I’m a sucker for packaging. It’s probably because I’m in the media and headlines are my business. I live for messaging that hooks and reels you in like a caught fish. The right word combo — you’ve got all my attention.
For instance, I ran across The Only Way to Beat Unconscious Biases in the Workplace a few days ago. I mean, come on. That headline is perfect, right?
The article was good too — though the headline was better — it discussed methods talent leaders can use to tackle unconscious bias, specifically HR technology systems. Hint: It has nothing to do with the user experience and everything to do with what the author called, the nudge.
Apparently when the idea of relieving HR processes of bias comes up, technology system decision-makers in the market at-large are often peppered with questions about whether they plan to replace HR with artificial intelligence. I’d wager, aside from companies firmly entrenched in the tech industry, few organizations have any such plan, but I agree with one idea presented in the piece: It pays to take a holistic look at HR, with innovations like machine learning as one facet to consider. You don’t want to lose the human touch, nor do you want to cut HR leaders off from the rich data streams technology provides. Data they can use to make better, more sustainable recruitment and talent-related decisions.
But it was the suggestion that CDOs are poorly positioned in the HR decision-making hierarchy that really caught my eye. Patti Fletcher, leadership futurist and solution management at SAP SuccessFactors, “said that while chief diversity officers are on the rise, that hasn’t necessarily translated into measurable results … designated diversity leaders rarely have a seat at the table when it comes to human capital management technology purchasing decisions.”
Technology is ubiquitous in the modern workplace. Successful organizations have made gadgetry another kind of employee in areas throughout the employee lifecycle. Talent leaders of all kinds rely on systems to do their jobs: hiring, recruitment, retention, engagement, promotion, succession planning, etc. If diversity leaders can’t influence technology purchasing decisions in the context of talent or people strategy, that’s a huge disconnect.
It also brings up a few questions:
- How dialed in is the CDO with the company’s overall talent/HR strategy?
- Is the CDO an active partner working closely with talent leaders to ensure that systems and processes promote a diverse and inclusive workforce that is as free from bias as possible?
- If not, why not?
- What is their sphere of influence? Who do they report to? Who holds their ear?
But back to the nudge. “We know the blame and shame game doesn’t work when it comes to addressing bias,” said Fletcher. “We’re finding out what does work is the nudge factor. There are 150 unconscious biases in play at our brain at any given time, and technology can literally interrupt decisions, nudging hiring managers to align with the company’s diversity and inclusion goals.”
Good grief. How can there be 150 unconscious biases in our brains at any given time? That’s just, wow. They can’t mean all at once. I couldn’t name that many biases if you paid me. But if you ever had a doubt that you have been or will at some point fall prey to bias, that number should give you significant pause.
“This is not about replaying the old human vs. machine tapes,” Fletcher explained. “When technology can take everything about someone — credentials, experience, cultural fit — and find the ideal match based on what the machine has learned about what it takes to be successful at your business, this fundamentally changes the role of HR.”
And it goes without saying, it makes things more complicated. That’s why it’s so important that diversity and talent leaders work together to untangle the best ways to find, assess, keep and promote talent. Diversity, inclusion and talent are not ideas that can be kept separate. If these silos exist, I bet that organization’s diversity plan is more of an idea than it is a strategy. Unless diversity is a sop, which is infinitely worse.
Whether it’s using technology to promote the nudge, being more thoughtful about the wording in job postings, or any of the other hundred HR-diversity related tasks leaders face each day — lean on the people who have made diversity and inclusion their business. Pick their brains. Ask their opinion. Loop them in. If you have a diversity leader, that’s what they’re there for. If you don’t use them as a resource, what’s the point?
Kellye Whitney is associate editorial director for Workforce. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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