For many in the corporate world, over all these years, diversity inclusion was just a fad, an effort by organizations to appear progressive on paper but rarely in spirit. However, it has been gradually evolving into a strategic priority aimed at positioning organizations more competitively in the marketplace.
Before going further into how we can reap diversity for performance and as to how technology will play a role in it, we must ponder what diversity constitutes in the contemporary context. With the changing times, the traditional definition of diversity focusing on attributes such as race, gender, and age has evolved to a much broader definition that includes the entire spectrum of human differences in terms of personalities, beliefs, education and economic strata.
Diversity and performance: Saga or science
With respect to the relation between diversity and performance, there is enormous empirical evidence to the above arguments a, going by the McKinsey (2015) research:
- Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
There are concrete arguments as to why diversity is related to performance:-
- Firstly, competition for the best talent requires organizations to reach out and embrace an increasingly diverse labor pool;
- Secondly, a global economy requires that organizations have a diverse workforce so that they can effectively deal with an increasingly diverse customer base. Thus, a diverse work- force can lead to an increased market share.
As an HR professional, I do believe in the veracity of above arguments and to put it simply, I would say each individual brings a different set of beliefs and opinions to the table — assumptions, generalizations, and perceptions based on personal background and experiences. These differences are part of the strength of diversity. However, the secret lies in managing the diversity initiatives successfully to reap organizational benefits.
So while Diversity has become a CXO-level issue around the world, the question that keeps CXOs awake is how we can successfully manage their inclusion and where does technology come into Play?
Leading organizations now see diversity and inclusion as a comprehensive strategy woven into every aspect of the talent life cycle to enhance engagement, improve brand, and drive performance. Moving in the digital age where technology supersedes everything, it is must for the CXOs to take ownership and drive accountability among leaders at all levels to close the gap between what is said and the actual impact. It is, however important to focus on the initiatives that organizations can take to manage diversity.
With regards to the Role of Technology, in diversity management, there is nothing like technology when it comes to building a truly diverse workforce. Illustrated below are some of the scenarios wherein organizations can leverage the use of technology:
- When an organization adopts innovative technology and practices it gets better insights in terms of what is happening at different stages of recruitment; who does the market attract for which role, how different candidates are reviewed by different departments and managers, and how those candidates progress through the recruitment process down to a granular level of detail. Recruitment technology can monitor job offer rates by specific interviewers, for example, allowing you to uncover conscious and unconscious bias.
- Most progressive organizations are now going online for their recruitment process so that they could cater to the larger potential workforce who may not be able to make it to a physical interview like people with disability, or with different nationalities.
- Just hiring diversity is not enough, technology must be used to monitor and gauge the impact and make continuous improvement; Organisations are investing millions to track how their diversity initiatives have fared.
- Organizations can analyze the available internal data and surveys to understand how people of different demographics fare, how can you bridge gaps, which underrepresented groups have effectively advanced their careers, and how could that impact the development of other groups?
- Even newer technology to include diversity is Rare Recruitment’s Contextual Recruitment System, designed to promote social mobility which will enable organizations to take the economic background and personal circumstances of a candidate into account, enabling companies to identify ‘stand-out’ candidates regardless of background.
- Beyond visibility and measurement, technology can increasingly help remove remaining visible and invisible barriers. One of the most dramatic technology-developments to combat discrimination in recent years is ‘talking technology’ in order to make people more comfortable with English as it is not their first language.
- The least that organizations can use technology for is to develop a well-thought career section catering to different languages and locations to invite and make most of the potential talent across the globe.
Diversity of Customer Base
Whether the focus is B2B or B2C, a socially diverse team is just good business sense: - collaborating with people of different race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, economic status, and life experience help us to reach out to equally diversified customer base across the globe. Organizations thus are focusing on using technology to leveraging diversified customer base as well. Organizations are using technology to design interactive learning sessions and games on cultural neutrality so as to ensure inclusion of not only a diversified workforce but also in turn getting a diversified customer base.
Amid all this discussion around diversity and performance and leveraging technology for reaping the same, the stats on the actual inclusion of diversity are however contradictory. It seems conscious and unconscious biases still hold employers and organizations back. To start with, organizations can contemplate on the following ways to ensure the inclusion efforts are well taken:
- Ensure that top leadership understands the importance of diversity: Hold up top leadership accountable through metrics and transparent reports on diversity in promotion, hiring and compensation.
- Use technology and data to identify problems and measure progress: Analytics can help in identifying a pattern of gender and racially biased disparities in hiring and compensation. These help in removing the biases.
- Move beyond HR: Consider diversity and inclusion as a part of corporate infrastructure like compliance, which is to be practiced by all, ingrained to the very fiber of the company. It should not just be the responsibility of HR.
- Consider global differences: Geographic diversity is increasingly important as more and more organizations are becoming global, however, do note there is no ‘one solution’ for diversity. Inclusion will vary widely from region to region.
This VUCA World that we are living in, old models of diversity and inclusion are undergoing change with baby boomer generation aging and more and more millennials coming in, this trend is expected to accelerate. As employees’ demands shift and diversity receives greater attention globally, the need to broaden the focus on diversity and inclusion to account for the elderly in the workplace will increase. In inclusive organizations, the way people operate will shift, and the everyday language of the business will change.
To summarize, creating change that’s sustainable requires a series of actions at every level, but technology can help effectively improve diversity and fill gaps that currently hold organizations back.
I would like to conclude by saying “With Inclusion of diversity becoming a strategic proposition, technology is becoming a necessity and not an option.”