When the pandemic hit all of us in 2020, many of us had the privilege to move our workplace to our home and had time to introspect. This also proved to be a time when organizations went into their own introspection mode and one subject which was not in focus for many years and came in the limelight was: DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).
While DEI is a common buzzword in many corporate articles now, many fail to comprehend its exact meaning. I had heard this party analogy on DEI somewhere which made it easier for me to understand the subtle difference.
“Diversity is like getting invited to a party, inclusion is contributing to the playlist and equity means getting an opportunity to dance.”
The spotlight now shines brightly on DEI. It’s become an integral part of every company’s vision and strategy. It has also become a critical part of the increased focus and alignment of corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies as DEI initiatives fall under the Social and Environmental components. The driving force for this paradigm shift in perspective is primarily due to data and technology. Almost all companies dug deep into their own workforce data and put forth on the table insights into their gender ratios in the workforce, hiring, pay parity, promotions, rewards, growth opportunities, benefits and more. These insights were ably complemented by the research articles provided by universities, consulting companies and academicians.
While DEI is in focus now, we will need to continue to harness technology in the future to make DEI a sustainable reality. Delving deeply into your workforce data and enabling technology toward achieving this, can help you in approaching DEI in a better manner.
Below are some points where data and technology can add genuine value:
- Avoid tokenism: While everyone appears to be talking about DEI, the issue of under-representation can’t be just resolved through random hiring without much thought. While having quotas and doing hiring are well intended measures, this focus needs to be complemented by an organization wide mindset transformation. Companies need to mobilise their workforce and curate several DEI programs so that this is deeply ingrained and is sustainable in the future. Companies should take a fresh look at their numbers on hiring, promotions, reward & recognitions to evaluate if the DEI efforts are happening in pockets or is it spread uniformly across all levels of the organization.
- Emphasize Learning: Companies go through a lot of hiring at the junior level which naturally results in a huge influx of diverse talent. However, the pipeline of this diverse talent starts dwindling at the mid-and senior-management levels which impacts the diversity within leadership. The corporate mindset transformation that is necessary for driving an effective and successful DEI program needs to be a top-down priority, first embraced by the most senior leaders. Companies need to collaborate with technology backed learning platforms so that this group continue to reskill and upskill themselves and rise in the management cadre. Evaluation of the internal learning offerings data can provide great insights in the technical and behavioural skills gap and career development programs on mentoring, reverse mentoring, workshops by leaders etc. should be designed to provide them accelerated pathways to leadership.
- Inclusive language: This is a small point but has far reaching impacts. Companies should avoid using and publicizing language like “diversity hiring” etc. as it has a bias connotation to it. Each leader should be addressed as a leader and not as “Women Leader” or an “LGBTQ leader”. The language used on the corporate websites and internal portals – as well as the company policies and handbooks should be gender neutral. Many new day Human Capital Management solutions, also provide the flexibility to share the array of gender pronouns and add further to the list of genders apart from simply “Male” and “Female”. This instantly promotes a culture of inclusion, increases awareness, and reduces assumption of gender identity.
- Make Policy changes: One major indicator of a successful company is attrition, and all companies invest a lot of time and effort evaluating their attrition. Data churning and evaluation of employee exit reasons can generate valuable insights on best policies on hiring, leaves, working models, benefits, promotion, and many more. Making small tweaks in your policies to introduce flexibility will go a long way toward creating a truly inclusive workplace.
- Reduce bias: Automation in your processes can go a long way in reduction of bias at the workplace. Intelligent recruitment tools having AI/ML capabilities can result in gradual elimination of biases. Blind screening during the recruitment process and gender-neutral job descriptions will reduce the chances of bias in the process. Periodic training on unconscious bias to the manager focusing on topics like implicit bias during performance review can help tackle the issue of bias and stereotypes.
DEI goes beyond gender, it’s about valuing and respecting differences, diverse opinions, and varied but distinct values. Leveraging data along with key technology tools at our disposal will help companies design innovative and sustainable solutions to celebrate and promote diversity and reduce the imbalance in roles in the corporate world.