#SHRMDiv Speaker Spotlight: Q & A with Ben Eubanks, SHRM-SCP


The SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference (#SHRMDiv) is fast approaching and I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity to attend the conference as a SHRM Blog Contributor. Although this will be my first #SHRMDiv experience, I have to admit that I am already impressed by the excellent selection of topics and speakers.

In the course of deciding on which sessions to attend, I reviewed the various topics and looked up some of the speakers. Next, I decided to reach out to a few of them to get some insight on their respective sessions. In these interviews, I learned about the speakers’ backgrounds, conference sessions, opinions on diversity and inclusion, and conference expectations.

The first of my three-part series of “Speaker Spotlight Interviews” was with Mr. Ben Eubanks, SHRM-SCP. Ben is the Principal Analyst with Lighthouse Research, a firm dedicated to uncovering the trends and technologies that drive HR, learning, and talent. At the #SHRMDiv conference, he will be speaking about Artificial Intelligence: The Impact of AI on Bias in the Workplace.

Please tell me a little about yourself, your career, and how you got here:

My journey started as an in-the-trenches HR practitioner where I rose to the role of leading the HR function for a technology startup. Today, I work as a research analyst and technology expert in the HR industry. My firm, Lighthouse Research, performs studies to find out what the best companies are doing in HR, talent, and learning practices. Additionally, we look at the technology providers serving the human resources audience to understand which ones are solving real problems for today's HR leaders. Last year I was approached by a publisher who wanted me to write a book on the impact of artificial intelligence on HR, and the resulting publication, "Artificial Intelligence for HR - Use AI to Support and Develop a Successful Workforce" that comes out later this year has been a tremendous effort in terms of research and writing. When I'm not working, I am the president of my local HR chapter, the co-organizer of my local DisruptHR event, an avid runner, and a dedicated dad of four amazing kids. 

At the SHRM D&I conference, you will be speaking about “Artificial Intelligence: The Impact of AI on Bias in the Workplace”. What got you interested in this topic?

This is a direct extension of the research I have done for the book. Bias is one of the first negative things people hear about AI, which means there is a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. During my session, I'll be covering some of the landscape in terms of AI technology for HR leaders, but I'll also look at how they can improve and impact bias in powerful ways.

Can you tell me about the HR function that has been the most impacted by AI?

Recruiting has been the most impacted to date simply because of the high volume of candidates relative to open jobs. Glassdoor data says that the average job gets about 250 applicants, which creates a lot of opportunity to automate and improve the process. I've also seen great strides in talent management and learning as well. 

In making hiring decisions, proponents of AI state that AI algorithms help to eliminate unconscious biases. How has AI been able to support the diversity and inclusion practices of organizations?

A good example of this is Uber's algorithm for paying drivers. It doesn't consider gender or race when assigning rides or payment amounts—it just works blindly. The same applies when using AI for hiring and screening. Some technologies allow employers to look at candidates (whether internal or external) and weigh them based on merit, not other irrelevant factors. 

How can HR practitioners prepare themselves for the evolving nature of HR technology?

The last chapter in my book focuses on the soft skills that will become increasingly important as we see continued automation. Those skills include creativity, curiosity, collaboration, compassion, and critical thinking. Algorithms are really great at certain tasks, but they will not be able to easily replicate these core human components that make us who we are. We need to hone these while working to understand the AI technologies so we can get the best of both worlds. 

Is this your first time presenting at a SHRM Conference? What do you look forward to experiencing at this conference?

I have presented at the SHRM Annual Conference in the past and I love the energy of having hundreds (or even thousands) of passionate HR leaders in the same room. There is no substitute for that level of excitement. 

What do you hope that D & I or HR Practitioners can take away from your session? 

I hope they realize that AI technologies have the opportunity to be biased just as much as humans are, but they also present us with opportunities to fight bias in ways that we simply can't. Research shows that we cannot see our own biases, no matter how hard we try. If that is true, then we need to look for ways to see them using other tools we have on hand. AI provides a great opportunity on that front. 

Besides speaking at the conference, what else is going on with you?

I am eagerly anticipating my book launch in December and I have been preparing the presales. I'm speaking at quite a few events because this is something that HR leaders are very concerned about, and my goal is to help them answer the inevitable question from their leadership: "What's this AI thing and why does it matter to us?" 

Ben will present Artificial Intelligence: The Impact of AI on Bias in the Workplace on October 22 from 1:15pm - 2:45pm in Rooms 204-207. If you are you interested in learning more about Ben’s work, you can reach out to him on LinkedIn, Twitter @beneubanks, or check out his website.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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