According to Forrester’s Buyers’ Journey Survey, 2022, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) ranks only in 14th place in terms of business priorities. This is not only concerning from an ethical perspective but also risky for your digital transformation. Why? Because DEI is particularly relevant in the digital context.
In the 1990s, the internet was viewed as the “great leveler.” The argument went that the internet would help bring opportunities to the underrepresented and underprivileged: “Digital devices give us equal access to information”; “Digital offerings are empowering us equally as consumers”; and “The internet opens up career paths for those who don’t have access to the right educational facilities.”
Yet our research indicates that digital can also build new walls and divide employees, customers, and citizens. But how can digital, which is about “bits and bytes,” and diversity and inclusion, which is about “people,” be interrelated? And why should you consider adapting your DEI strategy to the digital context?
To be clear, having a strong DEI strategy for your digital team is the right thing to do, full stop. All the reasons that make DEI crucial for creative innovation and a collaborative culture are as true for digital teams as they are for all other teams.
In addition, however, we see three reasons why a strong DEI strategy is critical for digital business leaders specifically:
- Tackling biased AI. In digital business, the impact of biased AI extends from awkward and ill-suited shopping recommendations to degrading product experiences. Biased AI can affect customers and employees from diverse backgrounds more adversely than “mainstream” users. Biased AI is usually not the result of bad intentions. As Nikhil Raj, partner at Bain & Company, shared with us, “Even customizing particular service features on something as simple as a zip code can introduce bias into algorithms.” Still, one in five businesses report concerns about unintended, potentially negative, and unethical outcomes when using AI technologies. A diverse digital team will empathize more with customers of diverse backgrounds and identify issues that might be a source of discrimination.
- Delivering inclusive and innovative digital experiences. Digital offerings that are designed for the average mainstream customer can manifest themselves in suboptimal customer experiences for customers from diverse backgrounds. As Marcus East, SVP and chief digital officer at T-Mobile, explains: “To build products that work for everyone, you have to understand what everyone needs. That is the fundamental reason that you need to have both diversity and inclusion in your strategy.” Employees who better represent your entire customer base help drive innovative and inclusive digital product and service development.
- Sourcing and retaining digital skills. Employees from diverse backgrounds can get intimidated by mainstream corporate culture. This makes attracting and retaining the best digital talent and driving higher employee engagement challenging. Moreover, legislation in the form of disability rights for access to the digital world is emerging globally — and only 16% of firms state that the primary driver of their commitment to accessibility is to deliver on DEI. But brand building goes beyond attracting employees with diverse backgrounds. Tim Randolph, digital transformation executive at TCS, told us that “what has changed [recently] is that our clients expect diverse teams when working with us.”
A lack of diversity and inclusion in your team is therefore risky for your digital initiatives. Aligning and adapting your DEI efforts to your digital transformation initiative makes good business sense. The reports How To Implement Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion In Digital Teams and Tackle Flawed Digital Experiences, Biased AI, And Digital Talent Gaps With DEI investigate why DEI matters in the digital context and how you can adjust your DEI strategy to the digital context. Book an inquiry with me if you want to explore these topics in more depth.