Over the past few years, the focus on diversity and inclusion in professional environments has increased significantly. Even with a drive to improve conditions, however, workplaces still struggle to be completely fair and unbiased.
To tackle this problem, automated D&I (diversity and inclusion) technologies were created. By eliminating the need for human intervention, these programmes can be truly neutral when it comes to assessing employees and workplace diversity.
But how much of an impact have they had?
A look into D&I tech
In a study conducted earlier in 2019 by RedThread Research and Mercer, 121 D&I vendors were analysed in order to investigate how technology was being used to promote these qualities in more strategic and efficient ways – and the results were pretty promising.
According to SHRM, “New research shows the D&I technology vendor market is innovating and expanding as companies make pay equity, creating diverse talent pipelines, and building a fair and healthy workplace a priority for not just HR but also managers throughout the organization.”
This increase in D&I technology use spells good things for workers of all backgrounds – but there are still people who are ignorant of what it actually is.
How it works
D&I technology uses data to generate analytics and insights into how diverse and inclusive a company is. In order to do this, the programs take into account the ages of employees, their gender, sexuality, race, and any disabilities they may have, and assesses how much variation there is across the workforce.
What it’s used for
According to the study, there are three main reasons why companies employ D&I technologies. These are: “reducing unconscious bias, especially in support of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce; providing D&I analytics or insights to help guide decision making; and/or addressing inadequately diverse talent pipelines.”
Originally, the tech was devised to help firms adhere to diversity and fairness regulations, but biding by compliance laws is not actually the sole driver for many companies anymore. As it becomes more evident that diverse workforces are beneficial to businesses, a greater number of hirers are utilising D&I technology to ensure better calibre employees.
How it’s driving improvements
“Diversity and inclusion has long been owned by HR, but it’s reached an inflection point where it’s receiving increased attention from business leaders beyond HR, and thus more budget dollars,” said Carole Jackson, senior principal of research and products for D&I at Mercer.
Thanks to this increased focus and funding, D&I technology has been able to reshape workplaces into ones that think positively about the structure of their workforce.
“Rather than just providing one-off training of individual managers in unconscious bias or supporting individuals through employee resource groups, there’s a shift to a more systematic organizational focus and a desire to create scalable change,” Jackson said.
Not all companies providing D&I services are focused exclusively on making businesses more diverse, however.
In fact, only around a third of the D&I technologies in the report are leveraged by businesses whose aim is to actively boost diversity. Another third are used by companies who cater to D&I needs, but more passively – for example, by making all resumes anonymous to deter unconscious bias.
The remainder come from so-called “D&I friendly” vendors: businesses whose technologies are not designed for D&I purposes, but whose features could positively impact change nonetheless (e.g. using AI to select candidates based purely on their professional accomplishments).
The future of D&I technology
Stacia Garr, the co-founder and principal analyst of RedThread Research, admitted that the D&I technology is still being used by relatively few companies at the moment – but that this is already changing.
“I think we’re going to see a lot more D&I vendors emerge as the interest continues to grow,” she said. “Right now, not a lot of organizations have the dollars to put aside for these tools and systems, but as this becomes more mainstream, it will move into areas like healthcare, retail, manufacturing — and then it will really take hold.”
It’s still early for these kinds of technologies, but they’re already having a positive impact. With more time, then, workplaces will be able to improve exponentially, and bias and exclusion will be a thing of the past.