Diversity and inclusion has dominated the headlines in recent years, with questions over the likes of Uber and Google’s commitment. Chris Martin, CTO of Powwownow, looks at how technology can help.
However, technology has been shown to play an important role in creating more open and inclusive workplaces; acting as a unifier and source of information on inclusion efforts, while also providing much-needed transparency across the workforce.
The goal of technology in business is to make as many aspects of work easier, compliant and more efficient for employees in the company, across teams and from any location. From AI virtual assistants to webinars, instant messaging (IM) and Cloud PBX solutions, technology is creating a transparent and equal enterprise landscape that is ultimately more inclusive.
Breaking down barriers
In today’s global businesses, with companies and teams often spread across countries and even continents, meeting in person to discuss key business decisions is not always easy. However, there are an increasing number of communication tools available that ensure the barriers to communication and inclusivity are as low as possible.
The ability to clarify details, establish shared plans, resolve issues, and make project decisions that others can see in real-time is imperative. In addition, those who may be disabled or have restricted mobility in the team must feel included in decision making and feel that they can make a positive contribution to the overall success of a project.
Communication tools such as IM, Slack and iMeet, bring people closer together across teams and projects, and enable rapid decision making, regardless of location or mobility. In addition, using specific meeting tools, such as GlobalMeet, that support multiple devices and video conferencing, all attendees can see each other during the conversation. This helps to ensure that remote members of the team and those who travel often and cannot be physically present are included in discussions.
Webinar and webcasting tools can bring businesses closer together by providing the ability to communicate to large groups in order to hear company strategy, performance updates, successes and celebrate excellent work done by specific teams or individuals. Participants can join webinars and webcasts from their desks the office, while travelling or from home, and those who cannot attend the session can watch the recording later when convenient.
More flexible and inclusive communication is made possible through Cloud PBX solutions. Integrated into mobile devices, Cloud PBX can route calls to wherever you happen to be, whether in the office, on the road or between offices at a café. This system will also take messages and convert to text or email it to you if an urgent message has come in that you were unable to answer. More advanced implementations of this system, known as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), extend beyond pure voice to include full meeting collaboration capability. This enables a breadth of communication from simple two-way voice calls to multi-party video, screen share, file-share to be instantly available to facilitate faster decision making.
For quick contact, the ability to send an instant, often informal message, such as “are you free for a chat?” creates a more approachable atmosphere between employees and management to discuss projects or personal issues. The invisible barrier of “I need to step over your threshold…” is removed by the ability to get in contact with all members of the team in a neutral forum.
Removing unconscious bias
In the past few years, we have seen Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants enter the world of business. Initially brought in to facilitate booking meeting arrangements, the likes of zoom.ai’s AI assistant has now learned to book taxis to go to client meetings, flights, and hotels for international meetings, and make restaurant reservations autonomously.
While AI meeting minute taking is in its infancy, it can further facilitate business efficiencies and inclusion by providing an unbiased documentation of conversations, key decisions, and actions from meetings. These can be emailed to participants and those who also need to be aware of the action points immediately after the meeting is finished. Not only an efficient way of distributing meeting minutes, using AI in this way eliminates the possibility of actions or important information being left out due to human bias.
However, AI assistants can do much more than alleviate the administrative burden of arranging meetings and following up with notes. Historically, there has been a significant and detrimental level of unconscious bias in global business, whereby stereotypes, both negative and positive, that exist in our subconscious have affected our behaviour and decision when hiring personnel or awarding promotions.
AI assistants and software algorithms are now being employed to eliminate subconscious human bias in the workplace. Driven inherently by data, and trained to ignore traditional prejudices, these AI algorithms are helping to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. While it’s true that these algorithms need careful monitoring to ensure they do not learn and reproduce patterns of historic underrepresentation, using the latest technology in this way is having a direct positive impact on removing unconscious bias in the workplace, ultimately creating a more inclusive environment for all.
While inclusivity in the workplace has been an issue for some time, the use of technology to remove barriers and drive positive initiatives is moving in the right direction. Creating a work environment where all individuals are treated fairly and have equal access to opportunities and resources is imperative for ensuring the current and future success of businesses.