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Boese: 3 ways workplace tech can advance your DE&I

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast.

As I write this piece in late April, I am in full planning mode for the HR Technology Conference this fall. Part of the process is reviewing, rating and, in some cases, selecting session ideas from the hundreds of formal speaking proposals we receive. It takes me quite a long time, but it is time well spent. Not only do we receive lots of great ideas for the conference, but I also use the process to get a broad overview of the issues facing organizations, as well as how HR technologies are helping meet these challenges. Most years, some themes emerge, and we receive a number of proposals that speak to similar problems and strategies.

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For example, a few years ago when the “get rid of the annual performance review” idea was trending, we received several dozen proposals from organizations that had indeed gone down that path, highlighting the new HR tech tools to support continuous performance management and coaching. This year, after reviewing the large batch of proposals, I see increased attention on diversity, equity and inclusion. While not a complete list, here are three main areas where we see HR tech supporting organizational DE&I strategies.

Listening to Employees

Technologies designed to survey employees have been in place for quite some time and largely had not changed much since they were introduced. Think of all the annual employee engagement surveys you have taken in your career; they probably blend together. More recently, a number of new technologies have revamped the annual survey into shorter, simpler and more frequent check-ins or “pulse” surveys. In the last year or so–and again looking across the hundreds of proposals for HR Tech–another shift is underway to adapt employee survey processes and tools to better understand employee sentiment, specifically on DE&I issues. While this is admittedly not a huge leap in technology–it primarily is a realignment of mostly existing technologies–the RFP data shows that many more organizations are specifically evaluating what employees think of the company’s DE&I position and performance.

See also: Workplace diversity–Is HR doing enough?

Reducing, Removing Bias in HR Processes

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Another primary objective of HR technology used to support organizational DE&I goals is the reduction or removal of biases from HR processes. For example, technologies have been developed that support blind screening of job candidates so that profiles are assessed fairly and that recruiters and hiring managers don’t take into account candidate information that may influence hiring decisions. I’m also seeing increased use and adoption in technologies designed to examine the text of job descriptions, performance reviews and even internal communications like emails to seek out and recommend the removal of words that may come off as negative or not welcoming to certain communities. Over time, organizations can use these technologies to expand their recruiting talent pools and to ensure that internal processes and communications are more fair and equitable and that they promote the organization’s overall DE&I goals.

Evaluating and Understanding Outcomes

The third trend is the area of HR and people analytics. Again, the use of HR technology to better collect, organize, interpret and communicate information about HR data is not a new idea, but what is newer is how HR tech providers and organizations are adapting these tools for DE&I analysis. Many of the leading providers of HR technology, both the large, enterprise providers, as well as the dedicated analytics providers, have created specific, purpose-built reports and dashboards for DE&I analyses. These tools are increasingly important for organizations to better understand where they stand in areas like employee demographics, compensation equity, progression, retention and more–but with the specific intention of obtaining a deeper analysis with a DE&I lens. Finally, these kinds of analytics technologies can help organizations measure the actual impact of specific DE&I programs. For example, the organization can use analytics technology to assess whether using more inclusive language in job advertisements actually does improve the diversity of their applicant pools. Particularly in large organizations, having powerful HR analytics tools is a requirement to understand and improve compensation equity.

Read more from Steve Boese here.

The importance of DE&I to organizations and HR leaders has likely never been greater than it is currently. And as we have seen over time, when there is an issue of increasing focus for HR, the HR technology ecosystem of providers reacts by introducing new solutions or by adapting existing solutions to help. Certainly, we will see many of these technologies and hear from leading organizations on their use at HR Tech this fall.

If your organization is currently considering how HR technology can support your DE&I programs, make plans to attend HR Tech! Register here.