Businesses today have a great socio-economic influence and impact on the world. They are responsible for ensuring that they value the representation of different groups of people, from diverse ethnicity, geography, identities and experiences at their workplaces, and facilitate collaboration equity for everyone. Hence, organizations across verticals are seen prioritizing Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) initiatives in their organizational framework.
With internet connectivity reaching out wide and large and businesses expanding globally, it is common to see people from different geographies and backgrounds working for the same organization. And wherever the representation of different groups and sub-groups is less, organizations come under obligation to address the barriers and factors that are impacting the interests of underrepresented groups. The DEI approach is a powerful tool to ensure desired levels of equal reach, access and participation of people coming from various backgrounds. The challenge to implement these changes lies in the adoption and implementation of DEI policies, practices, and systems.
Before we delve into why DEI is important, let us touch base on how we understand and approach each element of the DEI. While most of us have a fair idea about both diversity and inclusion, equity is a bit less understood, and what do they mean, when we look at them through an enterprise lens.
- Diversity is about having a wide range of individuals and perspectives, that shall reflect on both inside the organization and in how your brand communicates externally. Diversity is understood many times as different ethnicity or gender, but it may also include people with different physical and cognitive abilities, age groups, experiences or locations. Diversity is ensuring that everyone is invited onboard.
- Inclusivity is more about outreaching intentionally to people coming from diverse groups and ensuring that they are participating in the organization with a strong sense of belonging. Inclusivity is one step further from diversity. It is about participating without any barrier after coming onboard.
- Equity is about considering the broader motions that are needed in order to create the environment where diversity and inclusion can thrive. If we continue the dance party metaphor, equity would be about: Is there equal access to the dance floor for people with different abilities? Is there equal space to dance? Can everybody hear the same music or feel the beat in their own way?
Technology can help in achieving DEI goals for an organization
DEI policies may appear highly noble and laudable, however there are significant gaps and challenges that organizations must address before they embark on implementing DEI strategies. For instance, to facilitate the equal collaboration of each and every person in an organization, it is important to establish human connection. Yet, workforces today are distributed extensively across geographies, it becomes difficult to ensure that everyone feels equally included and has collaboration equity. Remote workers may feel a huge gap in their interaction and opportunities in comparison to the counterparts in the office.
Here, technology can play an important role in helping everyone to get an equal collaboration equity, and balance the playing field. For instance, video collaboration tools are fast adapting to enhance remote work experience, and help scattered workforce join in as a team, ensuring that each participant gets an equal chance to contribute. AI in video conferencing systems even automatically reduces noise and adjusts light conditions. Technology is ensuring that remote participants see and hear all meeting exchanges clearly, allowing them to collaborate with their onsite counterparts on equal footing regardless of location. This is just one example of how technology can play a role in DEI implementation.
The People, Process and Technology Strategy
Organizations can ensure that DEI policies are implemented with a strategy that is termed as People, Process and Technology.
- People: Organization should focus on creating a team of people, who shall be directly responsible for implementing, promoting and coordinating DEI efforts across the organization. This group itself must be a cross-functional, cross-departmental representation with a mix of seniority, job title, age, experience, ethnicity, and ability.
- Process: The job of the group mentioned above is to understand the organization’s brand reputation and devise a process which will make an audit of all the content and messaging across the organization to identify areas where improvement is required in terms of accessibility, lingo, and diversity representation.
- Technology: The technology audit should determine the tools presently used by the organization and check if they are appropriate for the job and capable of supporting the practice guidelines for DEI applications. If the technology isn’t up to the job or if it needs too much human labour to be cost-effective it’s time to figure out what other technologies are required for the DEI efforts.
It is imperative that organizations leverage digital information to drive DEI policies and practices. Integrating digital technology solutions with best-practice DEI policies and practices can help to simplify policy implementation, decrease costs, and better align DEI policies with true business needs. These solutions also enable executives to monitor and improve business unit performance. With a wide range of digital solutions available to law firms today, it’s important for firms to have a plan to leverage these solutions to drive DEI policies and practices. A variety of measures and metrics can be used to measure and quantify DEI efforts, including diversity, equity, inclusion, and progress towards fostering a sense of belonging. A measure of degree of diversity achieved by DEI efforts can be obtained by tracking the demographic composition of new hires, all employees, newly promoted employees, and those leaving the company.