How to Leverage Digital Transformation to Make Workplaces More Diverse and Inclusive
In a business environment that demands efficiency, speed, and delivering greater value to a widening variety of stakeholders, it is critical that leaders, like me, look for synergies that drive better business outcomes. At my firm, and at the organizations I work with, business leaders are grappling with how to pull off two major business imperatives that will shape their - and our - collective future: How to digitally transform their companies, and how to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive.
The bad news: These are two major changes that are not easily or quickly accomplished.
The good news: They can - and should - be tackled together. And the business leaders that wed these imperatives are more likely to win both the battle for talent and the race to digitize.
Implementing digital technology is critical to growing, stabilizing, and ultimately, preparing organizations for the future. The biggest component of any company’s digital strategy should be equipping its people to use today’s technology and readying them for how their roles may evolve in the future. Meanwhile, businesses must also work to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive: Apart from the moral case for promoting diversity and inclusion at work, research also shows that organizations benefit when people are encouraged to be themselves, including:
- Enhancing job performance by 56%;
- Increasing revenue by 3-9%;
- Reducing turnover rates by 42%; and
- Mitigating costs associated with discrimination by $64 billion.
And while the list goes on and on and the numbers cannot be denied, more and more of my clients want to work with partners and vendors that share their values. But how does digital transformation create opportunities to make our workplaces more diverse and inclusive?
- It democratizes learning and professional development: Companies now are investing billions of dollars into the latest technology to aid their business growth - but in order to reap the full benefits of these massive investments, organizations must ensure that everyone within the company has the same opportunity to learn, upskill, and succeed with these tools. Those that don’t participate in that journey are more likely to be left behind regardless of their race, gender, identity, etc.
- It helps to level the playing field: When technical acumen plays a bigger role in assessing employees’ performance, business leaders are better able to measure employees’ value, help them close gaps in their capabilities through mentorship and training, and promote them based on merit. Although soft skills will alwaysbe important in business, the ability to track capabilities and measure outcomes leaves less room for subjective - and perhaps unconsciously biased - reviews.
- It demands we find new sources of talent: There are a lotof technical and digital job openings in the United States that remain open because organizations are struggling to fill them from traditional talent pools. This means that businesses must reimagine what is actually required for different roles, open up career pathways inside their organizations to candidates who are willing to learn as they work, and expand their recruiting to schools that they may not have worked with before. All of this means giving fresh opportunities to a more diverse pool of candidates.
- It changes how we work together so that we can be more inclusive: One of the best parts of tech-enabling a business is that if done well, it makes our daily lives at work easierand enables more For example, the adoption of mobile technology and laptops that enable remote working for many organizations (including my own) means that those who may not have been able to work in a structured office environment are now able to do complete jobs from wherever they are, whenever they are available. Working remotely means that people, like working parents and caregivers, the differently abled, and those that don’t live in central geographic hubs or may not have available transportation, have greater access to jobs and the benefits that come along with them.
But none of this can be accomplished without prioritizing diversity and inclusion as leaders design their digital transformation strategies. Here are a few things leaders should consider to bridge the gap and achieve the synergies to make this dual transformation work:
- Don’t think of diversity and inclusion as an “extracurricular”: As a leader, you must make it clear to your whole organization that diversity and inclusion is central to your company’s digital transformation, and challenge your people of all levels, in all functions, to incorporate D&I into their planning and programming. Get your Board of Directors’ buy-in and require diversity and inclusion planning and advocacy from the very top.
- Cultivate your talent pipeline: Look for new sources of talent, and break down barriers to entry like location, time constraints, etc. Hire from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Challenge what it takes to really do the jobs you’re looking to fill, and whether things like a bachelor’s or master’s degree are needed, or if certifications and vocational training can suffice. Not only that, work with institutions of education to shape curriculum so that graduates are equipped to hit the ground running when you hire them.
- Challenge conventional career pathing: Your workforce is an amazing resource and businesses need to take advantage of the individuals they already have! As your people digitally upskill to grow and enhance their capabilities, tap them for unfilled jobs and opportunities, even if a role is outside their traditional field or area of specialty. Change career paths at your organization from linear to multidimensional, and make continual learning a priority for all so that your internal pipeline stays full.
- Meet your people where they are: As a business, if you’re asking your people to opt in to a learning journey, you must work with them to understand how they learn best. You need to invest time and resources into listening to your people to better understand where the challenges, obstacles, and anxieties are when it comes to learning, and then design tools to help your people overcome them. If it’s too hard for people to upskill - or if the tools and programs you deploy are designed by one group of people for that same group of people - you’ll lose out on great talent.
Every organization starts at a different place, and has to juggle different issues when beginning a diversity and inclusion OR a digital transformation undertaking - but tackling these as one will help business leaders grow stronger, more agile organizations for the future.
Author: Amity Millhiser