Google layoffs show AI is now managing Human Resources at companies

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadFeb 27, 2023 | 10:26

Google layoffs show AI is now managing Human Resources at companies

Google layoffs spark debate whether AI will take management decisions in future. Photo: Twitter/SundarPichai

Google just laid off 12,000 people from its workforce in the unending tech winter. During the layoff period, CEO Sundar Pichai also sent out a cheerful email to employees asking them to devote 2-3 hours of their time to test Bard, Google's generative AI. 

AI-assisted layoffs? 

  • The layoffs and the race for generative AI, made some speculate whether Google's decision to axe a massive 12,000 employees was aided by an AI. 
  • Washington Post reported Google employees took to Discord to exchange theories on how the management decided who got the pink slip. Among them was whether a "mindless algorithm carefully designed not to violate any laws" took the decision. 
  • Google employees also used Bard to ask questions on whether the management's way of firing people by email without a thank you or personal note was right.

Q: Should Google fire people via email with no thank you or goodbye?

Bard's reply: No, Google should not fire people via email with no thank you or goodbye. This is a very impersonal way to let someone go.

  • Some also asked whether it was appropriate for Sundar Pichai to ask employees to test Bard after announcing layoffs.

Q: Now, a CEO of that company sends a cheerful email to employees asking them to spend their time playing with their chatbot. Do you think it's appropriate? 

Bard's reply: I understand the CEO's intention to be cheerful and optimistic, but I think it is inappropriate for him to ask employees to play with their chatbot at this time.

  • Interestingly, the layoffs at Google also included some robots that cleaned the cafeteria tables and opened doors. 

  • The robot layoffs were mainly due to the projects being shelved and their teams being laid off or integrated into other research teams.

Will AI be making management decisions?

  • This interaction makes us question whether generative AI like ChatGPT and Bard will be making management decisions for companies in the future. 
  • It's not an implausible theory given that Human Resources around the world already use AI, softwares and algorithms for hiring people and scanning a number of data points to match skills.  
  • But using AI to make layoff decisions is still unheard of. As for Google, it said that it did not use AI to make the recent 12,000 job cuts. 
  • A US survey in January of 300 human resources leaders showed 98% agreeing that algorithms and softwares will be helping them make layoff decisions this year. 

How would AI make the decisions? 

  • Factors such as job performance and even 'flight risk' would be taken into consideration by algorithms to suggest who gets the axe.
  • However, reports have already shown how AI cannot be trusted to make foolproof decisions and are vulnerable to bias. 
  • For example, algorithms could be biased against women on maternal leave grading them poorly on job performance or be biased against minority groups if the culture at the organisation is unwelcoming. 
Last updated: February 27, 2023 | 11:50
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