Technology Takes On Greater Role in DEI Efforts


For some time, HR technology vendors have claimed that their products can have a meaningful impact on a company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. In fact, look at most any of the industry’s marketing material and you’ll find vendors claiming their products are something like “game-changing.” 

But is HR technology actually helping employers make strides in DEI, or is this just advertising jargon meant to catch your attention?

According to a recent study by RedThread Research, HR technology plays a significant role in helping companies scale their DEI initiatives. In fact, the market for DEI technology grew by 87% between 2019 and 2021, the researcher found.

 “[W]hen we analyzed the [HR] technology vendor market in 2019, the focus was largely on talent acquisition,” Stacie Garr, RedThread’s co-founder and principal analyst, told SHRM. “But for a host of reasons, including the social justice movements of last summer, the trend has been toward using technology to foster more inclusive work environments.”

The Impact on DEI 

According to SHRM, technology supports DEI initiatives in four ways:

  • Identifying and removing unconscious bias during the recruitment and hiring process
  • Creating greater equity and transparency in pay practices
  • Tracking DEI progress with analytics
  • Creating professional development and advancement opportunities for underrepresented employees.

The technology does this on a number of paths. For example:  

Identifying High-Potential Employees  

An increasing number of technology products can help HR identify high-potential employees in underrepresented employee groups. According to Garr, “[o]rganizations sometimes unintentionally reinforce biases that already exist in the way they run HIPO programs.” 

With HR technology, companies can help “identify HIPOs in underrepresented groups [through] organizational network analysis software that captures data from e-mail, internal collaboration platforms, calendaring software, instant messaging and more to help map networks, communication patterns and information flow in a company,” Garr continued. 

By doing this, “ONA helps organizations identify hidden ‘stars’ by determining if underrepresented groups are forming the right networks and being included in the right conversations to boost their visibility and chances for promotion.”

Boosting Transparency Around DEI Initiatives

HR processes are often opaque – not just to employees but to stakeholders, as well. However, decisions around DEI shouldn’t be made behind closed doors. Transparency is no longer nice-to-have — it’s required to gain employee trust and build engagement, especially around DEI initiatives.

According to a 2021 Gartner survey, more than half of HR leaders said that “increasing the transparency of talent processes is a high priority over the next 12 months.” As businesses continue to bob along in an up-and-down job market, transparency will continue to be a priority for HR executives across industries.

Technology provides organizations with “an opportunity to use data to increase visibility into leaders’ and managers’ talent decisions,” said Gartner. “This strategy is not about sharing information on performance ratings or succession plans. Instead, it centers around adding a quality check to talent decision-making via HR or peer reviews of leaders’ and managers’ decision-making.”

Going Beyond Bias Training

Gartner also found that 79% of HR leaders provide unconscious bias training to their managers and executives. However, training – while important – is no longer sufficient on its own to address DEI issues. 

Unconscious bias training must be combined with data to continue mitigating challenges in recruitment, promotion and succession. By using data and analytics, HR professionals can further address any subjectivity in their organization’s talent management. 

For example, embedding AI into talent management can “highlight potential biases” not identified in training. In addition, such technology can be used in performance and succession management, giving underrepresented employees more professional development and advancement opportunities.

HR has always been at the heart of most companies. However, HR leaders are now strategic business partners, helping steer the corporate ship. Companies trust HR leaders to find (and keep) the right talent. However, the human element often gets in the way.

Through the implementation and continuous improvement of technology, HR can continue to improve and refine its DEI initiatives. You can’t ignore the human touch, but technology-based talent solutions are important tools in building a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and transparent organization.

Image: iStock

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