Enterprise hits and misses - well-being washing and DEI grab workplace headlines, while responsible AI reckons with deep fakes and adoption realities

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 29, 2024
Summary:
This week - DEI and well-being washing are hot topics in the future of work 2024. The AI "revolution" gets called out with practical views on AI adoption. Even Hits and Misses can't avoid Taylor Swift as a deep fake controversy raises responsible AI questions. As always, the weekly whiffs.

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Lead story - Employee wellbeing, and the death of DEI? The future of work in 2024

I struggle with the politicization of workplace DEI ("diversity, equity and inclusion"). I've seen firsthand how effective diverse teams can be.

In my experience, such teams raise tougher questions during the design phases. They also typically do a better job of anticipating a wide range of customer needs/reactions. But that's not a complete business case yet - nor can I take the shrill politicking away.

Cath framed these workplace 2024 issues in a series of notable posts, starting with The death of DEI? Why 2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. After laying out DEI debates, and even some disillusionment with DEI programs, Cath notes:

This would appear to be a pivotal year for DEI in the tech industry. As the vultures circle, it is up to those leaders who understand the benefits of this approach to the business to start embedding it in ways of everyday working rather than just treating it as a nice-to-have or a necessary evil due to legislative pressures.

Cath captures the current climate:

With many companies facing economic and cost pressures, some companies and employees can see DEI initiatives as risky endeavours, which has fueled pushback and uncertainty. Research indicates a rise in legislation targeting DEI and underrepresented populations, coupled with a surge in anti-DEI sentiment. This is prompting business leaders to avoid engaging in public discourse on DEI-related matters, opting for a quieter approach.

And yet, thoughtful public discussions are needed - no small feat. Rethinking metrics with DEI in mind may help. Cath quotes Chandra Robinson, Vice President and Team Manager of Gartner’s HR practice:

DEI leaders are re-assessing metrics with a nuanced approach. Many organizations are exploring a well-rounded approach to evaluating and reporting on demographics and inclusion metrics – innovative measures that have yet to be put into practice, with the aim of gaining a comprehensive understanding of where their challenges actually lie.

But what about overall employee well-being? Cath addressed that next, in Making wellbeing work - why well-intended workplace interventions can go wrong. Looks like well-being gadgets and gimmicks aren't working out so spiffy:

A recent Oxford University study reveals that, despite their popularity, individually-focused workplace wellbeing interventions, such as relaxation and sleep apps, don’t work.

Some are even calling this "well-being washing" - ouch! So what’s the alternative? Surely some type of well-being initiative is useful for a stressed out, overcooked workplace?  Instead of quick fixes, Dr Alexandra Dobra-Kiel of behavioural consultancy Behave, argues for a "total cultural overhaul." If that sounds too ambitious for 2024, Oxford University researcher William Fleming says that applying the right kind of data is promising:

Employers need to do some hard thinking here. But they also need to collect the right data by undertaking stress audits to understand what’s making people feel stressed in the first place. It’s about working with employees to identify problems and come up with the best solutions, which also helps with decision-making.

At least no one Cath quoted said we can solve this with automagical AI. But in fairness, grappling with what data to collect (and how to apply it) is a viable next step.

diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A couple more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Madeline delves into a startup space we are all counting on in Why ecopreneurs need money now to develop cheaper, better and faster climate tech. Chris darn near blew a gasket in AI - creativity means never having to make things yourself, says room full of Important Men. His piece riled me up so much I had to fire up my Jimi Hendrix mix, and Jimi soon took me to places that AI will never touch, no matter what a dorkfest Davos panel might say.

I'll close with good news, of sorts, from Derek: AI is currently too expensive to take most of our jobs, finds MIT researchers. (It's not intelligent enough either, but that's another story). Derek is right to bring cost to the forefront. BingGPT might be free for you and me, but if you're an enterprise, AI sticker shock may factor into your innovation math.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman

Whiffs

Frank Scavo responded:

That's exactly what I take from the VentureBeat article: AI is having a mostly positive effect on tech spending, but it's not enough to make the "macro-economic headwinds" disappear either. "Gearing up for AI" doesn't mean laying people off whose jobs AI can't yet replace. To understand this round of layoffs, we'll have to dig deeper than "AI retooling."

Then there is this Taylor Swift deep fake update, via 404 Media's intrepid reporting:

Microsoft has introduced more protections to Designer, an AI text-to-image generation tool that people were using to make nonconsensual sexual images of celebrities. Microsoft made the changes after 404 Media reported that the AI-generated nude images of Taylor Swift that went viral on Twitter last week came from 4chan and a Telegram channel where people were using Designer to make AI-generated images of celebrities.

Sorry about that "responsible AI 2024 award," but being responsible with AI doesn't mean releasing tools that are prone to exploitation and misuse, and then scrambling for fixes to a moving target. Let's start with the premise that being fully responsible with AI might hurt your tool release timeline (and stock price) and go from there. Irresponsible AI is lucrative but so is multi-level marketing. We can do better...

On second thought - irresponsible AI isn't always lucrative:

See you next time... If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.

Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Businessman Choosing Success or Failure Road © Creativa - all from Adobe Stock.

Disclosure - Oracle, Workday, ServiceNow and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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