Inclusive Culture Will Pave The Way For An Agile & High Performing Workforce: Jaydeep Das

Inclusive Culture Will Pave The Way For An Agile & High Performing Workforce: Jaydeep Das

When we use technology as a vehicle to drive our key processes we weed out the seen and unseen biases and lead us to a culture where people feel safe, valued, and productive.


It has been stated that unconscious bias is one among the key reasons for companies not attaining their Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) goals. It has also been stated that the use of technology eliminates unconscious bias and therefore reinforces DEI in an organisation. How do you believe that an organisation can make use of technology to achieve its DEI goals? 


Undeniably, unconscious bias is one of the key reasons for holding us back from attaining our spirited DEI goals. Unfortunately, all those facets go undetected and remain uncovered due to the nature of subconscious naturalisation. The abuse of power in many forms is becoming more common than we would like to think. And organisations have a duty to provide a safe, respectful, and inclusive working environment. We try, but power abuses, discrimination, and harassment do happen. Despite our best efforts, safeguarding and whistleblowing policies are not effective in unearthing repeated and systemic issues relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Employees have either trust issues with these systems or they fear repercussions if they report problems.


The antidote to those systemic constrictions lies in upholding the dignity of the individuals on both sides with utmost confidentiality and carrying out the processes in the most independent manner. And technology can play a vital role. Technology aided surveys to hear the voices of employees to see why, where, what, and when issues are occurring will empower us with the needed data on the perceptions and experiences of staff members as well as highlight their suggestions for improving the work culture. However, beyond the surveys, when we use technology as a vehicle to drive our key processes we weed out the seen and unseen biases and lead us to a culture where people feel safe, valued, and productive.


Companies are reinforcing their DEI policies in Talent Acquisition by way of highlighting their DEI initiatives on the landing page of their careers page on their website. Do you believe this to be the adequate use of technology to highlight the fact that the company is inclusive to prospective talent? What are the other ways in which an organisation can make use of technology to depict itself as a diverse organisation?


Diversity is being invited to the party, Inclusion is the chance to dance, and Equity is about equal say in deciding the tracks, snacks and beyond. The invitation is like the landing page advertisement highlighting organisational commitment to DEI initiatives. However, I would not term it as adequate and rather look at this as a starting point of the engagement cycle and unlimited possibilities.


In a VUCA world, there always remains so much more to explore. Organisations can and should highlight the core beliefs and values around their DEI initiatives and commitments. Once employees are onboarded, walking the talk becomes imperative, as any audio video mismatch will obviously lead to great resignations. At any given point of time, implementing a more consistent, less-biased, and scalable people decision-making process results in an increased understanding of the current state of diversity and inclusion across the entire organisation. This can be a combination of both traditional and new metrics approaches. As leaders, we need to ponder as to how we make our processes bias-free and technology driven processes can surely aid it. Let me warn that this may not be that easy as it sounds. Leaders need to raise their thoughts a little higher and discern what goes in as logic to drive the technological vehicle to reach the DEI goals. 


Several companies have been relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in order to build an Inclusive Workplace. According to you, how can AI and ML be used to build an Inclusive Workplace? 


I would say a yes and a no. Yes, to a higher degree of intertwining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to our routine processes, and, no to diluting the needed empathy and discernment a seasoned HR professional ought to have. Balancing is the key ensuring that organisational values are deeply engraved in the backend codes of the technology in its purest form. That will safeguard any organisation from the resultant realities of “garbage in garbage out” saying. In other words, what goes in remains very relevant in designing the AI & ML approach to building an inclusive workplace. An inclusive culture will pave the way for an agile and high performing workforce.


We have witnessed how technology has been our saviour in augmenting cohesion and collaboration amidst the pandemic. Employees could connect with each other despite locational constraints. The Thought process system would become a melting pot. Sense of empowerment and feeling equipped by all. We can always build on these experiences and take the leap of technology to converge ideas without any discrimination. Innovative approaches to recognition programs and virtual shouts out can be game-changing injects to an inclusive workplace. 


What according to you are the areas where HR technology can play a pivotal role in adding value to the DEI initiatives of an organisation? 


The transition to a digital working environment has opened up newer avenues for HR professionals to experience what we called “blue-sky thinking” once upon a time. We have seen many of our people processes evolve significantly during the pandemic, resulting in optimisation, smoother and seamless service delivery. There are multiple facets wherein we can leverage technology to spruce up DEI quotients.


Some of them could be:


• Transformed Talent Acquisition: AI & ML can cut screening time drastically. All it takes is a solid filtering mechanism with checks and balances in place. Designing the backend issues becomes paramount.


• Seamless Social Collaboration: During times of social distancing, technology has breathed life into social collaborating. One-tomany instant communications, avenues for taking feedbacks and suggestions for a diverse pool of ideas is surely a plus. This augments employee experience, communications, and amplifies employee voice aiding engagement and retention. 


•  Professional Growth: This includes learning and development, mentoring, coaching, performance management, highpotential selection, and leadership investment.


•  Matters of Privacy: Our fraternity has moved further from locking file cabinets to digitally securing data pertaining to employees. If you have done it so far, it is high time to transition to digital backed by good policy on data confidentiality. This empowers employees to manage their own data to appreciable extent.


•  Data Analytics: DEI dashboards can help measure the return on DEI investments. Technology can collate and crystalise data to get an overall cultural picture. Some mind applications can help us to track performance behaviours and not only achievements.


How have you made use of technology in enhancing the DEI initiatives in your company? 


Amongst many plans, I would highlight a couple of recently executed initiatives that are working well for Children Believe. External research says that approximately half of all discrimination, harassment, positional abuse complaints has some inherent sense of retaliation. Survivors are more likely to end up facing career challenges or experiencing worse mental and physical health compared to staff who were harassed but chose not to complain about it. Obviously, something is not working.


To tide over that world view, we have employed technology in receiving and administering complaints/concerns around safeguarding and integrity issues. This paves the way for feeling safe to express their struggles without any fear of impromptu discouragement by anyone to air such concerns. I think some amount of vulnerability is essential in setting up newer accountability standards, especially when we are committed to an inclusive, diverse and equitable culture where fear has no gear.


Secondly, we have rolled out an innovation initiative titled “iHub” on our technology platform. This initiative opens the door for employees to share scalable ideas. We have already witnessed tremendous traction around it. This is consistent with Children Believe’s value of respect in ensuring that all the current and prospective staff members are treated fairly.


As a socially responsible organisation, we strive to ensure that there are ethical, non-discriminatory practices in the workplace. We provide staff with equal opportunity to contribute fully to the organisation, to benefit equally from opportunities, share in positive results and to access new perspectives. For us, diversity is about bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the decision-making table. And iHub is a perfect example of that.


Do you believe that we are merely scratching the surface when it comes to the use of technology in promoting DEI in an organisation or whether we have indeed achieved something comprehensive by introducing technology into our DEI initiatives? 


Well, I would say that though we have traversed beyond the surface in terms of technologically driven DEI initiatives, there is a long way to go. The ROI on our DEI investments are sectoral and remain fragmented.


Leadership intent coupled with the readiness of staff to adapt such techno-processes are traditionally challenged by our worldview and a change in the same demands time, space and satisfying experiences. As leaders, we always churn our thinking around the following aspects associated with the adoption of these technologies: -


1. What if the data sets on which the algorithms are written has inherent bias?


2. Do we have adequately matured technology that holistically delivers the DEI intents?


3. What about any legal risks?


4. Will it diminish people’s sense of empowerment to make people decisions?


5. What if more management time is consumed post implementation? 6. How does these initiatives sync with other people processes?


7. How do we deal with possible overly politically correct approaches or reverse discrimination?


We need to break past these potential strongholds to leverage the comprehensive advantage of DEI intents enabled by technology. And these pull-back factors from a leadership perspective are in fact few potential opportunities for the service provider to work on further integration of people intelligence and artificial intelligence in proper ratio.


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