New technologies can help create diverse workplaces

The World Economic Forum says that as businesses emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, they have a unique opportunity to ensure that equity, inclusion and justice define the “new normal” and tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

But it notes that technology alone cannot create fair, equitable and diverse workplaces; it requires an integrated strategy that blends new technological tools with human-centric approaches.

A media release from the forum says that the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit outlines novel technologies with the potential to establish best practices that were previously out of reach. 

For example, new systems can review job applications at scale in far greater detail than a typically resourced people and culture department. These systems can identify and reduce bias, introduce greater transparency and visibility, and provide timely analytics, it says.

The forum says that new methods of analysing employee interactions, such as organisational network analysis and tools for immersive learning using augmented and virtual reality, can all play a role in improving outcomes, while cloud-based communication and visualisation platforms will be fundamental to most tools.

However, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit notes that technology alone cannot create fair, equitable and diverse workplaces. “It requires an integrated strategy that blends new technological tools with human-centric approaches to workforce management that focus on employee experience, purpose and belonging. To succeed, businesses need to leverage diversity, equity and inclusion as core organisational strengths.”

In examining the potential of these technologies, the toolkit cautions against adopting unproven solutions which can result in a range of unintended consequences and contain biases that deepen, rather than counteract, exclusion.

The forum says that aside from it simply being the right thing to do, research indicates that increasing diversity, equity and inclusion brings a host of benefits to businesses. 

The toolkit cites research that suggests well-managed diverse teams significantly outperform homogenous ones over time, across profitability, innovation, decision-making and employee engagement. Conversely, companies that fall behind their peers in diversity, equity and inclusion are less likely to achieve above-average profitability.

“Successful organisations are powered by the diverse opinions, skill sets and life experiences of their employees. Ensuring racial justice, gender parity, disability inclusion, LGBTI equality and inclusion of all forms of human diversity needs to be the ‘new normal’ in the workplace set to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and it is clear that technology can be leveraged to help rapidly make this a reality,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director, World Economic Forum.

As outlined in the toolkit’s sister publication, HR4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, achieving diversity, equity and inclusion begins with senior management. Leaders need to focus their organisations’ efforts around three main areas of action, from talent sourcing and selection, to organisational analysis and monitoring, to employee experience, reward and development, the forum says.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit can be accessed at https://www.weforum.org/reports. 

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