Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic made it vital for businesses across the globe to focus on finding new ways to engage customers and employees. Many companies embraced new technologies and new customer experience models, significantly transforming their organizations with unexpected acceleration.
The companies most successful at making this unprecedented shift either already had the enabling technology and data management capabilities in place or were able to access it through their digital ecosystems. Some also had a strong set of digital channels for customer and employee engagement. But regardless of how they were able to pivot, the human element was clearly the most essential element. That is, their people, and their people’s willingness and ability to change.
Tech can create a better future – but not tech alone
From a technology standpoint, we are seeing a continued focus on intelligent automation and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and more. But we are also seeing a positive shift in thinking around how businesses engage and motivate their workforce, how they nurture innovation and how they stay focused on their peoples’ mental health.
Why is this important? Because it is known that diverse organizations produce better business results, which I can summarize in three points:
- When diverse talent is involved in the design of technological solutions, better solutions are developed faster.
- Diversity of thought minimizes the risk that bias is designed into solutions, which is especially critical in AI-driven systems.
- The ability to draw on different perspectives enables leaders to consider different approaches and arrive at the best possible answers.
The imperative to build-in diversity and inclusion comes from both a desire to do the right thing but also a desire to succeed. For example, EY teams are working with a public services organization in Europe to help them provide inclusive leadership training in the context of future ways of working. This company recognizes that putting people at the heart of the business isn’t just the right thing to do, but a smart business strategy that ultimately leads to the best approaches for the business and its customers.
Diversity and inclusion in decision-making is a personal passion and part of the EY Technology Consulting services ethos. For example, EY investments are made to support women in tech, reaching further back into the talent supply chain. We know the supply and demand equation for women in tech is currently tilted in the wrong direction: the volume of women technologists coming out of academia and into the workforce is not sufficient to accommodate a now-growing trend of women dropping out of the workforce, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the overall increasing demand for technology and data skill sets.
Business leaders have to do their part to fundamentally shift that equation to create more flow-through from STEM backgrounds into technology and data. And these leaders have a responsibility to recruit more women in technology and to not only nurture the current workforce but to engage with women who are planning to join the tech space. The EY Women in Tech and Women in Science programs, for example, really focus on igniting and sustaining passion and including science and technology earlier in academic careers, to spark interest that carries through to women’s career choices.
Another great example of unlocking the potential of diverse perspectives at EY is the global network of Neuro-Diverse Centers of Excellence, focus on the challenges that individuals on the autism spectrum face in finding employment and how companies like ours are working to ensure that this group, and the broader neuro-diverse community of tremendously talented individuals can fully engage in the workforce.
The EY organization is also working with community organizations that have been supporting neuro-diverse adults in their search for employment and sharing learnings with like-minded companies so they can participate in this transformative journey with their stakeholders.
Driving diversity and inclusion in tech
So, how can companies balance their ability to focus on technology, diversity and inclusion? They must actively seek out diverse talent, widening their scope to include those who think differently, or those who may not have gained STEM qualifications from established tech epicenters and/or from high-profile universities. They can also work harder to recruit more women by raising the status of women technologists and promoting women role models. Businesses can go further by providing all people with the incentives and opportunities they need to develop new skills, learn new technologies and repurpose their time in value-accretive ways.
There is a real opportunity to make changes that serve both the needs of business and society. True inclusiveness means giving everyone the opportunity to participate fully in the digital ecosystem. And this can help all of us take strides toward building a better working world.
The views expressed in the article are the view of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.