Leveraging Digital Technology to Make Workplaces More Diverse and Inclusive

The combination of recent social justice movements and research about the value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) has led many companies to invest earnestly in making their workplaces more diverse and inclusive. Many research publications confirm that there’s a direct link between diversity and a company’s financial performance. According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, businesses with gender diversity are 21% more likely to attain above-average profit, and culturally and ethnically diverse organizations are 33% more likely to outperform their competitors.

However, progress has been painstakingly slow despite D&I principles finally becoming a mainstay in an organization’s core values. There are numerous explanations for the stagnant growth, and discussing each issue would require a separate blog that would fall outside the scope of our class.

Thus, this blog will describe the latest digital tools to diversify the workplace, amplify the voices of underrepresented employees, and promote a culture of trust and respect. Primarily, growth in the D&I technology focuses on four main areas: Talent Acquisition, Development and Advancement, Engagement and Retention, and Analytics.


But before we dive into these software tools, let’s define diversity and inclusion.


What is Diversity?

When we hear the term “diversity,” we automatically think of groups of people from different backgrounds together in a room or area. In contrast, others may associate the term diversity with the latest headline or personal experience. The point is that it’s normal for many of us to define diversity differently, but generally, it means any dimension used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It implies respect for and appreciation of differences, such as race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, or veteran status.


What is Inclusion?

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development defines inclusion as the state of being valued, respected, and supported. It’s about focusing on every individual’s needs and making sure the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their potential and be an equal contributor toward the company’s mission.


Now let’s explore the software tools helping organizations reach their diversity goals.


Talent Acquisition

The primary objective for every institution in diversity and inclusion is talent acquisition or recruitment. Currently, 43% of new D&I technology is geared toward helping recruiters find diverse talent. Why? Finding diverse talent to fill key roles is one of the most challenging tasks facing every institution, especially in the tech industry and management positions, where you find the most homogeneity.

A recruitment software tool called Entello can help recruiters identify candidates from underrepresented backgrounds in minutes. According to TechCrunch, the program uses algorithms to analyze over 70+ variables to predict when candidates might be looking to switch jobs. Then, recruiters receive a customizable email alert that lists relevant candidates who are open to new opportunities.

Furthermore, Entelo Search provides a database of 300 million profiles that gives recruiters a three-dimensional look into each candidate based on data aggregated from GitHub, Stack, Overflow, Twitter, Quora, and Dribble, to name a few. It’s a bit creepy to think about a recruiter having the ability to mine your data across different platforms to learn more about you, monitor your progress, and wait patiently for the right moment to contact you. In other words, be careful about what you post on social media.


Development and Advancement

This semester, many of our class discussions, blogs, and presentations have been about virtual reality (VR) becoming the next evolution in employee development and much more. In @allietlevine blog on “Mind-Blowing Employee Training,” she references many practical ways VR helps people learn technical skills. Additionally, VR can help develop soft skills to understand people with different backgrounds better. Furthermore, VR can support employees with navigating and responding to specific situations, such as unconscious bias, sexual harassment, and microaggressions. Finally, these new tools help diverse candidates identify mentors inside and outside their network to support their career growth.

A VR technology firm called Equal Reality provides an immersive experience by increasing empathy and deepening an employee’s connection to various D&I learning topics. Today, many top firms use Equal Reality, including Amazon, JP Morgan, Viacom, and many more.


Engagement and Retention

D&I technology focusing on engagement and retention brings solutions ranging from planning and understanding the work experiences of diverse groups by using sentiment analysis to analyze text communications to identify biases or microaggressions. Some firms use Slack’s chatbot to collect and analyze information about an employee’s experience. Founded in 2015, Qlearsite helps organizations promote honest conversations, including developing surveys backed by language analysis to capture employee sentiment.   


Workforce Diversity Analytics

The second-largest growth segment in D&I technology is analytics. Many organizations, including mine, use software, such as Oracle Business Intelligence to collect, track, and report various diversity-related metrics within an organization. These D&I analytics platforms allow HR or diversity practitioners to convert their analyses into an engaging dashboard focusing on key performance indicators (KPI). A popular tool you’ve probably seen in a commercial called Workday is one of the leading platforms to manage and report workforce data. While the business case for diversity is well known, some may need to see data before supporting an initiative.


In Closing

The promising growth of D&I technology firms speaks to the increasing demand for solutions to make workplaces more diverse and inclusive. However, many of these resources are imperfect, and we shouldn’t depend on them to resolve every diversity-related challenge in an organization. There are two key reasons why we should be careful using these tools. First, the firms developing the software to diversify and/or train employees are not diverse, and the algorithms themselves may include a lot of unintentional biases. Secondly, there are certain things technology can’t replace, such as regular human interactions, which also consist of body language, tone of voice, and accents. Therefore, we should look at these resources as a complementary tool to reinforce diversity and inclusion principles and foster a workplace culture that promotes fairness and respect.   

10 comments

  1. Fantastic blog! My company also uses Workday, but I wasn’t aware of diversity analytics behind the main user interface. I have always liked that the “Recommended for You” portion at the bottom of the [my] page has suggestions to work on growth in more areas than just your resume. For example, after I put in that I got married, I noticed that Workday started to suggest things like “Balancing work amidst life changes.” I thought it was a coincidence, but then I updated my resume with a new skill and was marketed “A smarter search for your needs.”

    I hope HR at my company is also utilizing recruitment software like Entello.

  2. Nice post. I’d actually argue that Zoom may be the most important D&I technology. By enabling remote work and not limiting employees to their immediate geography, companies have access to much more diverse talent pools. This is particularly true for tech companies in the SF bay area.

  3. allietlevine · ·

    Miles thank you for the shout out! I really enjoyed your blog. I am quite impressed by the Equal Reality training. I took a look at some of the case studies on their website and was surprised to see such high ratings for empathy and engagement (of course these are self reported). I think you conclusion and specifically your thoughts on uses these technologies as complementary tools was spot on.

  4. Kanal Patel · ·

    Great Blog. I think advances in this front are so important. These technologies hopefully help employers overcome unconscious bias as well. There are so many barriers to diversity hiring and I think one of the first ones is getting the initial interview to be considered for a role. Love to see there technology is stepping up in this area.

  5. Great blog Miles! I really liked your approach to the topic and agree with your point on how technology cannot replace human interaction and body language. Applying for jobs isn’t necessarily fun, especially to find a rejection letter your inbox the next morning. There should be a better way to intergrade human interactions and technology to hire the ideal candidate. I look forward to seeing more companies use softwares such as these!

  6. Shannon Reardon · ·

    Thank you for relaying this. I hadn’t considered technology a solution to enhancing workplace diversity, but then again tech has become a solution for most problems nowadays, so maybe I should have. I am intrigued as to how the technology software of Entello identifies candidates from underrepresented areas, and what specific metrics they would use to discover this.

    Another thing worth exploring with tech as well would be D&I in leadership positions. As workplaces begin incorporating increased diversity into their staff, I’s be interested to see how diversity would relay out to the leadership of the firms.

  7. Great post! I am a big supporter of diversity and inclusion and you really nailed a lot of the issues that can make solving this problem incomplete. With a lot of work going to be remote from now on, I think it will be difficult to facilitate the human to human interaction as we’re used to. Hopefully in time, we’ll be able to best replicate reading body language and such from our zoom cameras, but until then it can be difficult to not rely on these technologies.

  8. yanamorar · ·

    Fascinating post. The topic of Diversity and Inclusion has been increasingly important in companies in the past years. It is interesting to see what role analytics plays in understanding patterns and outlining ways the workforce can be more inclusive starting from the hiring process. However, you are right; some algorithms might have unintentional biases, so how do we fix that?

  9. cloudbasedbrett · ·

    I think Zoom is a great tool to build DEI, but I also think getting reliable, fast, internet and technology access to remote areas will be a game-changer to how we hire. Especially in tech where formal education isn’t always needed, as projects like Starlink and others get more popular, I think there will be more opportunities for technology to advance DEI.

  10. kaylacyrs · ·

    I agree with the other comments regarding Zoom as an amazing DEI tool. There is no better way to expand diversity than making job roles accessible to those beyond the commuting distance to a physical office. I think it is also important for employers to be open to diversity of background an work experience. Focusing on potential transferable skills will enhance diversity and inclusion rather than consistently choosing candidates with the same background.

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