Diversity and Inclusion: Cultural Shifts Changing The Way We Do Business

Diversity and Inclusion:

Cultural Shifts Changing The Way We Do Business

As sentiments from the #MeToo movement continue into 2018, gender dynamics and expectations for equality – both qualitative and quantitative – are on the top of everyone’s mind in America’s technology and business sectors. Company-wide initiatives that advocate for diversity and inclusion are becoming more prevalent, and we are likely to see these initiatives become the standard across the board.

By 2022, the Human Capital Management market is expected to reach $22.5 billion, almost doubled from 2017. And with a third of executives expected to increase Diversity and Inclusion spending next year, it’s safe to say this growing market opportunity will include tools, resources and a new crop of companies and services focused on D&I.

As with any cultural or social shift, innovation and funding tends to follow. We can expect new companies and technologies to emerge. These solutions will be particularly important for small businesses and early-stage companies, who stand to create teams and workplaces where D&I is built in to culture and policy from the get go.

The market opportunity for D&I is finally gaining more widespread attention, but based on some of my own qualitative research, as well as hard data, it’s about to grow significantly and quickly. Here are five market trends and opportunities in the D&I space we can expect to develop over the next few years:

The “I” in D&I

The discussion and action thus far has primarily been focused on diversity. Recruiting teams are looking at numbers of minorities and underrepresented groups within a company and then seeking out or hiring talent accordingly. While this isn’t a comprehensive approach, it’s quantifiable and concrete. Plus, research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives.

“Research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives.” – Kate Brodock 

The next step — radical inclusion — is far less linear. It relies more on psychology, as well as social, emotional and cultural intelligence across leadership and entire teams. However, as those teams diversify so will the thinkers, and diverse thinkers can more readily tap into diverse layers of human connection and culture.

In other words, we’ll naturally see an increase in the focus on inclusion and the creation of a work culture and set of principles that supports a diverse workforce.

Frameworks

In order to truly reveal the value of D&I, companies will need to implement new systems. We’ll see new narratives and frameworks seep into the D&I market via internal teams and third-party service providers. At Women 2.0, we use the 3Ps (Principle, Policy, Process) to frame how we interact with the industry.

“Principle” relates to a company’s core values and culture. It’s essentially saying “do you have the moral foundation built in and set by leadership”?

With “Policy,” we’re looking at the tangible, recorded and actionable guidelines a company puts in place to support an organic D&I culture.

And finally, “Process” focuses on defining results and developing measurable systems that drive ongoing success.

Budget Spend

There will be two primary shifts in how money flows through the D&I market. We’ve already observed D&I dollars are moving from external-facing CSR efforts to internal-facing initiatives.  With 96% of executives understanding that D&I could improve their bottom lines, this means D&I is lined up to receive budgets more akin to recruiting and HR.

Which brings us to the second major shift in budget:  the sheer number of core resources, whether it’s bandwidth or capital, dedicated to D&I. In the second half of last year, 35% of executives reported that they would be increasing their budgets for D&I, and I suspect that number has gone up since then.

People are beginning to understand that this isn’t a numbers game. Processes need to be changed, cultures have to shift to support a diversified workplace, and policies have to get overhauled. This takes time and energy, and isn’t for the faint of heart.

DiversityTech

As we’ve seen with HRTech, we’re going to see a lot more tech-enabled solutions hit the market for D&I. Technology can increase access to D&I resources while lowering costs. However, especially when considering that Artificial Intelligence will likely play a massive role in the emergence of DiversityTech, the effectiveness of some of these technologies remains to be seen, and it will likely become a more nuanced conversation.

In my previous role, we ran an AI-driven talent marketplace that matches technologists to open tech roles. It demonstrated how AI can help companies develop their workforces, and what could happen in the future.

It also showed how difficult issues like bias were to be solved, and emphasized the adoption hurdles people had to get over in order to introduce technology and machines as solutions to what are traditionally perceived as “human” and “emotional” problems.

There is absolutely room for technology in this space, but we aren’t going to see a big adoption curve this year. The curve is also going to be lower, as many of the DiversityTech solutions out there are targeted at larger companies, so smaller companies won’t have immediate access.

Data & Analytics

This may be an obvious one (what market doesn’t rely on data?) but it’s also a tough one. Similar to AI’s role in D&I, data and analytics are best reserved for concrete numbers and tangible results. With D&I, we’re dealing with the connection between “soft” things, like humans and culture, and “hard” things, like bottom line and team performance. Traditionally, D&I has had very little measurement around it – aside from general HR data – and the industry is having to build metrics and frameworks from scratch.

But if the connection can be made, it’s clearly valuable, as evidenced by an unprecedented IBM lawsuit that thrust the value of diversity-yielding data, resources and strategy into the spotlight earlier this year.

IBM sued its former Chief Diversity Officer for presumably violating a non-compete agreement after she left the company for a similar job at Microsoft. This lawsuit suggested that she had access to IBM’s internal data on D&I, and that she would be taking that knowledge with her to Microsoft. IBM considered this a breach of contract by leaving with “trade secrets.”

This is significant, as it highlights just how much value the tech giants place on diversity strategies and their impact on business results, and it reveals that they will go to great lengths to protect them.

Especially for early-stage companies and small businesses, the D&I market paints a clearer picture of how bottom lines, employee morale and social progress work – or don’t work – together. And as small companies become big companies, the next Google, Amazon, Apple or even IBMs of the world will, with any luck, be born with D&I in their DNA.

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