; and failing to meet the continually evolving expectations of employees.”

Q: What does this mean from a workplace investigations point of view?

A: “The implementation of secure and private intake channels for feedback, complaints, and issue-raising represents a crucial first step in ensuring any organization meets these aforementioned expectations. The second is to build transparency and trust in how an organization acts on data through its handling of cases. Edelman’s 2023 Trust Barometer report finds 69% of employees indicated a desire to work for organizations where it “reflects my values,” and “stops specific business practices if employees object, and the CEO addresses controversial issues I care about.” A transparent and comprehensive case management system, that includes omnichannel complaint intake and consistent workplace communications around speaking up, can be crucial in streamlining compliance with audits and other external investigations.”

Q: So how exactly can AI help?

“In the context of investigations, AI has the potential to ramp up and scale efforts more quickly through the inclusion of policy adherence and consistency across investigations. An AI assistant can ensure that investigative standards are met during the incident intake process to assist in filing a report, as well as during the disposition process to ensure consistent policy application in case summarization and resolution. Allowing investigators and reporters to leverage AI throughout the entire incident management process can streamline case handling, find efficiencies, reduce errors, and save time. In addition to this, with generative AI “copilots,” HR teams can reduce investigation time and expense by increasing investigator efficiency with case-centric summaries and analyses that also help scale case management processes as the organization grows.”

Q: What about some of the issues with AI?

A: “It’s natural to have questions and concerns with any new practice or technology. Data privacy is a common concern, especially when using AI to analyze sensitive information like medical and personal details. That’s why employers should check the features of any AI tool before using it. Many companies use AI tools to track employee behavior, but employers need to know where to draw the line between being helpful and invading employees’ privacy. For example, a company may require its employees to wear a smart watch to track heart rates, using AI to analyze this data to spot employees who are too stressed. However, if they then use the devices’ location data to track where employees are in the office at all times, it becomes an invasion of privacy. For whatever features you are accessing through AI technology, HR professionals need to ensure they have informed consent from employees before accessing their personal data.”

Q: Can AI actually help with data privacy issues?

A: “Yes it can. An ethical AI-powered workplace case management tool will enable teams to be able to conduct thorough, effective workplace investigations while protecting data privacy. This is possible by only storing and handling case data on credible infrastructure; applying access controls to each case and piece of information; using built-in data privacy compliance as required by HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and creating clear audit trails on each case, showing who has accessed data and the actions they took. Data can also be anonymized.

Q: So should AI really be used in this emerging area?

A: “Yes. HR teams are having to juggle an ever-widening variety of tasks in their everyday work. New workplace AI tools make completing mundane tasks such as writing investigation reports and screening resumes faster and easier, so HR professionals can then focus their efforts on creating a welcoming, ethical working environment.”