Today every business house, irrespective of its domain, is focussed on technology led transformation. Every business function within an organization is focussed on leveraging technology to bring better insights to the table. Leaders are being challenged to maintain their organization’s relevance in the digital economy, which has been notable for its widespread disruption of the status quo.
There is an important and changing relationship between humans and machines. According to a recent study by Vanson Bourne — in which 3,800 business leaders across 17 countries were interviewed —38% of Indian leaders agree that humans and machines are already working together successfully as an integrated team within their organizations. What does this mean for human skills? A survey conducted by McKinsey revealed that execs believe employees with strengths and skills such as creativity, critical thinking, decision-making, and the ability to process complex information, will be in higher demand in the workforce of the future. Clearly, for any organization going through a digital transformation that is looking to create new products, applications and customer touch-points, it is crucial to consider creativity, as well as ensuring that the teams involved have a variety of perspectives and experiences. This is where diverse and inclusive teams will come to the fore in helping organizations to be strong contenders in this digital era.
As business landscapes continue to evolve rapidly, ‘Digital Transformation’, becomes a favourite paradigm. Organizations are realizing that the diverse skills of their workforce can make a significant difference to the pursuit of their digital transformation objectives and hence to their lofty business goals. The understanding and appreciation that diverse teams are more innovative and creative has increased across industries. So, as organizations look to navigate digital transformation – and truly prosper from it – it is clear that Inclusion of diverse talent has a part to play in helping businesses to succeed. What, then, do business leaders need to consider in order to make digital transformation a reality, while accentuating diversity?
Being aware: Staying ahead of conscious and unconscious bias
I was at a panel discussion recently that spoke about bias in Machines. Software is truly unbiased. It will deliver results the way it is programmed to do so. It will also learn from the data that is fed to it every minute. For organizations to succeed today, it is important to recognize the biases and perpetuating stereotypes that exist subconsciously. It is imperative that they are proactive in addressing this with awareness &education programmes along with workshops that role model subconscious bias
There is a unique initiative at Dell called MARC which is ‘Many Advocating Real Change’ where people managers do two-day workshops which helps in eliminating certain unconscious biases that can be in the mind of both men and women alike and it helps the people managers to realize what they could be doing unconsciously and subtly and therefore may change to that.
The tech industry, which has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated environment, provides a great case-in-point. In 2017, Vodafone reportedly rephrased its job advertisements with a specific focus on eliminating gender bias. During a three-month trial it saw an increase in the number of women hired by 7 percent. An advert for a cloud service operations engineer – originally written to seek “outstanding individuals” and “help on our aggressive journey” – was modified to more gender-neutral language and a search for “extraordinary individuals”, and “help on our bold journey”.
Being aware of such “blind spots” or preconceived notions can help leaders, and particularly HR teams, formulate necessary strategies to foster a welcoming environment. A recent Women in business 2019 Study by Grant Thornton revealed nearly half of Indian women leave the workforce between junior and middle management levels and in 2018, women hold only 20% of all senior roles in India. It is imperative that correcting imbalances and spreading unconscious bias awareness can have far-reaching and advantageous effects.
Be strategic about D&I initiatives and digital transformation outcomes
In addressing diversity, it is not simply a question of ticking a box and hiring someone just because he or she is different by race, nationality, or gender. Equally, leaders must avoid taking D&I as short-hand for “gender equality”. They along with their organizations must understand the end-to-end goals for D&I, just as they would for digital transformation.
Challenges around D&I and digital transformation alike cannot be solved by creating a new job function or by hiring a specific number of human resource officers or technology leads. Such transformations are cultural, take time, and involve the entire organization – and the onus is on leaders to ensure that related initiatives are well-communicated and fit into realistic and achievable timelines. Significant time and energy should be invested in ensuring that the whole organization fully understands digital transformation and inclusion as a key lever, and that it is committed to it for the long-term.
Tap Chief HR Officers and CIO-expertise to pace the rate of change, so diversity and technology can truly collaborate
Digital transformation has made redundant a lot of the ‘less glamourous’ work associated with the HR function. Examples include (and not limited to): the automation of payroll and salary records. This now permits the HR department to focus more on strategic initiatives and to leverage analytics to craft and execute on workforce transformation principles and policies. Technology is bestowing on the HR teams the power to innovate, the time to focus on new ways of engagement and the ability to define continuous-learning strategies.
The Gen Z workforce is a huge promotor of creative innovation and disruption. Equally, they are not ready to be satisfied with the work place experiences of yesterday. Instant gratification, personalized experiences and the need for now and here solutions are pushing both the CHROs and the CIOS to work together. It therefore becomes imperative that CHROs and CIOs today work together in a collaborative and shared goal basis. Organizations that ensure that these two functions have a strong relationship that fosters collaboration, innovation and mutual enablement, will see higher gains.
As start-ups evolve in every domain and industry, remaining relevant needs organizations to be a step ahead. Embracing the right Diverse talent with a focus on inclusion will leverage the speed of disruption and re-invention. Talent & Technology need to be a cohesive strategy.
By Sheenam Ohrie, VP, Enterprise, Data & Mobility Engineering, Dell Digital