It looks like, finally, paying lip service to ambitious diversity, equity and inclusion targets may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to developments in inclusion technology.
How to use newly developed tech to improve an organization’s DEI goals is now top of chief information officers’ agendas. That means more adoption of new tech features ranging from Zoom ID pronouns, name-pronunciation audio for meetings and email signatures, closed captioning for virtual experiences (for the hearing-impaired), automated daily pulse surveys, cloud-based dashboards to help monitor and improve DEI across the talent pool and much more.
“Organizations have come a long way in thinking about DEI,” said Anjali Shaikh, senior manager and the experience director for Deloitte’s CIO program. “In the last three to five years, in parallel with advances in technology, there has been a tremendous upswing in asking how technology can help drive not only diversity by looking at data, but also inclusion around collaboration tools.”
With more workers remote or hybrid, inclusive technology has become more important than ever. The pandemic has allowed more people to think about our relationship with technology and how it can be used as a benefit. Shaikh said DEI is a topic in every conversation she has with CIOs and on every tech agenda today.
Last year Deloitte started using a tool within Microsoft’s Outlook that allows people to record their name so other team members can listen to how it is pronounced before they join a meeting.
“You can imagine how many times my name has been mispronounced,” said Shaikh. “Before someone jumps on a call or meeting with me, they can hear my recording and know how to pronounce both my first and last name. That drives inclusion in a really meaningful way and creates a sense of belonging.”
Tech is especially valuable in that it can collect internal data for a company that can assist how it meets its DEI goals. For instance, management services company ADP rolled out a suite of products, built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), to help organizations foster a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. The DEI dashboard helps companies examine the DEI depth of their workforce by organization (if a group company owns various different businesses), department and job level by criteria ranging from gender, race, ethnicity, age and disability. Another AWS-enabled DEI tool ADP offers is the Pay Equity Storyboard, which combines analytics and benchmarking to help employers understand potential pay gaps.
“It’s getting out of this world where you talk about your beliefs about diversity and equity to a world where you actually have data that takes out the opinions,” said Amazon Web Services enterprise strategist Miriam McLemore. “We want to use data to provoke new thought and consideration and to maybe challenge our belief systems.”
The dashboard helps companies have instant visibility on how diverse their workforces are, at all levels of the business, and whether or not it’s improving and in sync with an organization’s goals. Making the technology seamless and enjoyable to use is a benefit that McLemore says is unbeatable.
“You can have regular reporting of where you are and thoughtful discussions about goals and the types of change you would like to see, and then you’re continuously monitoring it,” said Brent Weiss, senior director of product management of DataCloud at ADP.
Since launching these products roughly a year ago, ADP has onboarded more than 1,000 customers.
Suzanne Harris, vp of HR at NexusTek, said prior to using the ADP dashboard, the company would only look at its demographic information annually and would have to manually assemble the data. “It’s great for me to look at any point in time and see where our DEI is,” said Harris. “I do it daily.”
By using the dashboard at NexusTek, the company was able to recognize that it needed a higher percentage of women in the company. At one point only 17% of its workforce were women. After seeing this percentage so clearly through the dashboard, and in which departments, the company altered its hiring practices, with the result that its female employees now account for 22% of the company. Harris said that the pay equity tool has also been helpful. NexusTek acquired five companies in 2018 and when that happened there were a lot of pay equity issues, which wouldn’t have been known if it wasn’t for the ADP technology.
The ADP dashboard is mostly used by top leadership at a company, who then can decide what information they want to share with the company and beyond. “While it’s a top-down approach, if the executive team is committed, you can see change that way,” said Weiss. “[Whether that] Is that ideal is certainly debatable.”
Shaikh argues that wider-business transparency is critical in meeting DEI goals. Deloitte has a publicly shared DEI dashboard that started in 2021. “Transparency drives accountability,” said Shaikh. “If you’re going to use data and insights to drive action, you should also drive transparency to hold yourself accountable to the commitments that you are making.”