Business Technology

Harnessing technology to create an inclusive workplace

5 min read

02 February 2018

The need for a diverse and inclusive workplace is still a global topic of debate – with even the big technological giants Google and Uber being questioned over inclusiveness practices. As such, many are now looking towards technology to help solve this problem.

Bringing much-needed transparency to a business while also acting as both a unifier and source of information on inclusive efforts and rights, technology has been shown to play an important role in establishing an open, inclusive workplace.

From instant messaging (IM) and Cloud PBX solutions to AI virtual assistants and webinars, harnessing technology can create a transparent and equal global enterprise environment for everyone.

Eliminating unconscious bias

Artificial Intelligence (AI) based assistants, though still in infancy, are firmly established in the world of business. Having originally been adopted to remove the administrative burdens associated with booking meeting rooms, AI assistants such as zoom.ai are able to book flights, hotels for international meetings, taxis to get you from A to B and even make restaurant bookings autonomously.

We are also seeing AI enable other efficiencies, in particular by providing unbiased documentation of meetings, conversations and key decisions and action. Sophisticated AI software is able to email all participants, and those who may not have been able to join the meeting, important information such as action points following the meeting. Harnessing AI in this way reduces the chance that actions or important information is left out due to human bias.

Historically, stereotypes, both negative and positive, that exist subconsciously have been pervasive in global enterprise, affecting our behaviour and decisions when awarding promotions or hiring new members of staff.

AI software algorithms and assistants are being harnessed with the intention to eliminate all subconscious bias. Inherently programmed and subsequently trained to ignore existing workplace prejudgments, and importantly driven by data, these AI algorithms are establishing a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

It’s important to note such AI software does require stringent monitoring to ensure it is not learning historic patterns that lead to underrepresentation of certain minorities. However, using AI in this way is ultimately helping to create a more inclusive workplace for all.

Removing barriers to communication

It is essential that everyone is able to establish shared plans, resolve issues and make project decisions in real-time. Further, those who may have restricted mobility, or a disability, must feel included in the decision-making process. There is a myriad of communication tools that ensure, regardless of where team members are in the world, they can always communicate with others in the company.

Webinars and webcasting can bring businesses closer together by enabling large groups of people to hear company strategy, performance updates, successes and celebrate good work done by specific teams or people. The ability to join meetings from anywhere, whether at a desk, at home or when travelling ensure that remote members and those who cannot be physically present are included in all discussions. Tools such as IM, Slack and iMeet further help bring teams together.

The ability to send an instant, and often informal message, such as “could we have a chat?” breaks down the stigma around asking for help or discussing difficult topics such as feeling excluded from projects or the company culture. The invisible barrier of “I need to step into your threshold…” is instantly removed by being able to contact managers or team mates in a neutral way.

Cloud PBX solutions offer even more flexible ways of communicating; by integrating directly into mobile devices calls can be routed to any location you happen to be. This kind of system can also take messages and convert them to text or email if an urgent message comes through that couldn’t be answered at the time.

The need for a more inclusive workplace has been an inescapable subject for years, however the use of technology communication tools is beginning to change the balance. From harnessing AI to remove unconscious bias in hiring and promotion policies to utilising communication tools to break down barriers in communication and ensure everyone, regardless of location or mobility, can be actively involved in decision making processes.

Ultimately, those businesses that create an inclusive workplace where all are treated fairly and with equal rights to access opportunities will be successful.

Chris Martin is CTO of Powwownow