Let’s begin with the last question in our discussion with Kenneth Barry, Partner in Infosys’ Global Consulting Practice and Co-Executive Sponsor of the iBelieve Black Employee Resource Group. We asked: “In a few years, where do you want to see the state of diversity and inclusion in the tech and business services industry?”
His very clear answer sits firmly at the intersection of business and technology, traces its roots back to the start of his collegiate years, and is a common thread through his career, in which he’s helped establish diversity councils and black employee resource groups: “What I want is this not to be a conversation. I want it just to be the way we operate.”
So, let’s see how change is happening and what we can do to be a part of it in this industry. Here are seven takeaways from the discussion. You can watch the full Videocast available above.
1. Embrace the continuous evolution of culture.
There is a constant evolution of culture. All you have to do is play a favorite movie from your teenage years to realize the cultural norms of yesteryear have indeed progressed, or in tech terms – we have hopefully moved beyond the legacy. The goals and objectives of a diversity and inclusion initiative that may have started a decade ago are very different than what you would need right now. We must embrace being open to continuous cultural change.
2. Drive culture, not just statistics.
When an inclusive mindset is embedded in the culture, the makeup of the organization naturally becomes more diverse. Ken says it’s important to think less about ticking boxes across diversity metrics and more about an underlying cultural shift “that allows for a balanced, diverse workforce to make contributions at all levels of the organization.”
Ken continues, “Many times we don’t have employees that feel they can truly give 100%. They keep a portion of themselves back because they don’t feel they’re being truly embraced, and what I’m trying to do is create a playing field where everybody can be 100%.” The cultural imperative has to come first.
3. Look at the power centers.
According to the 2021 Bersin Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion study, it is not the diversity and inclusion programs that enable the most change, it’s the commitment in the business strategy itself. The power centers drive that sea change, so in looking beyond statistics again, what do you see across the spectrum of diversity represented in the board and the real decision-makers?
Defining the strategy is both an immense responsibility and opportunity, according to Ken, “that makes a material impact to the products and services that we offer and the communities that we exist in to be the best corporate citizens we can be.” Look at the power centers.
4. Take personal accountability.
When you see gaps, where people may not feel included, valued, welcomed, or represented, taking accountability, starts with the willingness to have uncomfortable conversations. Change isn’t typically the partner of comfort. “You’re doing it for the right reasons, in the right way, and promoting win-win outcomes, but certain things can’t fall on deaf ears anymore.” As an organization, accountability is being willing to ask, listen, and act on feedback.
5. Make purposeful decisions to attract diverse talent.
If you are not finding diversity among your candidate pool, then you must intentionally find it. Ken thinks you should look at your approach to talent acquisition and ask yourself, “What are you doing right now to attract the current and future talent pool? … Focus on the profiles you want, the outcomes you want to achieve, and give everybody a fair shot to at least be able to have a 30-minute conversation.”
The digital environment has only opened access and speed to a diversity of talent. Put it to good use and get going.
6. Use diversity as a tool to combat algorithmic bias.
Every company has a technology core (if you don’t, you need it), and ultimately, it’s people that determine ethical deployments of technology across objectives, for example, populating social content, determining creditworthiness, analyzing resumes, etc. Ken says that, “If you don’t have the right balance of diversity in your company, you could be codifying bias, you could be codifying tendencies that could lead towards racism, in ways that we never envisioned.”
The influence of the global technology product and services companies will only continue to grow, and the commitment to diversity is imperative. What HFS can do? Ken thinks we should work toward a ranking on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the business and technology services providers, “because this is going to have a material influence in the impacts on society as we go forward.”
7. Make more money.
Similar to Larry Fink’s recent stance on sustainability, if you boil the organizational ethos down to shareholder value, as Ken says, “it pays to be diverse.” Time and time again, studies show that the more diverse an organization is, the greater the financial performance. According to McKinsey’s 2020 report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, “Our latest analysis reaffirms the strong business case for both gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership—and shows that this business case continues to strengthen. The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.”