Conversations about diversity began around 1948 when President Truman officially integrated the armed forces with Executive Order 9981, thus making discrimination based on 'race, color, religion or natural origin' illegal for all members of the armed services. More specifically at the workplace, over forty years later as we saw the tech boom in full swing, there were media stories at the San Jose Mercury News and CNN Money investigating the state of workforce diversity at Silicon Valley. Of course, most companies under investigation managed to block the release of the data from the U.S. Department of Labor then, claiming that the data fell under the realm of 'trade secret' and that releasing it would cause 'competitive harm.' It was only in 2014 when Google released its first diversity report … and there has been no looking back since; and, rightly so.
Undoubtedly, there is a clear business case for diversity, and the same has only become more profound in recent years. And the data speaks for it – McKinsey research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers; while ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to do so. A Catalyst study outlines that companies with more women board directors report a higher financial performance.
What changed in recent years?
The aggressive advent of technology: While it took decades for the telephone to reach 50% of households before the 1900s; it took five years or less for cell phones to penetrate in 1990. That was just an example of the speed at which technology is being adopted today and as we adapt, we are being exposed to new technology every other month.
Inroad of Internet of Things (IoT): The internet of things (IoT) has allowed inter-connectedness of everything that touches our lives today through a network of physical devices (also referred to as 'connected devices' and 'smart devices'), buildings, and other items which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity. The connectedness allows these objects to collect and exchange data.
Changing human expectations (behavior shift): The first two coupled with the introduction of social media & networking changed human behavior and expectations. The present generation that grew up with this change has a low attention span, is able to learn on their own & are open/ comfortable in trying new things/ experiences.
And here’s why technology is good for diversity at the workplace...
Removing biases in HR (hiring and performance management) processes
Leverage of technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop 'unbiased' algorithm can make talent acquisitive more objective. Often the erstwhile talent acquisition process can be laced with bias that is either conscious (looking at schooling and signs of wealth as factors of intelligence; graduation dates and years of experience to figure out candidates’ age) or bias can be unconscious (seeing an ethnic name, specific address, area code or zip code which indicates race, national origin or even financial status). HR technology has automated the candidate screening process and now relies more on competency, experience & qualification, which is great for ensuring the right candidate gets in and that is good for diversity at the workplace.
Automating the performance management cycle at workplace today has further added to objectifying the process and therefore taking away biases and allowing equal opportunity for promotion for all. And the same time, allowing organizations to get a single view of their talent readiness for present & future growth just at a click. Most organizations today leverage SaaS based cloud systems for performance management and development of talent – therefore completely removing the human element from the process which is the real source of any bias.
Open and real time access to diverse talent pool
Technology is able to give a real-true picture of talent and the use of HR analytics makes it now possible to tap into the right talent sources & also make future predictions. The introduction of Open Diversity Data is a step towards that effort – to make it easier for everyone to better understand the diverse landscape and work toward solutions. Companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Cisco, Microsoft, are already participating and clearly without technology this drive to promote and support diversity the workplace could not have been possible.
Further, IoT and technology have also made it possible to tap into data that is even outside of the active workforce. This opens the doors to a capable and competent talent pool from the diverse region, gender, race etc, who for various reasons may not have had the chance to begin their career in the traditional manner/ timeline. Technology makes flexible and remote working possible which in itself is a great opportunity for, women returning from maternity, single parent and those who are differently abled – while they are capable for a job at hand; they face a challenge in being physically away from home.
Driving the diversity agenda at large
While there is enough evidence of how diversity is critical for enhanced business impact and to bring in the new skills of the transformation age - collaboration, agility, and creativity, most organization are still struggling to make the change happen. Any change requires constant advocacy through constant communication and also showcase it through actions at the workplace. Almost all organizations have a 'Diversity Network Group' to drive change and the virtual/social connectedness made possible through technology has made this journey more effective and therefore successful. Today technology allows us to truly diverse conversations with people spread across regions. The online and social network connects have also given voice to many who may not have had the chance to share before. Now every person is heard and that brings in more transparency in thought and action, making the whole effort towards creating diverse workforce more real. Technology has made it possible for alternate views in projects/ activities to be showcased, thus further adding to the business case for diversity at the workplace.
Technology has made borderless networks and open conversations possible and with business leaders and data scientists now exploring the power of cognitive computing and its impact on talent acquisition and management processes, making this change happen will only be easier. There is already a buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) in the entire HR suite and exciting times ahead in how the convergence of AI and recruiting, talent acquisition, and talent development will surely play a role in creating a diverse workplace like never before.