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Generative AI: Reward Leaders need-to-know guide
Member Interview

Mike Piker urges his Reward peers to embrace AI now. We ask him some probing questions to help those who are considering it.

More than three decades of work in Consulting and Corporate Rewards have taught Mike Piker many things about his profession. He’s also weathered many changes, but one thing has remained constant: “Reward is driven by data – it always has been”.

For this reason – and boosted by various others – Mike is certain that now is the moment for Reward leaders to embrace Generative AI to remain relevant and be ready to ride the wave he predicts is coming to disrupt the profession, and the world, in the next decade.

“AI research has been around for 45 years already, but I definitely think we need to accept it and embrace it right now. It’s going to be the biggest disruptor we have ever seen. It’s also going to be really enthralling and exciting for us all, opening up some many new commercial possibilities with our clients and stakeholders” he enthuses.

With his enthusiasm clearly established, TR2050 grilled Mike with some key questions Reward leaders may be thinking about.

Why should I be investing in AI now? Surely the technology will keep improving and changing, so might it be better to wait?

“I firmly believe this is the right time for Reward leaders to learn and invest in AI, even though there will continue to be more ‘generations’ of AI (this is only the second), much as we see with things like the iPhone. If you have the right tools that can readily adopt the ensuing generations, then it won’t be an issue for your solutions – you won’t need to buy a new iPhone each time!

It matters right now because AI is going to be increasingly important in job evaluation. Key consulting firms who deploy job evaluation methodologies like Mercer IPE, KF Hay Point Factor and WTW Global Grading are already refining and adopting AI into their proprietary technology, not to mention the fact that customers are demanding that firms start adopting this technology now.

If this is the direction of travel, Reward leaders need to have their own internal reward tech tools in place to be best positioned to engage with the wider industry and access the rapidly improving predictive analytics and machine learning that are coming from this. It’s the only way to ensure you continue to remain relevant in the job market that will itself be complicated and challenged by disruptive tech changes.

Also, remember machine learning algorithms ‘learn’ from data as more people use it, so this is fast improving and your usage of it will only add to the insights that so many are helping to produce. You can’t afford to miss that insight.”

Ok I’m convinced – what should I be doing now?

“It’s time to commence a pivot towards sourcing second gen AI HR tech tools that are built with AI from the ground up. Some first gen tools are having AI features retroactively built in which is never going to be the best way to embrace this changing innovation. If you have the right tools, they will be able to adopt the latest large language models and neural networks, and be a better long-term investment.

You also need to review your Reward team and re-organize, especially those in job evaluation and salary structure design because those roles will be supplanted by AI Reward tools. Look at where you can re-deploy and upskill, as well as hiring new talent that can adopt and deploy AI tools as they grow in prevalence within your team’s work.

I also believe it’s important to get an outside perspective at this point too, so reach out to Reward tech applications and the people developing these tools. Meet them to learn more about AI and how it will help your team deliver your service with more impact. This will ensure you are optimising the potential of these new tools and recognising the longer-term plan/journey for the company in deploying them.”

Which tools or companies should I be looking at to spend my money with?

“As one would expect, this market is commercialising as fast as the technology is developing and I sometimes feel almost everyone is out to monetise the rise of generative AI. Be very careful about who you spend your money with and invest in tools that will serve you best over the longer term.

Ultimately, you must do your own research and invest in the tools that your own unique company actually needs. Every business, industry and team is different so you need to decide what suits your unique commercial/ service value proposition. You also need to understand exactly what problem you are trying to solve with the tech you buy, not buying it for the sake of getting an AI tool.”

We’ve heard a lot about the claimed benefits of this AI, but what are the potential risks and downsides?

“I’ll be frank, there are many bad points to be considered when objectively reviewing generative AI. That said, I still believe Reward leaders need to learn to use this technology now before its forced onto you by outside forces. This is the chance to learn and experiment when you have time to do so.

But, there are risks and drawbacks. One of the first issues with generative AI is that the legislation still needs to be put in place. We still don’t have the ‘guard rails’ to ensure its being used ethically nor the legislative parameters for ensuring users are secure and safe. Fortunately, this is in process with the EU and Congress both actively looking into this and a large constellation of third-party experts urging an ethical and safe approach, with clear guidelines and legislation protection. Things are changing.

There is also a perennial issue of gender bias in the large language models and neural networks and the way the technology sorts them, as well as the conclusions reached. We must be wary about introducing yet further bias into systems that are already suffering with their lack of diversity or gender equity.

There is also a US-centric focus to much of the way the tools operate – that is where most were generated in a predominantly white male tech environment – so those using the technology need to treat results with some scepticism and human insight at this stage. Don’t blindly follow but interrogate and probe. Use this as a tool only.

It may sound counterintuitive, but there can also be risks that the more you aggregate datasets. The conclusions drawn may not be conclusive enough simply because there is ‘too much’ data for accuracy or nuance.

Finally, as mentioned above, the frenzy to make money from this is insane! Be careful what you buy and who from.”

Despite his recognition of the risks of adopting these AI tools now, Mike still thinks the risks of not starting to embrace generative AI at this tipping point are higher:

“Over the next ten years, this technology is going to have a huge impact all over the world on every single company and the reward leader that isn’t prepared to embrace the benefits will fall behind – or even find themselves out of a job. I’m really excited about this and am already trying to educate myself about the technology so I can be as useful as possible.

I am also speaking at public events, publishing articles and urging academia to consider adding education on this into the curriculum to ensure the next generation enters the workforce with the skills and knowledge that will be necessary to find work in an AI-powered future.”

Reach out to Mike Piker via TR2050 if you have any questions or would like to find out when he will next be speaking on this topic.

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