What Problems is D&I Tech Trying to Solve?


Excerpt from: Diversity & Inclusion Technology: The Rise of a Transformative Market

In our recent study with Mercer, we explored the emerging market for D&I technology. As we interviewed both vendors and their customers we continually asked and tried to understand why people are using these technologies, and why this market is growing so quickly. What problems, we asked, are D&I tech companies trying to solve? And are they the right ones?

Here is an excerpt from that report which looks more closely at this question:

D&I Technology as a Solution

The increased attention on diversity and inclusion has created a ripe market opportunity. D&I technology vendors surveyed in this research study reported that there are three main problems they are trying to address through their solutions:

  • First, they need to reduce unconscious bias (43%), especially in support of their customers’ efforts to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
  • Second, a lack of D&I analytics or insights (33%), which customers often use to guide decision making in their organizations.
  • Third, the desire to address inadequately diverse talent pipelines (30%).
Image 4: Problems D&I Technology is Trying to Solve | Source: RedThread D&I Technology Survey, 2018

The desire for more D&I analytics goes beyond the need to make a business case for diversity and inclusion. Customers want more analytics to help them prioritize D&I areas for intervention and action.

A recent conversation with a key leader of a non-profit agency revealed that executive leaders understand the need for diversity and inclusion and its impact on key outcomes. Yet, they often struggle to identify key D&I areas to improve. Leaders often “see the potential negative impact of not being inclusive – don’t need to prove that – but we do need to understand specifically where and how we need to make improvements.”

Based on our interviews, most customer interest centers on solutions to decrease bias and gather D&I data and analytics. Customers want more analytics to help them prioritize D&I areas for intervention and action. Leaders want to understand specifically where and how they need to make improvements. Customers also seem interested in D&I technology solutions to address candidate selection and sourcing in their talent acquisition efforts, which also mirrors the focus vendors are placing on addressing inadequately diverse talent pipelines.

Feedback from an HR leader at a software company indicated that one of the top challenges they are trying to address is, “making sure we aren’t introducing biases during the talent acquisition and hiring processes.” Beyond addressing specific D&I problems through their technology solutions, vendors surveyed measure the success of their products primarily by the impact on employee engagement scores (55%), an increase in the diversity of the talent pipeline (55%), and a decrease in unconscious bias (50%).

Along the same vein, customer feedback suggests that there is an increasing shared curiosity to explore different D&I technology solutions.

Similar to the problems vendors are trying to address, most customer interest centers on solutions to decrease bias and gather D&I data and analytics. More organizations now recognize the innate tendency for people to categorize individuals according to specific labels, which can perpetuate stereotypes about people and situations, thus making bias a critical and pervasive challenge to address.

When deciding to purchase a D&I technology solution, customers tend to prioritize scalability and making their technology tools widely available throughout many geographic locations. In our conversations with customers, they often indicated that they tend to prioritize technologies that seamlessly link to and integrate with their existing HR platforms rather than adding yet another tool to the mix.

D&I Technology Customers Share Their Thoughts:

  • “The D&I focus is shifting from hiring diversity to also supporting the talent development of historically underrepresented employee groups.”
  • “Communicating inclusively is a key problem. There are groups of employees feeling like ‘outgroups’ and we must fix it because our leadership team wants to support innovation through greater diversity.”
  • “We need to move the needle on diversity hires and promotions, and create more opportunities to further diversity in our organization.”
  • “We must figure out how to measure diversity without it being interpreted as a quota.”
  • “We need to quantify outcomes to obtain the funding needed for our D&I programs and take them to the next level, and it’s hard to quantify results.”
  • “Some of our top priorities include addressing power differentials in the organization, how power is used, and the impact on inclusion. We need to help leaders understand how they’re perceived, especially among our younger and increasingly diverse staff.”
  • “Operationalizing D&I in practice is a challenge. We need to have policies and processes in place that align to our values and expectations of a more inclusive work environment.”

Want to read more from our report on the D&I Technology landscape?

Explore our interactive tool and infographic summary and download the rest of this report, including our detailed breakdowns of D&I tech categories and solutions, and some predictions for the future of this market. Also check out our most recent summer/fall 2019 update on the D&I tech market.

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