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The “best of intentions” aren’t enough when it comes to diversity

One of the projects I’m involved in at SAP SuccessFactors is writing an e-book that discusses how human capital management technology can be used to improve workforce diversity and inclusiveness (D&I).  While working on the e-book this past week I kept thinking about what part manager decision making plays into the progress made (or not made really) with gender equity in business today.  We have so much information about our workforce – why are we still struggling to make tangible progress?

Recently I took a solutions-focused coaching class where they covered 5 key principles of coaching.  Two of those principles kept running through my mind as I worked on the e-book material: 1) people make the best decisions possible based the information they have at the time of the decision and 2). No matter what the outcome people always make decisions with a positive intent.  I realize it might be a stretch to think that people always have positive intent but when you analyze why someone did what they did they always have a reason that made sense to them.  Example, with much guilt, you eat a cookie.  Even though you can easily focus on the negative impact that has on your diet, you really enjoyed it and after all, you were hungry so you ate it to stop being hungry = positive intent. Although others might judge your choice, you did have the positive intent of feeding yourself and making yourself happy.  Sadly, once again the cookie beats out the carrot sticks!

If we assume managers making diversity impacting employment decisions have positive intentions and that they are making the best decision possible based on the information they have at hand then the only conclusion for bias in these decisions is that they do not have all the information they need at hand!

To make progress towards gender equity we need to focus on making sure managers have the right information in a tangible meaningful format at the point of decision.   Information buried in an HR department file does little good.  We need to make sure we aren’t leaving our managers stuck in the romantic decision making process described in Robert Frost’s “the Road Not Taken” where they want to make the best decisions but have to ponder over their choices about the best way to do it.

As you think of any great social transition that has been sustained you will notice it typically didn’t become mainstream until it was systematized, made intuitive and consistently provided to the user.  Changes like banking on your cell phone instead of going to the bank or using your phone as a GPS devise instead of using paper maps are examples of old systems that were replaced only after a new intuitive, easy to use, easy to access system was put in place.   This tells us that the same type of development needs to be done in the gender equity space to see the magnitude of change we desire.

The great news is that SAP SuccessFactors has heard the call.  Not only will embedded data analytics, machine learning and intuitive process design be critical to their plan but they will make the most of their Customer partnerships to develop truly revolutionary capabilities to drive the gender equity mission forward.

Managers try to make the best decisions with the information available to them and they make these decisions with the best of intent.  What SAP SuccessFactors tools are doing is providing managers with the information they need when then need it, so that their decisions support the equity goals we are striving for.

To learn more about our efforts in with D&I, join us at SuccessConnect Las Vegas 2016, or check out the live stream of the product keynote on August 31st for a glimpse of the upcoming functionality to be released.

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