How Does Business Technology Impact Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace?
Diversity management strategies are about more than just ticking boxes. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, gender-diverse businesses are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, whereas racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same.
It’s no wonder that diversity management is such a hot topic these days — and has been for quite a while. Today, we’ll dive into the impact of diversity management, but first, let’s clarify what we’re talking about.
So, what is diversity management?
Simply put, diversity management is the practice of embracing different types of people within a workplace as a positive asset. Diversity within a workplace typically encompasses factors like race, ethnicity, gender, age, language, nationality, religion, education level, socioeconomic situation, physical and mental abilities, and even personality traits.
In the business world, the term diversity is often used in conjunction with inclusion. In fact, you can often see the two terms abbreviated as “D&I.” Inclusion is the environment that organizations create to support these differences. As diversity advocate Verna Myers puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Today, diversity is a business imperative. Luckily, technology can help companies pursue diversity management. Here are five ways business technology impacts inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
AI Can Reduce Biased Language in Job Posts
Recent research shows that job ads are often biased. Many of them contain words that are connected to gender stereotypes. For example, in male-dominated industries like IT, employers often highlight male-oriented words such as “aggressive” and “confident,” which can unconsciously deter female candidates from applying. In contrast, job listings that tend to appeal to women usually include words like “enthusiastic” and “collaborative.”
Gendered wording can limit the candidate pool and further contribute to gender inequality. Research has also shown that listings advertising higher paying jobs typically include more masculine words, whereas lower-paid jobs generally use feminine words.
Effective diversity management takes advantage of tech-enabled solutions to eliminate this subtle bias. According to Diversity & Inclusion in Tech, a practical guidebook by Atomico and Diversity VC, AI-powered tools can rate a job listing’s neutrality, flag gender-biased language, and suggest alternative wording.
Technology Supports Remote Working
About 16 million U.S. knowledge workers started working remotely in March due to COVID-19, and that number has likely grown since. However, remote work isn’t a new concept. Even before the pandemic, around 16% of the total workforce made use of cloud technology, remote desktops, and video-conferencing tools to work remotely at least some of the time.
Remote work offers many benefits, including the potential for an organization to hire a more diverse workforce. That’s because a remote company’s hiring pool isn’t limited by geography. Instead, employers can choose the best talent, regardless of where they happen to live.
Remote work also accommodates a wider range of people. For example, people with disabilities can work in an environment where their disabilities are unlikely to be perceived. With remote work, there’s less judgment based on external factors and more focus on what a person can achieve. According to a GitLab study, over 80% of workers with a disability or chronic illness feel that working remotely allows them to contribute to the workforce.
Modern Tools Prevent Discrimination in the Hiring Process
Evidence suggests that candidates with “white-sounding” names tend to land more interviews. It should come as no surprise, then, that job applicants from different ethnic backgrounds are increasingly “whitening” their resumes. Candidates that withhold their race are twice as likely to get a call back than those who don’t, even from companies with diversity management strategies in place.
The reason for this is simple: recruiters typically favor candidates with whom they identify. And the majority of HR professionals are white women. Concealing irrelevant information can help hiring managers suppress unconscious bias and select the best candidates based on their skills.
There are plenty of tools that can help with this; some match applicants to job descriptions based on the closest fit while others hide candidates’ names, gender, and other information that might be discriminated against by HR managers’ unconscious bias. Tech-based solutions also allow employers to test applicants via blind assessments, which ensures diverse candidates aren’t screened out before they even have a chance to showcase their abilities. Having a versatile HR workflow tool can allow HR departments to create a documented process for keeping themselves in check.
Machine Learning Flags Prejudice in Performance Reviews and Wage Disparity
Many employees believe their performance evaluations are unfair. Research shows that they’re often right to feel hard done by. One study discovered that women are 1.4 times more likely than men to receive critical subjective feedback in performance evaluations, which can hurt their career progression.
Fortunately, machine learning can help promote diversity management in performance evaluations. For starters, algorithms can identify the most relevant colleagues to give performance feedback depending on where within the organization they work and with whom they interact.
These algorithms can also flag biased language in written performance reports and point out if a review doesn’t match the rating, prompting the reviewer to either change the language or the score. Some tools can identify if someone is obviously rewarding specific demographics above others.
Intelligent automation can also sort through countless data points and provide important insight into compensation patterns, revealing any pay gaps within a workforce.
Technology Makes It Easier to Offer Personalized Training
Roughly 8 in 10 employees say on-the-job training is important to them. However, a “one-size-fits-all” teaching approach doesn’t quite fit into the modern workplace. Every person working within a diverse organization will have different learning preferences, abilities, and roles. Learning and development platforms make it possible to meet each employee’s specific needs by offering personalized career path planning and targeted skill development.
Personalized human capital management tools can also match employees with potential mentors, both inside and outside of an organization, based not only on their skills but also on their personality traits. Technology can provide support for in-person training, too. For example, certain apps allow individuals to ask questions anonymously or show the instructor topics that many people find interesting.
Training programs can also help create a more diversity-friendly culture within an organization by assisting employees in eliminating unconscious biases. For instance, some tools offer micro-training (which includes interactive training and quizzes) to disrupt bias. In contrast, others highlight problematic words (like “bossy” and “dramatic”) within communication platforms and offer alternatives.
Although not yet mainstream, virtual reality could eventually help employees understand their diverse colleagues better and teach them how to deal with specific situations, like microaggression. For example, in 2018, Stanford researchers discovered that people who experienced, in virtual reality, what it would feel like to lose their job and home, were more empathetic towards homeless people. There’s no reason why virtual reality couldn’t be used to help employees understand the experiences of their co-workers with different identities and backgrounds.
Individuals and Businesses Alike Benefit from Diversity Management
No one wants to work in a toxic environment that makes people feel unwelcome because of who they are. It makes sense, then, that two-thirds of job seekers consider whether a company has a diverse workforce before accepting an offer. Moreover, more than half of employees think their employers could be doing more to diversify the workforce.
Having a diverse workforce is beneficial to business results and ROI, too. Socially diverse groups have been proven to be more innovative. According to the World Economic Forum toolkit, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0, companies that lead in diversity are 30% better at spotting and reducing business risks and 25% to 36% more likely to outperform less diverse companies on profitability.
Promoting workplace diversity is a win-win scenario. Implementing diversity management strategies doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with the help of modern technology.
About the Author
Laura Martisiute is a freelance writer with Optimist. She’s a content marketing specialist with years of experience diving deep into the latest research on technology, business strategy, and marketing.