Published on in Responsible Business

In my last blog, I made the business case for diversity and inclusion.  The world has changed rapidly since then with Covid-19 and I suspect will change forever in some respects.  I do think that the need for enabling technologies now, to inclusively support everyone, is even more crucial than ever.

But understanding the benefits of D&I is only half the battle. The next part of the challenge is understanding how to get there – and I firmly believe that technology is a huge enabler.

It’s actually quite easy to develop technology that solves individual problems. But I think the challenge for most organisations is thinking big and successfully executing. And creating something that makes a real impact is difficult.

It doesn’t matter if you’re developing your own technology, or implementing a third-party solution. For tech to be inclusive, its implementation must be… well, inclusive. And that means getting the perspective from everyone in the business – not just the single group of people you’re trying to help.

Co-creation is the key word here. Technology can’t be used for technology’s sake. We should start with the problem, then get input from a variety of people – those with disabilities, other genders, different ethnicities, etc. – before we even attempt a solution.

Let’s use one of Fujitsu’s projects as an example.

BuddyConnect

Our relationship with Nottingham Trent University is centred on improving the wellbeing and safety of customers, employees and students.

One area we worked together on is helping neurodiverse people in the workplace. In particular, we wanted to help make workplaces more inclusive for people with autism. That was the starting point for our BuddyConnect programme.

Together, we developed an app that would pair autistic employees with a ‘buddy’ – a one-to-one partner specifically trained to assist neurodiverse people in the workplace.

Autistic people can be sensitive to things that others may not notice – for example, certain kinds of lights, noises, and social situations. So the app includes a mood tracker to allow them to share how they’re feeling, meaning their buddy can monitor their mood throughout the day and help to prevent anxiety before it gets too bad.

Although the project started out as way to help autistic people, we quickly learned the scope was much broader. Feedback collected from across the organisation showed us the app would be beneficial to anyone from a mental health perspective and I am convinced that it can help people now more than ever before.

By taking on board a variety of perspectives, we were able to greatly increase the impact of the project, enhance it’s roadmap, and help many more people.

 

Technology challenges

Of course, there will always be challenges when it comes to technology and D&I – particularly with cultural change and measurement. Overall, I’d say there’re three main points companies should consider:

  • Adoption
    This can’t be a one-person project. You need the support of employees, customers, partners and communities – combined with the appetite to make a difference. The more people you have on board (there is a balance though!), the faster the adoption process will be.
  • Openness
    Don’t restrict yourself to the opinions of the people around you, often they will have the same views as you.. ‘Open innovation’ is the way forward – go out your way to get different perspectives, and address challenges in a holistic way.
  • Outcomes
    Recognise that measuring outcomes is hard. While some can be tracked with KPIs, others are non-tangible, and will need other more qualitative means to measure. Just be sure to define your outcomes at the beginning, and continually review and reassess your progress.

If businesses want to hire and retain talent, D&I technologies are not optional. They need to be adopted quickly, and at scale. In an ideal world, D&I shouldn’t even be a point of discussion – it should be something that’s baked into every project, initiative and discussion.

Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. But I’m proud to see technology really leading the charge on such an important issue. Stay safe and look after yourself and your family at this time.

Download and read our Tech4Good report here

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