Be Kaler Pilgrim, Founding Director of Futureheads Recruitment, explains the potential and the DEI risks involved in using digital tools in the workplace.
The digital transformation happening across the world has already begun to revolutionise the way we work. From day-to-day team management to hiring new workers, to working with clients – the past year has shown the many ways digital tools can improve productivity and efficiency at work. But, can these tools make the world of work more inclusive too?
Keep reading to find out four ways that digital tools can be used to drive (and where they also potentially hinder) DEI efforts.
1. Using digital tools to develop a more flexible and bespoke approach to working
According to a recent series of polls carried out by Futureheads, only 16% of our audience had a flexible and bespoke approach to hiring in their interview strategy. While structured interview questions are incredibly useful to avoid bias that might arrive at the moment during interviews, the same interview methods won’t always be the best approach for each and every candidate.
Increasingly (and especially since the pandemic) more and more companies are seeing the benefits of a less structured and more bespoke hiring process that affords candidates the freedom to opt for an interview method that best fits their specific needs and requirements. The option, for instance, to be interviewed remotely, or for candidates to submit video or audio applications instead of written work can make the process far more accessible and inclusive for candidates with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions.
2. Leveraging digital learning tools to improve DEI
Thanks to digital learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, organisations can now be educated on how to redefine how they view people with disabilities and other protected characteristics, drastically pushing forward DEI efforts at work.
Courses such as LinkedIn learning’s Supporting Workers with Disabilities, led by Paralympic gold-medalist athlete and founder of The Ability People Liz Johnson, offer invaluable insight for making businesses aware of the physical and social barriers that exist in the world of work, that may otherwise go unrecognised.
3. Digitalisation doesn’t always equal greater accessibility
With more and more aspects of our lives moving online, it’s easy to assume that digitalisation is making work more efficient and accessible in one fell swoop. But this isn’t exactly the case.
In fact, 98% of the world’s top one million websites don’t offer a fully accessible experience. And, with 60% of screen reader users feeling web content accessibility is getting worse, it’s clear that DEI isn’t a central concern for many businesses when it comes to the design of their site.
This in turn has the potential to seriously impact DEI efforts. If, for instance, job listings aren’t made accessible for those who are blind or visually impaired, your business will be immediately excluding candidates who could be the perfect fit for the advertised role. Even LinkedIn, which is increasingly responsible for filling positions, fails on certain usability markers, with buttons lacking labels, making the site difficult to navigate for those who are blind or have impaired vision.
We need to hold these dominant platforms in the sphere of work to account. Unsure where your website ranks in its accessibility rating? Why not give tools, such as this Web Accessibility reader a go.
4. Be aware of the unconscious bias built into digital tools themselves
As recruiters, digital tools such as AI will transform the way we gather talent, alleviating admin pressures and affording us more time for improving the candidate experience. It will also help us to locate hard-to-find or in-demand candidates, as well as being a tool for informing decision making. For instance, AI has the potential to support DEI efforts, helping us to collect and understand data and informing how these findings can be best translated into policy and procedures.
Although it is worth noting that the success of AI for DEI efforts will be reliant on existing diversity within the teams building these tools, as well as the data going into it. There’s a very real danger that, if these considerations are not properly built into these technologies from the start, biases attached to race, gender, and other protected characteristics will be perpetuated.
Digital tools have the potential to make the world of work far more inclusive than it currently is. The rise in remote working and the huge range of digital tools created to raise awareness for DEI issues can be a real conduit for positive change.
But, for these tools to achieve their full potential, it’s essential to make sure the interests of DEI are built into digital tools from their inception. Failure to do so will only worsen the workplace exclusion already experienced by those from protected characteristic groups.
For more tips on how to make DEI central to your hiring strategy, why not take a look at Futureheads’ recent diversity polls. And, while you’re at it, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, where we’re always looking to engage in new discussions around DEI.
Be Kaler Pilgrim is the Founding Director of Futureheads Recruitment, an award-winning digital specialist agency.