Empathetic Technology: The Future of Workplace DE&I?
This article was written with insights from James Deverick at Sage
The current state of workplace DE&I
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), it’s crucial to understand that these are three different ideas. Of course, they are related, but developing an effective overall DEI strategy means understanding where they overlap and where they’re distinct.
- Diversity: This relates to the representation of people in the workplace according to gender, ethnicity, age, physical ability range, neurodiversity, sexuality, etc.
- Equity: This is about ensuring fair treatment for all. It involves arranging your policies and practices so they don’t inadvertently disadvantage anyone.
- Inclusion: Making sure everyone is included and given an equal opportunity to contribute. This means actively considering any biases weighing against this and trying to overcome them.
One challenge that often crops up when aiming to implement a DEI strategy is the asymmetry of information. That’s to say that when data silos develop in your organization, it causes problems. A lack of access to business-critical knowledge can quickly become a barrier to inclusion.
Centralizing your data with an ERP software solution is an excellent way to resolve this. This kind of tool allows you to store all your information in a secure database that links up your systems. Instead of your various teams having no clue what other departments are doing, everyone has access to company-wide data that’s updated in real-time.
This makes it much easier for staff from every area of your business to make contributions, as they all have access to the same information. ERP tools thus level the playing field, which is exactly what you need if you want to focus on DEI.
Of course, this is just one of the ways tech can help boost your DEI efforts. So, it’s now time to dig a little deeper into the broad array of benefits to be gained.
The role of empathetic technology in DE&I
Before we go any further, let’s first spend a moment exploring what exactly is meant by “empathetic technology”. This term covers the use of any tech-based tools or systems designed to understand and respond to human emotions.
The kinds of things that count as empathetic technology include:
- Wearables that use physical metrics to determine a person’s mood.
- Customer service chatbots.
- Platforms that use AI to make an easy-to-learn user interface.
When applied in the workplace, empathetic technology can play a significant role in achieving DE&I goals.
Some major benefits you can gain from implementing this kind of tech into your strategy include:
Fosters inclusion and accessibility
Key to promoting inclusion and accessibility is recognizing that individuals’ different perspectives on life have value in and of themselves. It’s crucial to find ways for all employees to participate equally, regardless of their background.
Examples of empathetic technology that can support this include:
- Voice recognition and natural language processing tools. These can make workplace communication more accessible for people who have disabilities.
- Multilingual language support for your key platform user interface. This can help staff whose first language isn’t the one used for general workplace communication.
- Personalized content and recommendations using machine learning techniques. Catering to individual needs and preferences using tailored content makes sure employees feel valued and included.
Mitigates bias and discrimination
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the truth is that human beings are creatures of bias. Confirmation bias, logical fallacies, groupthink—we’ve all been there.
Let’s take recruitment. You’ve probably devoted a lot of time to developing an effective hiring process that acknowledges the importance of diversity in tech. After all, you know your business will thrive if it can attract top talent.
Maybe you already use cutting-edge techniques such as values-based recruitment (which you absolutely should, by the way). But could you be doing more to make the process more equitable?
Luckily, there’s help out. Empathetic tech can go a long way toward stripping out any remaining biases in your selection procedures. That’s because AI algorithms can be trained to detect and minimize biases in your process, helping you make fairer and more diverse hiring decisions.
Once your people have settled in, empathetic technology can help you in other ways too. For example, you can use it to develop training plans to reduce the risk of discrimination in the workplace.
One approach is to use augmented reality or virtual reality platforms. These can simulate real-life scenarios to raise awareness about unconscious biases and foster empathy among employees.
Enhances collaboration and cultural understanding
The right tech can also play a significant role in breaking down barriers and promoting effective communication among diverse teams.
Let’s use chatbots as an example. The standard of chatbot tech has undergone phenomenal improvements over the past few years, allowing for versatile applications in the workplace, including enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts while ensuring TCPA compliance in customer interaction. When most people hear the word “chatbot”, automated customer service agents probably spring to mind, but there are other ways you can use them in the workplace to promote DEI.
For instance, chatbots can be helpful as virtual trainers or guides to educate employees about different cultural norms and customs. They’re also a good option for delivering interactive modules or simulations to raise awareness about cultural diversity.
This kind of initiative helps your employees better grasp cultural differences. In the long run, this is one of the best employee retention strategies, since staff are much more likely to stay in a work environment where they feel valued and understood by their peers.
How to adopt empathetic technology in your DEI strategy
Whatever type of tech you plan to introduce into your organization, there are a few essential elements you first need to consider.
Set clear goals and objectives
Clarity is key. Define your DEI-related goals and objectives aligning with your organization’s overall strategy. Work out how empathetic technology can contribute to achieving these and develop a list of realistic KPIs.
Be specific about the metrics you want to hit, whether it’s fostering inclusion, mitigating bias, or enhancing cultural understanding. Make sure you set down in detail what the desired outcomes are and set deadlines for meeting these.
Secure support from organizational leaders to prioritize DEI
There’s no doubt that although many leaders talk about diversity in tech, they don’t all walk the walk. Unfortunately, without C-suite buy-in, any DEI strategy is doomed to fail.
So, how do you engage organizational leaders and secure their commitment to prioritizing DEI efforts? Answer: you show them evidence of its practical benefits.
Let’s consider something familiar to most businesses: the accounts team. In any organization, one of the most critical functions of this team is paying suppliers and other stakeholders accurately and on time.
DEI policies can address unconscious biases and ensure equity in accounts payable processes. These could include such day-to-day operations as invoice processing, payment approvals, and expense reimbursements.
You can use modern account payable software to keep track of transactions and automate your procedures. Doing this makes it easier to make sure that all employees and stakeholders receive fair treatment. This will bolster your company’s reputation and boost your DEI credentials.
Adopt a user-centered design approach
Involving employees and stakeholders in the design and development process is also a good idea. This means conducting user research to understand the needs, preferences, and pain points your tech will address.
Some people are reluctant to embrace wearable tech, for example. It’s vital to be aware that previous work experiences may have left some employees mistrustful of senior management’s motives for introducing biometric tech into the workplace.
So, it’s crucial to incorporate their feedback and perspectives. This way, the technology you invest in will be more likely to meet employee expectations and be inclusive by design.
Provide comprehensive employee training and education programs
You can never have too much in the way of upskilling and reskilling in the workplace. Offer comprehensive training programs to educate employees on the benefits and ethical considerations of using empathetic technology.
Specifically, teach them how to use this tech to enhance DEI efforts, address biases, and promote inclusive practices. Encourage open dialogue and create spaces where employees can share their honest insights.
Prioritize data privacy and security considerations
Data privacy and security are paramount when implementing empathetic technology. Ensure compliance with relevant regulations and establish watertight procedures for protecting sensitive information.
Keep a two-way conversation going at all times surrounding data collection, storage, and usage. Always remember to obtain explicit consent from users, as well as regularly review and update privacy policies to nip any problems in the bud before they cause real headaches.
Ensure technology can accommodate future growth
Your empathetic technology solutions must also be scalable and adaptable to evolving DEI requirements. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your tech and make necessary adjustments as your organizational goals develop.
New possibilities with empathetic technology
We’ve certainly come a long way from where we started. Over the years, DE&I policies have adapted as businesses everywhere have begun to understand how crucial it is to achieve diversity in tech.
Although some challenges remain, there’s no doubt that the rise of empathetic technology is opening up new possibilities for solving them. If you’re looking to breathe new life into your current DEI strategy, it could be time to get some digital help.
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This article was written by Alwayne Powell, the Senior Digital Marketing Manager at 8×8 contact centre and communication platform. You can find them…
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