After a year that forced the nation to examine its relationship with race and equality, employers are increasingly turning to new technologies to help them gain momentum around diversity and inclusion efforts.
Since last spring’s police killing of George Floyd, corporate America has faced increased pressure to bring significant change to the workplace. Ninety percent of employers said that diversity and inclusion was a top priority for 2021, according to McKinsey.
Employers have turned to technology to help them with the heavy lifting around eliminating recruiting bias and changing corporate culture. These tools are crucial to holding employers accountable and creating a diverse and dynamic workplace.
“We want to fall out of the trap of calling it a trend — it’s up to the employees and the HR department to lead these initiatives and take ownership,” says Natasha Shifrin, global outbound sales director at Hibob, an HR software platform. “Technology allows you to have insights based on real data, so you’re making decisions based on fact and not on emotion.”
The COVID pandemic has also been a catalyst for this work. The widespread adoption of remote work and an anticipated hiring frenzy means that employers are turning to virtual recruiting, presenting greater opportunities to expand their talent pool.
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Seventy percent of employers plan to utilize remote recruiting strategies in 2021, according to a survey by LinkedIn. Artificial intelligence can help ensure that the recruiting experience is equitable from start to finish. The technology, for example, can identify language in job postings that may exclude certain candidates, a critical first step in committing to inclusive hiring efforts.
“The words that we use make a difference for the people you’re going to attract to the role and the company,” Shifrin says. “Make sure the language you’re using is neutral and inclusive to different areas of the population.”
And while the tech industry favors the use of go-getter terms like “ninja” and “hunter” in job descriptions, Shifrin says that kind of aggressive language can actually deter candidates from applying. Identifying these triggering words helps neutralize the hiring experience.
Once prospective employees get past the initial application process, it’s critical for HR managers to be trained to identify their own implicit biases. This training requires people to look inward at what may be influencing their interactions and choices, says Howard Ross, an unconscious bias trainer at Udarta Consulting, a corporate D&I firm.
“The brain makes decisions based on previous experiences and those memories guide us in how we deal with current experiences,” he says. “We could go through almost every interaction between human beings in the workplace, whether it’s interviewing, recruiting, making hiring decisions, staff assignments, the marketing of benefits — it’s the real nature of how we interact.”
Virtual training has provided an opportunity for managers and employees to engage in these discussions more consistently, says Elena Goulas, content manager at Epignosis, a learning and development platform. Epignosis expanded their training modules to include more education around inclusion, discrimination and unconcious bias after responding to increased interest over the past year.
“Training is no longer a nice to have; it should be an integral part of company culture,” she says. “Everyone should understand the concepts of diversity and equality and have consistent training to ensure that these values and practices are solid, from interns up to the CEO.”
Moving these trainings from the conference room to an employee’s living room makes learning more accessible and digestible for employees.
“Remote training is inclusive in and of itself because it provides flexibility, and the opportunities are endless when it comes to the content,” Goulas says. “People can participate at their own pace, which ensures that people are completing the courses and benefiting from the knowledge.”
But one training program isn’t going to create lasting change. To create long-term success, employers must commit to their diversity and inclusion strategy. Inclusive companies are 120% more likely to reach their financial goals, according to data from Gartner. Additionally, more inclusive workplaces are more innovative and dominate in their industry, according to the Josh Bersin Academy, a professional development resource.
And while technology can be an important tool, organizations should avoid turning it into a crutch, Shifrin says.
“The technology is only as good as the people using it,” she says. “It’s our responsibility at the end of the day to be mindful and hold ourselves accountable. When people are comfortable and people feel represented, they’re going to do their best work for you.”