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Most Important Developments in HR for 11/1

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HBR is running a series of articles tackling the conundrum of AI and bias. They’re worth a read for any HR pro considering using AI in hiring, and even for those who aren’t. In these early days of AI and its massive implications for HR, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s what. Every day it seems there’s a new “definitive” study that points in the opposite direction of the study that came out the day before. First you read that using AI to pluck the best candidates from a sea of resumes is the best way to avoid bias in hiring. The next day, that’s flipped on its ear by something like Amazon’s AI recruiting and hiring tool that was found to be biased against women. Eerily enough, it couldn’t be reprogrammed to eliminate bias even by the best minds in the tech world — it kept finding ways around the new programming to return to its biased ways, so it had to be scrapped. So, what are we left to believe about AI for hiring? Does it promote or eliminate bias? The HBR series looks into it. Harvard Business Review

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It seems obvious that, for a company to succeed, it needs the right products. But many people believe the right culture is just as important. A prime example is a new book called “What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz, of the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz uses some unexpected examples as his case studies — Genghis Khan, Japanese samurai, and a reformed gang leader called Shaka Senghor. Thankfully, the book is not the orgy of macho chest-thumping that these examples might suggest. Mr. Horowitz draws some thoughtful lessons from each of his case studies. Take Genghis Khan. He is best known for his rapid conquests and bloody massacres but the leadership lesson that the author draws relates to Genghis’s meritocratic approach. He was willing to promote people from conquered tribes and allowed religious freedom in his empire. The only condition was allegiance to his rule. The underlying principle is that culture cannot just be a pious-sounding mission statement in the annual report. It has to be expressed in the form of actions on a daily basis. As Mr. Horowitz writes “You can’t pat yourself on the back for treating your employees ethically if you’re simultaneously lying to your customers because your employees will pick up on the discrepancy and start lying to each other.” The Economist

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Now in its 29th year, the Workforce Optimas Awards celebrate HR’s success at solving some of the biggest business challenges of our time. Each year, the Optimas Awards are given by Workforce to recognize human resources and workforce management initiatives that achieve business results for the organization. Some of the winners this year: Clemson University’s talent acquisition team blended high-tech and recruiting by using virtual reality alongside its campaign to build a national pool of candidates. The Panda Restaurant Group Inc. sought to strengthen its leadership pipeline through a new training program that caters to the different ways in which employees learn. The General Excellence award went to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for its Student Poster Symposium. The fierce competition for STEM talent meant that the national security laboratory is constantly looking for new ways to provide opportunities for and create relationships with high-level tech talent. Its efforts to enhance its internship program and improve its hiring pipeline through a comprehensive and inclusive internship program showed excellence in the categories of Corporate Citizenship, Innovation, Managing Change, Partnership, Recruiting, Training, and Vision and place it among this elite group of organizations. Workforce

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We’ve been saying employee experience is the new laser focus of HR, and the HR People + Strategy Strategic HR Forum, held in Boston this week, seems to prove that theory. In case you missed it, the conference topic was “The New Employee Experience.” The whole premise was exploring the question: In this ever-evolving landscape where disruption is the norm, how do HR leaders respond to challenges and prepare their organizations for the future? The answer is today’s current HR buzzword: EX. The employee experience. Speakers included Josh Bersin, who said that employee experience design may be one of the most important innovations in our thinking about HR, and highlighted trends, practices and strategies to optimize it; and former editor in chief of USA Today Joanne Lipman, who talked about what life is like in the workplace post #MeToo. A panel from Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard talked about pay inequities and what to do about them. Two days packed with the hottest issues in HR today, all pointing to EX. HRPS

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The Golden State recently signed into law Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) that will change the landscape of the gig worker economy. Stemming from the groundbreaking court decision established in Dynamex West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, the California Supreme Court found Dynamex’s workers were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. In a unique twist, the court shifted the burden to the nationwide courier and delivery service to prove their drivers were not employees by using the “ABC test.” Under this new test, an individual is presumed to be an employee, unless the employer can prove all of the following: (A) the worker is free from the company’s control (B) the worker performs work that isn’t central to the company’s business and (C) the worker has an independent business, trade or occupation in that industry. Many employers view this new law as a nightmare and gig workers feel it’s an attack against their freedom and independence. Supporters emphasize the benefits and protections gig workers will receive such as health care subsidies and a guaranteed $12 state minimum hourly wage, but fail to address the consequences of the new law. Forbes

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