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Perceptions · 3 September '19

The Power of Diversity and Inclusion in Workplace

To succeed in a fast-paced, hyper-competitive global marketplace companies must innovate, but a technology skills shortage is looming. As a result, 94% of the fastest growing tech firms state that finding, recruiting and retaining tech talent is a growing concern.

By 1990s, many large companies had declared themselves to be either ‘committed to equal opportunities’, or ‘equal opportunities employers. Intel, SAP, Lyft, Spotify and VMware are just some of the 30 Silicon Valley based companies that have signed a “Tech Inclusion Pledge” as a promise that they will promote diversity in their workplaces. Yet, diversity levels for the tech industry have hardly changed since the early 2000s. Twitter’s tech staff is only 2% Hispanic, 2% Black and 28% women, whilst Microsoft show 5%, 3% and 24%, respectively.

Companies are not drawing upon the full pool of available talent to grow the economy, and managing diversity is a significant organisational challenge. Business leaders increasingly view diversity as a key element in the success of their organisations, with studies showing a clear link between increased workforce diversity and better revenue and sales performance by over 35%, a new McKinsey research report finds. “There is an undisputed business need to tap into a complete and diverse talent pool to ensure that the UK remains a key participant in a rapidly changing global market.” – Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, Chief Executive ACE.

Unconscious bias is the leading cause for the lack of diversity within the workforce.

Unconscious Bias

Google was the first to call out unconscious bias for contributing to the systematic lack of diversity in the technology industry. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, states ‘The most important thing is to correct for unconscious bias to help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive companies’.

Unconscious biases are the automatic, mental shortcuts used to process information and make decisions quickly, growing people to social norms and stereotypes. Unconscious bias can prevent individuals from making the most objective decisions. They can cause people to overlook great ideas, undermine individual potential, and create a less than ideal work experience for their colleagues. By understanding unconscious bias and overcoming it at critical moments, individuals can make better decisions – from finding the best talent (no matter what the background) to acknowledging a great idea (no matter who it came from) – and build a workforce that supports and encourages diverse perspectives and contributions. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO “One of the most important things we can do to promote diversity in the workplace is to correct for the unconscious bias that all of us have. Managing bias can help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive companies — and drive better business results”.

Awareness of unconscious bias usually brought about via the Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by Harvard University, that leads to the bias training. However, strong evidence from Intel shows that diversity training turns out to be the least effective of several approaches to improving diversity and eliminating managerial bias.

In Recruitment

In the UK alone, there is a requirement for 745,000 tech workers by 2017 and 1 million by 2020, contributing to the increasing shortfall of skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) candidates (The Future Digital Skill Needs of the UK Economy Report, O2, 2013). There is a supply of digital skills risks for the UK and community if the digital skills needs are not addressed. According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, currently, 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps, yet according to BeHiring, companies receive applications within 200 seconds after a job is posted, and an average of 250 CVs are received for each job position. This demand requires recruiters to read through CVs quickly as competition for talent increases. In 2012, TheLadders conducted the first ever formal, quantitative study of recruiters’ on-the-job behaviour, where eye-tracking was used for 10 weeks concluding that recruiters only spend a mere 6 seconds reviewing a candidates CV. In 2015, research shows that just 8.8 seconds is spent studying any one person’s CV in a process that has become ‘Tinderised’.

Therefore, there is a need to meet the needs of employer’s and company’s biggest challenges – improving quality of hire, recruiting greater mix of people, and remaining competitive in the global economy whilst diversifying the workforce. As Innovate UK confirms ‘Diversity within business is proven to contribute to enhance performance and commercial success.’

There are diversity recruitment agencies  and consultants that aim to embed a strategic approach to diversity at each stage of the talent management process via a consultative route, though does not offer technological solutions. On the other hand, CV anonymisation (blind screening) used by firms such as Deloitte ensure removal of demographic variables from CV encouraging companies ate candidates on work samples. Companies like MeVitae has started to offer this solution to enterprise firms, as well as applying novel neuroscience techniques and artificial intelligence to get to the root cause of biases – brains and neuroimaging.

Conclusion

The vision that companies should aim for is to make diversity and inclusion as the norm whilst reflecting the realities of a globalised demographic, be a force for breaking glass ceilings, build visibility and drop engagement barriers to accelerate innovation excellence by leveraging cutting-edge technology.