Diversity has long been an important consideration often without a clear solution. The issue of balancing the workforce with the right talent while still providing a culture that hires equally across different categories of a working population like, sex, age, race, religion, etc has been a tough one to solve. Although the discussions and tribulations on the matter have been going on for decades, companies face a new working paradigm that promises to change much of how traditional workplaces have operated in recent times.
The promise of digital transformation has led to companies across the globe line up to digitalize their business processes. This has not been done without due consideration as such transformation processes help companies create better customer value and, more importantly from an HR standpoint, build more effective people management practices. But to know more about how digital transformation can probably benefit D&I initiatives, it's perhaps important to look at how the digitalization of business processes itself benefit from a diverse workforce and an inclusive work culture.
Digitalization and diversity
The scope of digitalization has been immense in recent years. While startups like Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber have been able to completely revolutionize their respective sectors and using a fast-responding digitally-driven agile work culture, others have successfully adopted such techniques to reshape market shares and build better services. Companies like Netflix, once a DVD renting companies has been become a global content company by successfully leveraging the prowess of digital technologies. But it's not only the technology side of digital transformation that ensures success. An even more critical aspect is that of the company culture. A culture that, among other vital aspects promotes diversity and inclusion.
Digital technologies are actively helping companies to reach their customers in better, more effective ways. Never before has a business to customer conversation been so robust as in the current age of digital connectivity. As technologies actively shape customer preferences, companies too need to respond by evolving their business practices. Technology can help predict such shifts. But to leverage such insights, companies need a diverse workforce and a work culture that inclusive enough to ensure different voices find their way into the decision making process. That is a necessary cog in a machine that propels innovation within them and enables risk-taking and reflection of demographic-specific preferences. Customers, with their varied demands, require companies that better understand them. Although nuanced software programs like AI and data analytics can help build robust predictive mechanisms, companies require a diverse workforce to create more value for their customers. And that has proven to be key if brand differentiation and influences the bottom line performance.
Moving beyond the business case
The hindrance often in cases of implementing a dynamic D&I framework has been what many call lack of a ‘business case’. From new-age startups to big businesses, for many a supposed lack of ‘business case’ proves as a major roadblock. But in the current digital age, that is been noted to be far from the truth. However, there have been a multitude of studies including one by Mckinsey, that make the case for D&I, and similarly for digital transformation. In case of ensuring more women employees making it top positions within the company, for example, Catalyst research shows that companies with a higher percentage of women in executive positions have a 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those that do not. Another Catalyst study found that companies with the most women directors outperform those with the least on return on invested capital by 26 percent. This while numerous other studies have shown robust and effective D&I initiative help companies make necessary changes across its internal functioning and external performance.
What often lacks today is ensuring D&I initiatives are successful is the one size fits all approach that many employers take towards building a diverse workforce. It is high time companies move beyond the generic ‘hiring to meet numbers’ and look at how diverse and inclusive work culture can promote organizational efficiency and bring in better decision making.
In a recent post, Bernard Coleman, the head of diversity at Uber reflected on the issue by adding that “D&I requires a well-considered, consistent strategy, not knee-jerk reactions or disparate initiatives.” A similar issue with when it comes to a digital transformation where companies often try to hit the numbers without looking at how effective the change has been. This is one area where today HR professionals are greatly benefitted by using digital technologies. In areas such as hiring, talent development, and creating an overall inclusive culture which promotes diversity, technology can be a great ally. Companies can identify the right talent pools, tackle unconscious bias, provide a safer work environment, and create development routes and opportunities that are better accessible by using technology more effectively. The connection between the two, undertaking digital transformation and building the right D&I practices has never been stronger.