Adoption is at the Heart of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is quite rightly a priority in boardrooms worldwide. While there is still some way to go – for instance, the latest UK Government statistics say the median gender pay gap is 9.71 percent – those of us in HR know the goal, and we know why we want to achieve it.
The benefits from DE&I are clear: it boosts corporate responsibility, opens up opportunities to people who may have been denied them for generations, expands the pool of available candidates and skills, and introduces the creativity, experience, and opportunities that people with fresh backgrounds and perspectives provide. What’s needed are the strategies, processes, and tools to match.
Tech can be a major part of supporting DE&I – assuming it’s used in the right way. There are plenty of horror stories of technology working against DE&I – such as certain artificial intelligence that can amplify existing and unconscious bias when recruiting new team members, to the extent that governments have taken action. But there is also much more technology designed to amplify DE&I efforts – whether in recruitment, training, or monitoring progress. The question, as it should always be when attempting to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, is: is what we’re doing enough?
Not only an HR issue
DE&I doesn’t stop with the hiring process, and it definitely doesn’t stop with HR. Instead, it needs to be considered and built in at every point in an individual’s career, and at every point at which employees interact with the business. HR might be responsible for the majority of employee interactions, and so have the greatest visibility into and overall responsibility for DE&I efforts. But these efforts will only succeed if they involve the entire organisation.
For instance, we’ve seen that technology can play a key role in supporting DE&I initiatives. But more than that, the technology function itself has a major part to play. The heart of DE&I is taking into account the differences between people from different backgrounds and identities and giving each individual the support they need – after all, there’s a reason it’s called equity, not equality. Different team members may need different levels of individualised support. This means that when a business hires people from different backgrounds or identities, as well as neurodiverse candidates, it will see an extraordinary variety of technology experience and aptitude. And unless hiring for a specifically technical role, it’s near-impossible to expect every employee to have had access to the same opportunities to develop their digital skills.
Giving each person the same level of support and advice for adopting and using new or existing technology isn’t enough: some will still be left behind, while others will feel stifled that they aren’t allowed to proceed at their own pace. It’s the same as offering to translate business terms or jargon – some employees will welcome the help, others will feel patronised. Instead, employees need to be free to use technology and tools at their own pace, confident that help is there when they need it. This is why Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) that use machine learning and automation to provide step-by-step on screen guidance to employees while analysing user behaviour across applications are gaining popularity. They can identify where exactly a user needs help and provide contextual support along with a unified digital employee experience across complex tech stacks. Gartner even positions DAP as a DE&I Technology in its report "Innovation Insight for Digitally Enabled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion."
Looking beyond the obvious
Digital Adoption is just one example of how making technology more accessible and easy to use precisely in the way it was intended can boost DE&I efforts. Other tools such as translation software can be used in the same way – presenting complex concepts in simpler, more understandable forms or even a different language for non-native speakers. Similarly, it’s possible to look at what else technology can do beyond its intended purpose, and in service of it.
For instance, some organisations have expanded the concept of DAP to create accessible guides to every function in their business, from tech support to pay and booking holidays, so everyone receives the information they need and no one is left behind due to their digital dexterity. DE&I strategy must span across policies, communications, and technology.
As enterprises enact their 2023 DE&I initiatives and prepare for 2024, more and more are looking at ways to enact human-centric technology. Businesses are investing in technology that will resonate with employees and enable a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organisation. Technology is powerful, and the future is bright for a truly more inclusive digital workplace in which everyone can succeed and contribute to positive outcomes in their organisations.