So can AI review human performance?

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Lord Mark Price, below, Founder of WorkL, on the introduction of using AI for employee performance reviews

This week we’ve seen a Wall Street business leader announce that AI will now be used to facilitate employee performance reviews, a move that has created an avid debate – will Line Managers be surplus to requirements in the near future?

For starters, this is a bank using AI to assess an employee’s performance, and given that banks already use AI across many areas, such as for detecting fraud, I’m not surprised by this latest sector development. It’s a time-cutting and cost-cutting exercise to make business operations more efficient. However, questions arise about how accurately AI can write a performance review, compared to that of a human Line Manager, who knows the employee.

I’m a big believer in embracing technology to improve productivity, but not at the cost of a valued employee. A well-looked-after employee will ultimately help increase the commercial success of a business. For example, they’ll take fewer sick days and work harder, if they feel valued. If the value of an employee is therefore left for a computer to make, the sentiment that an employee will have toward their employer will no doubt be impacted negatively. We all know those inspirational Line Managers who have helped us out throughout our career, offering valuable, personal feedback during reviews. This is something that AI just won’t be able to make. Instead, they’ll be juggling figures to see if the employee has done a good job. I can’t see AI taking into account difficult decision-making and team camaraderie.

If the computer delivers a negative performance review, employees will surely be looking to discredit the AI used. Discrediting a Line Manager’s opinions will always be harder than discrediting a computer.

So, will we see performance reviews written by AI soon? I doubt it. At least in companies who look after their employees and value them. If AI is going to be used to make business more efficient, I’d suggest putting money and effort into employee engagement surveys, to monitor employee sentiment to ensure employees are happy. A happy employee will ultimately drive commercial success, and I don’t see AI-written performance reviews for employees bringing much happiness to our workforces.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024