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Diversity and Inclusion: Cultural Shifts Changing The Way We Do Business

Business

As sentiments from the #MeToo movement continue into 2018, gender dynamics and expectations for equality - both qualitative and quantitative - are on the top of everyone’s mind in America’s technology and business sectors. Company-wide initiatives that advocate for diversity and inclusion are becoming more prevalent, and we are likely to see these initiatives become the standard across the board.


By 2022, the Human Capital Management market is expected to reach $22.5 billion, almost doubled from 2017. And with a third of executives expected to increase Diversity and Inclusion spending next year, it’s safe to say this growing market opportunity will include tools, resources and a new crop of companies and services focused on D&I.

As with any cultural or social shift, innovation and funding tends to follow. We can expect new companies and technologies to emerge. These solutions will be particularly important for small businesses and early-stage companies, who stand to create teams and workplaces where D&I is built in to culture and policy from the get go.

The market opportunity for D&I is finally gaining more widespread attention, but based on some of my own qualitative research, as well as hard data, it’s about to grow significantly and quickly. Here are five market trends and opportunities in the D&I space we can expect to develop over the next few years:

The “I” in D&I

The discussion and action thus far has primarily been focused on diversity. Recruiting teams are looking at numbers of minorities and underrepresented groups within a company and then seeking out or hiring talent accordingly. While this isn’t a comprehensive approach, it’s quantifiable and concrete. Plus, research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives.

"Research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams, which is making it easier to convince executives and boards to spend on diversity initiatives." - Kate Brodock

The next step — radical inclusion — is far less linear. It relies more on psychology, as well as social, emotional and cultural intelligence across leadership and entire teams. However, as those teams diversify so will the thinkers, and diverse thinkers can more readily tap into diverse layers of human connection and culture.

In other words, we’ll naturally see an increase in the focus on inclusion and the creation of a work culture and set of principles that supports a diverse workforce.

Frameworks

In order to truly reveal the value of D&I, companies will need to implement new systems. We'll see new narratives and frameworks seep into the D&I market via internal teams and third-party service providers. At Women 2.0, we use the 3Ps (Principle, Policy, Process) to frame how we interact with the industry.

“Principle” relates to a company’s core values and culture. It’s essentially saying “do you have the moral foundation built in and set by leadership”?

With “Policy,” we’re looking at the tangible, recorded and actionable guidelines a company puts in place to support an organic D&I culture.

And finally, “Process” focuses on defining results and developing measurable systems that drive ongoing success.

Budget Spend

There will be two primary shifts in how money flows through the D&I market. We’ve already observed D&I dollars are moving from external-facing CSR efforts to internal-facing initiatives. With 96% of executives understanding that D&I could improve their bottom lines, this means D&I is lined up to receive budgets more akin to recruiting and HR.

Which brings us to the second major shift in budget: the sheer number of core resources, whether it’s bandwidth or capital, dedicated to D&I. In the second half of last year, 35% of executives reported that they would be increasing their budgets for D&I, and I suspect that number has gone up since then.

People are beginning to understand that this isn’t a numbers game. Processes need to be changed, cultures have to shift to support a diversified workplace, and policies have to get overhauled. This takes time and energy, and isn’t for the faint of heart.

DiversityTech

As we’ve seen with HRTech, we’re going to see a lot more tech-enabled solutions hit the market for D&I. Technology can increase access to D&I resources while lowering costs. However, especially when considering that Artificial Intelligence will likely play a massive role in the emergence of DiversityTech, the effectiveness of some of these technologies remains to be seen, and it will likely become a more nuanced conversation.

In my previous role, we ran an AI-driven talent marketplace that matches technologists to open tech roles. It demonstrated how AI can help companies develop their workforces, and what could happen in the future.

It also showed how difficult issues like bias were to be solved, and emphasized the adoption hurdles people had to get over in order to introduce technology and machines as solutions to what are traditionally perceived as “human” and “emotional” problems.

There is absolutely room for technology in this space, but we aren’t going to see a big adoption curve this year. The curve is also going to be lower, as many of the DiversityTech solutions out there are targeted at larger companies, so smaller companies won’t have immediate access.

Data & Analytics

This may be an obvious one (what market doesn’t rely on data?) but it’s also a tough one. Similar to AI’s role in D&I, data and analytics are best reserved for concrete numbers and tangible results. With D&I, we’re dealing with the connection between "soft" things, like humans and culture, and "hard" things, like bottom line and team performance. Traditionally, D&I has had very little measurement around it - aside from general HR data - and the industry is having to build metrics and frameworks from scratch.

But if the connection can be made, it’s clearly valuable, as evidenced by an unprecedented IBM lawsuit that thrust the value of diversity-yielding data, resources and strategy into the spotlight earlier this year.

IBM sued its former Chief Diversity Officer for presumably violating a non-compete agreement after she left the company for a similar job at Microsoft. This lawsuit suggested that she had access to IBM’s internal data on D&I, and that she would be taking that knowledge with her to Microsoft. IBM considered this a breach of contract by leaving with “trade secrets.”

This is significant, as it highlights just how much value the tech giants place on diversity strategies and their impact on business results, and it reveals that they will go to great lengths to protect them.

Especially for early-stage companies and small businesses, the D&I market paints a clearer picture of how bottom lines, employee morale and social progress work - or don’t work - together. And as small companies become big companies, the next Google, Amazon, Apple or even IBMs of the world will, with any luck, be born with D&I in their DNA.

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.