New Software Tools Help Improve Workplace Diversity
While “diversity” may be a controversial term in some political discussions, in the workplace, it’s a proven winner. A Harvard Business School study found that workplace teams that include workers from different backgrounds and experiences are more likely to produce creative ideas and methods of solving problems.
“The more your network includes individuals from different cultural backgrounds, the more you will be creatively stimulated by different ideas and perspectives,” according to research by Harvard Business School professor Roy Y.J. Chua. “Importantly, these ideas do not necessarily come from the network members who are culturally different from you.”
It’s easier said than done. Hiring managers are often unaware of their biases, and many companies are scrambling today to make up for deficits in their workforces, which – in the tech industry in particular – tend to be overwhelmingly white and male. In some cases, it’s costing companies money. Last month, Qualcomm (News - Alert) Incorporated wrote a check for $19.5 million to settle a gender discrimination class action suit. It’s only one of many high-profile case to hit headlines and make tech companies reevaluate their own hiring and retention practices, according to Alison DeNisco writing for Tech Republic.
As workforce management and other HR-related software solutions become smarter, more pervasive and more intuitive, they may offer tools to help fight gender bias and increase workplace diversity. A number of mostly startup companies have launched in recent years with solutions that can create more blind hiring practices and increase the numbers of women and minorities in workplaces. The tools may help where people-based diversity initiatives clearly aren’t.
“In tech companies, things are not getting better nearly as fast as they should,” Laura Mather, founder and CEO of Unitive, software created to remove unconscious bias in the hiring process, told Tech Republic. “Silicon Valley claims to be a data-driven society. But we look at the data and see not much has changed, yet continue with the same behavior, thinking that if we keep training people it will go away.”
It’s not just about being fair or avoiding lawsuits. Diversity brings benefits to the workplace. A lack of diversity means missing out on products that could benefit more than half the population, Mather told Tech Republic.
“The companies who get to it first are going to win on multiple dimensions—hiring better people, getting better market share, and beating competitors,” she said. “The companies who wake up to what is happening and create change will have a huge competitive advantage.”
While some companies like Unitive seek to eliminate bias from the hiring process by making it “blinder,” others are helping companies ensure that bias doesn’t creep into performance reviews.
Solutions providers such as SAP (News - Alert) SuccessFactors provide performance management calibration tools that look for bias in performance reviews. In the coming months, a new version will alert managers to gender bias issues (for example, if all of the employees designated “high potential” are males, or if a woman who went on maternity leave was demoted).
DeNisco notes that software alone won’t solve the diversity problem and companies need to be vigilant about maintaining and updating their in-house programs. Ultimately, companies must use these software-based tools as part of a larger diversity plan to lead to stronger products and profits.
Edited by Alicia Young