As originally published in The Globe and Mail.

The race toward artificial intelligence is on. Canadian organizations are increasingly looking at ways to integrate AI in their operations, but many of them haven’t figured out the use cases or how to adopt it responsibly. Adoption of AI among Canadian organizations is less than half of that in the U.S., with only 35 per cent of Canadian businesses saying they currently use AI in their operations versus 72 per cent in the U.S., according to KPMG in Canada research.

Why are Canadian organizations lagging behind their American peers? It’s likely because many are unsure why they need AI or how they would use it – something we hear from clients and prospective clients often.

Statistics Canada’s Survey of Digital Technology and Internet Usage found that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of businesses that haven’t adopted AI yet say it’s because they have not identified how they would apply it to their most pressing business needs.

Yet, when asked about those very needs, our latest global survey of CEOs shows Canadian leaders named strengthening their employee value proposition to attract and retain top talent as their top priority to achieve their growth objectives. AI can play a key role in delivering on this goal – and add value in a host of other areas along the way.

Like most issues, the key to unlocking the employee value proposition is in the data – and that is where AI shines. First off, it can help you attract and identify the right employees to grow your business. Second, it can enhance job satisfaction by providing the tools to work smarter and have more impact. And third, AI has the power to make your organization much more productive, driving growth opportunities for your people.

To attract and retain the top talent available, Canadian companies need to create environments that appeal to all potential candidates.

For most, there’s little debate that diverse organizations generate better ideas and better returns. A 2021 report from BoardReady found companies with more than 30 per cent of board seats held by women saw their revenues grow 54 per cent year over year, Despite the evidence and stated goals, many companies are still struggling to deliver on this. A January 2023 survey from Imagine Canada of Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI, South Asian and Muslim professionals working in Canada’s largest companies revealed there remain large gaps in representation, especially in leadership, particularly among Black and Indigenous people. Only 25 per cent of Black professionals reported having decision-making responsibilities, compared to 96 per cent of white respondents.

A clear cause is bias in the way organizations recruit, retain and reward people. A bias that needs to be weeded out – and AI is a critical tool to understanding that bias and eliminating it.

While organizations have taken steps to eliminate obvious biased language in job descriptions, such as male gender role titles such as foreman or chairman, there are a host of other terms that can deter certain applicants from applying for a certain role.

For example, if a company’s IT department has historically skewed male, hiring managers might rely on company data that shows a historical bias towards male candidates. That data could be used by HR teams to create future job postings, and inadvertently end up using language that appeals more to men, with words such as “aggressive” or “high-performing culture” or phrases such as “reports to the Foreman of Technology.” This skews the hiring process in favour of men. This type of entrenched bias can exist across many departments and many roles.

The reality is, people are biased in favour of hiring people who are similar to themselves or the organization they belong to. This bias not only robs the organization of the talent needed to grow, it also entrenches historical thinking, further disconnecting the company from its customer base. If talent is the key to growing a business, then AI is the key to finding the right talent - but only if the data that underpins AI algorithms is bias-free.

AI systems that are trained on gender-neutral, bias-free data can examine relevant HR datasets and identify patterns or trends that might be missed by human evaluators, including overvaluing job roles historically held by men or undervaluing work performed mostly by women. When built and trained responsibly, AI algorithms can improve the recruitment process by reviewing resumes more quickly and objectively, scanning for specific experiences, filtering specific candidates’ natural traits by applying sentiment analysis to cover letters and even analyze video interviews for non-verbal queues.

It can be used to scan job evaluation tools for gender-biased language and provide more neutral job descriptions to level the playing field for potential job candidates. AI-based systems can also help organizations comply with regulatory requirements (such as the Pay Equity Act) by performing advanced analytics on large data sets that help diagnose compensation models and create anonymized hiring and pay practices. Advanced AI tools can even help quantify the productivity benefit of a more diverse workforce.

But AI is not just a recruitment or job evaluation tool for finding the best and most diverse people - it’s an employee value proposition, especially, if it’s integrated across an organization. AI provides the ability to be more agile, more competitive, more productive and efficient – things that top performers find attractive.

Generative AI - which creates instant content from user prompts – helps employees perform routine tasks quickly and efficiently, allowing them to focus on more high-impact, high-value work. Our recent research shows Canadians who use generative AI tools are saving up to five hours per week, allowing them to take on more meaningful work they otherwise would not have the capacity for.

Because AI has the power to take over repetitive, time-consuming tasks, it will make our employees and, by extension, our economy much more productive. That productivity can drive new ideas and greater growth, maintaining and enhancing our standard of living.

Canadians want to work for innovative, forward-thinking companies that are expanding and provide opportunities for personal growth. Who doesn’t want to be able to have technology take over mundane, repetitive tasks? Who wouldn’t appreciate getting data insights from a simple voice command? We all dream of having the perfect work partner in the digital era – generative AI just might be what we’ve been waiting for.

Canadian organizations that are looking for where to start their AI journey, need look no further than their workforce – their top priority to drive growth.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column.