Diversity and Inclusion: The Key to Growth

Leadership Trainers

Diversity has emerged as one of the hottest topics in the professional world today. There are a lot of movements to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but in many cases tangible change is not happening quickly enough. There are evidently challenges to face, and all stakeholders need to work harder.

That drive for diversity in the workplace, however, is only getting bigger. More companies are committing to diversity in their structures. Staff are helping businesses approach the need for diversity more positively.

With the 2019 L&D Report from findcourses.com confirming that the fastest-growing companies are 72% more likely to have high diversity in their organization compared to the ones that didn’t see growth last year, these changes are only the beginning. There are more reasons to focus on diversity today than ever before.

Defining diversity

Diversity is often seen as being related to race or ethnicity, but this limited view is no longer relevant. Today, diversity is as much about ethnicity as it is about gender, beliefs, political views, sexual orientation, and other equally important factors.

The expanded definition of diversity allows businesses to understand the need for diversity in the workplace. In the end, that improved understanding is exactly what pushes more businesses towards a diverse structure and work environment.

As the definition of diversity expands, we are also seeing more approaches being incorporated into efforts to create a diverse work environment. Rather than setting quotas, for example, companies are more open to reviewing candidates and employees objectively.

Appreciating differences

The more conventional approach to diversity – which often involves setting quotas and taking in employees for (and only for) the sake of diversity – is being abandoned. Rather than promoting diversity in the workplace, this approach only creates a new set of problems.

As mentioned before, appreciation and objectivity are the ways forward. Businesses are empowered by a corporate culture that appreciates and promotes differences. Being different doesn’t necessarily mean being bad at the job; sometimes, it is the opposite.

It is also worth noting that companies are taking a more hands-on approach to structuring the work environment and leveraging diversity. The creative industry has been doing this for a long time, and the approach is now being adopted by businesses in other industries as well.

Balance and growth benefits

Diversity in the workplace has also gained traction for another reason. Diversity is one of the ingredients that spark better operations and faster growth. Businesses, after all, have their bottom lines as the primary objective of operations, and the fact that diversity leads to improvement to the bottom line makes it even more appealing.

With diversity being a key ingredient to growth and innovation, it is interesting to see how it affects companies as a whole. For starters, maintaining diversity means maintaining balance. There is no hidden bias threatening the wellbeing of the company.

Diversity is also good for the core business of the company. It sparks creativity and creates a bigger pool of ideas for the company to draw from. This leads to better product development and a much more holistic understanding of the target customers.

Companies like Ernst & Young are using diversity to set themselves apart from the competition and to spark innovation within the team. Martin Hayter, their Global Assurance Learning Leader describes their workplace culture:

“The team has a global flavor to it. It brings more creativity and higher quality and we know that the content we develop is going to be applicable to different cultures, and to both emerging and mature markets.”

These benefits of diversity and inclusion culminate in an advantage that every company needs to remain competitive in fierce markets. That competitive advantage is a better decision-making process. Improved decisions lead to a better ability to react to market changes – and to react in the correct way.

Diversity and inclusion training

Diversity and inclusion is cementing itself as a global trend. As illustrated by the UK L&D report from findcourses.co.uk, D&I is one of the five training courses most demanded in 2019. These courses are designed to help companies acknowledge and harness the power of diversity. Some training programs go deep into the strategy of leveraging diversity in the workplace, while other courses are designed to help businesses recruit a diverse group of talent to support their growth.

Diversity training programs are not only designed to help companies meet the standards set by regulations either. Diversity and inclusion offer context and practical application scenarios of diversity as a concept. This key knowledge empowers businesses and allows them to approach diversity in a more proactive way.

The possibilities are endless. With every step taken to embrace diversity, businesses amplify the potential benefits they stand to gain from creating a diverse work environment. The further businesses go, the bigger the benefits they can receive as well. More importantly, better understanding and implementation of diversity leads to faster, more sustainable business growth and future innovation. At the end of the day, diversity becomes a crucial ingredient for success!

How to Leverage AI Without Losing Humanity

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Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that learns, reasons, and self-corrects, and it’s being used by businesses to improve the customer journey. Automation, machine learning, machine vision, and natural language processing are the primary pillars of AI that companies can lean on to make their relationships with customers more personal. These processes include learning, which is the acquisition of information and the rules for using that information; Self-correction, which is the process of automatically finding and fixing errors; and reasoning, which is the process of using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions.

Consumers are optimistic about AI, and over half believe it will have a positive impact on their personal lives. Many are still learning what it is, but companies are already using it to help them. It’s used to detect and deter security intrusions in IT; to anticipate future customer purchases and improve recommendations and offers; to make financial trading easier, and to automate call distribution in customer service departments. In fact, automation is one of the most significant benefits of AI, as it frees employees’ time to do more critical, customer-centric tasks.

One example of using AI to help a business reach its customers is a Harley Davidson dealership in New York. With the power of AI, the dealership’s marketing campaigns increased sales and the number of leads. The firm tested its advertising and found that the word, “call” performed 447 percent better than ads containing the word, “buy.” Artifical intelligence evaluated what was working across digital channels, then used what it learned to create more opportunities for conversion. And, because of the data AI managed, the dealership needed to hire six additional employees to handle the new business.

The infographic below, from Salesforce, provides more information about how AI is being used today and how you can leverage the use of AI to increase sales, build business, automate rote tasks, and more–without losing your humanity.

A version of this guest post was first published on the Salesforce blog, via Salesforce.

The Role of AI in Learning and Development

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We have entered the Age of Artificial Intelligence. And, while many of us have heard how AI will impact market segments like manufacturing or R&D, I find myself wondering: What about other areas of business–like L&D? How will AI affect learning and development?

As James Paine points out, “It wasn’t so long ago that artificial intelligence was reserved to the realm of science fiction according to the public.”  AI grew exponentially in 2017 and is projected to be even bigger in 2018.

So, what will we need to know to make the best use of AI in Learning and Development?

It’s a bit challenging. Most of us are not yet even consciously aware of the AI we’re already using. From online shopping’s search and recommendation functions to voice-to-text in mobile usage, or AI-powered personal assistants like Alexa or Siri, our personal and work lives are already impacted by these new technologies.

Leading research and advisory company, Gartner, projects that AI bots will power 85 percent of customer service interactions by 2020 and will drive up to $33 trillion of annual economic growth.

What role will AI play in Learning and Development?

Given the fast pace of technological and societal changes, L&D has to stay abreast of the latest approaches and methodologies as they develop their learning strategies. Gone are the days of one size fits all. AI will provide insights based on the enormous amount of data it has collected and analyzed, which will facilitate the creation of customized learning programs–faster than before.

Access to these insights and data will allow us to develop a better understanding of learner behaviors and to predict needs by recommending and positioning content based on past behavior, according to Doug Harward, and Ken Taylor, in their article for Training Industry.

Adaptive learning that is personalized to the individual is a powerful way to engage today’s workforce, but Harward and Taylor point out that the challenge facing L&D is to be able to make sense of the data and to leverage those insights to drive business value.

As with AI in all its applications across diverse industries, there will be many positives, negatives, and…unknowns,” says Massimo Canonico, head of solutions engineering for Docebo. He sees a potential for reduction in the time spent in program development. But Canonico raises some concerns: Legacy L&D teams may feel they are relinquishing vital aspects of their jobs to automation, while the reality is that AI is an algorithm, not a magic wand, and will not be able to fix everything. “It will not fix garbage content,” he writes.

What do we need to consider in developing, using and promoting the use of AI products?

Today learning is about ‘flow’ not “instruction,” and helping bring learning to people throughout their digital experience,” says Josh Bersin. He believes it’s imperative that L&D focus on “experience design,” “design thinking,” the development of “employee journey maps,” and much more experimental, data-driven, solutions in the flow of work.

Bersin believes the job of L&D and HR is to understand what employee’s jobs are, learn about the latest tools and techniques to drive learning and performance, and then apply them to work in a modern, relevant, and cost-effective way. “We’ve been doing this for decades, and now we just have to learn to do it again – albeit with a vastly new set of technologies and experiences,” he states.

Practical considerations for the evaluation and assessment of AI solutions will include those which have been developed as mobile-first, designed for use on mobile devices, so content is displayed for easy mobile consumption.

One of the most important considerations in choosing an AI solution will be the level of analytics the solution can deliver. “If we are going to succeed when it comes to personalized learning, we have to understand how we learn, and when we learn most effectively,” says Rob May, in a post for Training Journal. However, he cautions, leaders in L&D and HR must remember that technology should never replace human interaction.

May’s comment resonates with me. I taught in a German program for five years, one that selected the best Ph.D. candidates from the country’s top schools in AI and robotics. The students traveled from company to company around Germany to attend courses, and my class on Intercultural Communication got the best scores on evaluations.

While the students were absolute wizards on the technological front, I was teaching them soft skills: Like how to sell their ideas at conferences, position their products or projects internationally, and develop partnerships abroad. The inclusion of the human touch made the course both popular and useful.

How is bias eliminated in AI?

One of the fascinating and challenging issues related to AI in L&D relates to bias. How can we eliminate bias in the development of these tools? AI can be taught to provide the best interpretation of the data sets, the right course for an individual or the perfect candidate for an open position. But it needs to be programmed to do so. And the human beings that create the AI solutions come to their work complete with conscious and unconscious biases.

So, it becomes increasingly clear that the developers of the AI and machine learning solutions must come from a diverse pool, and that the data used to train the algorithms in the tools is free of bias. “Even though AI learns–and maybe because it learns–it can never be considered ‘set it and forget it’ technology. To remain both accurate and relevant, it has to be continually trained to account for changes in the market, your company’s needs, and the data itself,” state the authors of How AI Can End BiasYvonne Baur, Brenda Reid, Steve Hunt, and Fawn Fitter.

The benefits of AI are many, and the concerns valid. In the final analysis, however, we will need to remember to deal with AI solutions in the same way we build learning and development programs: Identify the problem we’re trying to solve or topic on which we are training, and then find the best technological solution to help facilitate the end result.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash