How Can You Use Technology to Support a Culture of Inclusion and Diversity?

The case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace is compelling – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because numerous studies suggest it can drive better business performance too. McKinsey reinforces this in their 2018 study “Delivering through Diversity”. They document the business case for diversity highlighting the link between diversity and company financial performance, suggesting how organisations can craft better inclusion strategies for a competitive edge. With advances in technology and the growth of people analytics, HR increasingly has the tools it needs to promote and embed diversity and inclusion initiatives, and perhaps most critically prove that it can be a significant driver of business performance. Some of the most interesting and insightful research in the D&I space has been undertaken by renowned industry analyst Stacia Garr and her team at RedThread Research. I caught up with Stacia recently to learn more about the research they’ve been conducting.

Despite research from the likes of McKinsey establishing a link with financial performance, much of the progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives has been painfully slow. What are the main reasons for this lack of success?

In the past, many of the solutions for diversity, inclusion, and equity were focused solely on the individual. Things like unconscious bias and other diversity training efforts, mentoring, and sponsorship were all focused on the behaviour or understanding of one person. It ended up being something of a game of whack-a-mole — all built on a presumption that bias comes only from people.

I think now we’re beginning to understand that bias may begin with individuals, but quickly becomes systemic — codified into our processes and cultures. And once bias is part of how we work, it is very difficult to change through one-off efforts like training. In fact, training individuals who then return to an institutionalised system of inequity sends all sorts of mixed signals — and can actually undermine even the good faith efforts companies try to make.

Another ingredient that was missing in the past was a lack of energy at the top. Leaders, being largely from populations that don’t suffer from marginalisation themselves, didn’t see, or understand or prioritise D&I, which left organisations struggling to bring the diversity of the world into the workplace, and only perpetuated the lack of diversity at leadership levels. Leaders are gradually understanding the business imperative for a diverse organisation at all levels, and are beginning to realise that building an inclusive culture means also addressing bias as a systemic problem, rather than relying on individual interventions alone.

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