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12/09/2021

Nike, CVS, Walmart, and More Move to Lessen Algorithmic Bias from Workforce Decisions

More than a dozen leading employers adopting criteria to mitigate data and algorithmic bias in human resources and workforce decisions. Learn what this means for artificial intelligence and the retail industry.
Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Nike, Walmart, CVS Health, and Under Armour are among more than a dozen leading employers adopting criteria to mitigate data and algorithmic bias in human resources and workforce decisions.

The goal of responsible data and artificial intelligence (AI) practices includes cutting bias from recruiting, compensation and employee development.

Companies Adopting the Safeguards

  • Nike
  • Under Armour
  • Walmart
  • CVS Health
  • American Express
  • Deloitte
  • Diveplane
  • General Motors
  • Humana
  • IBM
  • Mastercard
  • Meta
  • Nielsen

The participating companies are members of the Data & Trust Alliance, established in September 2020. The new organization seeks to bring together leading institutions to learn, develop and adopt responsible data and AI practices. Alliance members share a common belief that data and intelligent systems will be critical for creating economic and societal value in the coming era, but must be deployed responsibly. 

“As businesses transition from ‘going digital’ to becoming ‘data enterprises,’ it is imperative to unlock the value of data and AI in ways that earn trust with every stakeholder,” said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart, and the current chairman of Business Roundtable. “Developed and used responsibly, these systems hold the promise of making our workforces more diverse, more inclusive, and ultimately more innovative.”

Alliance members are increasingly applying data, algorithms and AI to identify talent in larger and more diverse candidate pools, to better match the right talent to the right opportunities and to personalize each employee experience. Like most employers, they rely on software providers, professional networking sites, consultants and recruiting firms that are increasingly employing AI and machine learning in their products and services. While embracing these new technologies, member companies also identified potential unfair bias as one of the highest risks associated with using them to augment workforce management.

That concern led the Alliance to design its first initiative, “Algorithmic Safety: Mitigating Bias in Workforce Decisions,” to help companies evaluate vendors based on their ability to detect, mitigate, and monitor algorithmic bias. Member companies can now supplement their respective vendor evaluation processes with education and criteria to evaluate suppliers of HR applications and solutions on their commitment to algorithmic safety, as well as a qualitative scorecard and guidance for integrating the Algorithmic Bias Safeguards into their processes.

The companies adopting the Safeguards collectively employ more than three-and-a-half million people.

“None of us want to lose out on the right opportunity or the right person due to incomplete, inaccurate or biased data sets,” said Monique Matheson, EVP, chief human resources officer, Nike. “The work of this cross-industry, multi-disciplinary team of leaders and deep subject matter experts is designed to create an equitable playing field for all.”

The Alliance’s Algorithmic Bias Safeguards include 55 questions in 13 categories that can be adapted by companies to evaluate vendors on criteria including training data and model design; bias testing methods; bias remediation; transparency and accountability; and AI ethics and diversity commitments. Evaluation criteria were developed by a cross-industry working group of member company experts in human resources, artificial intelligence, information technology, procurement, legal, and diversity, equity and inclusion. The criteria were then tested and refined with input from leading HR and AI vendors, as well as more than 200 subject matter experts from business, academia and civil society. Education materials provided by the Alliance will help familiarize human resources, procurement and other professionals with algorithmic bias and to help improve their criteria and selection processes.

“As we accelerate our digital transformation, we also have to ensure that the way we are using data and AI is consistent with our values,” said Laurie Havanec, chief people officer, CVS Health. “Our work to mitigate bias in human resources and recruiting will help us build the more diverse and inclusive teams that we know will produce better results for our companies and our communities.”

Data & Trust Alliance

The Alliance, a not-for-profit consortium, is co-chaired by Ken Chenault, general catalyst chairman and managing director, and former American Express chairman and CEO, and Sam Palmisano, former IBM chairman and CEO. Jon Iwata is the founding executive director.

“The Data & Trust Alliance is a promising example of the business community embracing responsible innovation, forging a path for both established organizations and start-ups to build thriving businesses that align with and contribute to the long-term interests of society,” said Chenault.

“The companies that formed the Data & Trust Alliance come from a broad range of industries, but they have several things in common. They are staking their future on innovation. They are innovating their products, services and operations by embracing data and intelligent technologies. And they care deeply about earning trust with their full spectrum of stakeholders,” said Palmisano.

“Many today are focused on the theory and policy of responsible data and AI, and that is important work. The Data & Trust Alliance is focused on application,” said Iwata. “We are about changing the practice of business through real-world innovation. Our only measure of success is adoption by practitioners in business.”

Data & Trust Alliance member companies span 15 industries, operate in more than 175 countries, and generate more than $1.5 trillion in annual revenues. Additional information on the Alliance and the safeguards are available at dataandtrustalliance.org