Technology and the modern workplace: Cultivating D&I

Top 100 HR Tech Influencer delves into how to leverage technology to foster trust and boost diversity, inclusion.
By: | September 30, 2020 • 5 min read

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is profitability. According to a recent McKinsey study, businesses with gender-diverse workspaces were 21% more likely to attain above-average profit and those that were culturally and ethnically diverse were 33% more likely to outperform competitors.

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See also: HRE‘s Top 100 HR Tech Influencers for 2020

Today’s business landscape is dominated by new solutions to old problems, and it has never been more imperative to take advantage of them, as COVID-19 has made diversity, equity and inclusion issues in the workplace even more apparent. Even before the pandemic, D&I initiatives in the workplace often did not receive the prioritization they deserved even in the most well-meaning of organizations. While the process of building and promoting these values might seem overwhelming, the good news is that not only will doing so benefit your employees and cash flow alike–it is also easier than ever to start the journey thanks to ever-evolving advances in technology.

Related: Hear Dr. Tolonda Tolbert discuss “Culture Matters: How to Interrupt Systemic Discrimination From the Top Down and Bottom Up” at the virtual HR Technology & Exposition.

Author and Top 100 HR Tech Influencer Dr. Tyrone Smith

How does technology help promote diversity and inclusion?

In the past, issues that stymied building diverse workplaces, be they silent inherent biases or something more blatant, were often seen as individual failings or subjective issues. The workforce in general largely reacted accordingly, educating or punishing the individuals in question and not doing the necessary work to get to the root of the issue. Because the larger problem went unrecognized and untreated, however, even prompt action against prejudice was ineffective and did little to create a corporate culture that valued a diverse workforce.

Today, it is generally accepted that the problem of homogenized organizations is largely systemic in nature. This means that instead of exercising defensive action on an individual level, it is possible to assess the main ways in which diversity, equity and inclusion are hindered at a foundational level and utilize tools designed specifically to remove those factors from the equation. A rapidly expanding industry of diversity and inclusion technology has risen to meet this need. Research conducted by Mercer and RedThread Research classified these evolving solutions into four main categories:

  • Talent Acquisition
  • Development and Advancement
  • Engagement and Retention
  • Analytics and Insights

In their detailed report, RedThread Research delves into each of these areas and explores their importance in creating a diverse and inclusive culture and workplace across the business landscape.

Talent Acquisition

Technology can be incredibly helpful when it comes to talent acquisition. Unconscious bias can have a significant impact on hiring and, as a result, many organizations are investing in tools that randomize and “anonymize” resumes and applications. This allows recruiters and management to assess each candidate based purely on their qualifications and independent from such factors as gender and ethnicity. Some solutions even improve candidate sourcing to ensure that qualified individuals from groups typically underrepresented are included.

Development and Advancement

Diverse and inclusive talent sourcing and hiring might be the first hurdle, but it is not the only one. Once talent has been acquired, the next step is ensuring not only that they receive the tools to succeed, but also that they are working for leaders who understand the challenges they might experience in a diverse work environment. According to Forbes, some of the most effective skill-building tools for management and the workforce alike are rooted in virtual reality technology. The goal of this kind of training tool is to provide real-world scenarios of difficulties often faced by underrepresented individuals in the workplace to build empathy and awareness in the office.

Engagement and Retention

Virtual inclusion platforms are an increasingly popular option to support a diverse and inclusive workplace. This kind of technology works by granting employees the ability to share their experiences and allow their voices to be heard without fear of reprisal from management. In turn, it allows decision-makers to take that information and use it to improve D&I policies immediately rather than wait for an annual engagement survey or something similar.

Analytics and Insights

Finally, analytic software is an essential tool for building an organization that values and actively promotes diversity and inclusion. It can be used to analyze pay equity, group management and a variety of other factors that grant insight into the effectiveness of D&I policies in the workplace.

When asked about implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, Mandy Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, said: “Diversity and inclusion issues can’t be solved by simply holding one D&I training, a much deeper look needs to take place within the entire organization and this should be a continued effort.

Companies should take a close look at their policies, processes, procedures and benefits to ensure they are all fair and equitable. They also need to examine the employee makeup and leadership team of their company and ensure they reflect the world around them. Lastly, companies need to hear from their employees about their lived experiences in the workplace to ensure it is inclusive. This is often the tricky part as employees have to trust their organization in the first place in order to share their truth. To foster trust, companies need to be transparent about why they want this information and how they will hold themselves accountable to what it reveals. Companies should explore a data-driven technology platform like Kanarys or a D&I professional to achieve this.

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Price’s company, Kanarys, is changing the way diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are measured and implemented in the workplace. She continued: “Kanarys is working to build a world where there is transparency, accountability and data when it comes to D&I, leaving no room to hide behind the notion that ‘D&I is subjective.’ Through transparency and accountability, the Kanarys platform solution provides a feedback mechanism for companies to continuously improve their diversity, equity and inclusion—ultimately creating a better workplace for all. Kanarys provides benchmarks for companies based on their industry, making it very clear where they fall behind in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion and also provides actionable insights for companies on where they can improve.”

Diversity and inclusion are quickly becoming non-negotiable in the modern workplace, and ever-evolving technological advancements make it easier than ever before to begin building your team. Keep the four areas discussed above in mind as you plan the process of diversifying your organization.

Top 100 HR Tech Influencer Tyrone Smith Jr. is a people operations and workforce analytics Leader at Ryan, LLC, where he focuses on building high-performing teams and collaborating with business leaders.