How can CIOs support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives as part of an innovation strategy?

Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” ― Rumi, Persian poet and philosopher.

“Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” ― Rumi, Persian poet and philosopher.​

Centuries after Rumi posited that people find delight in work, Warren Buffet would comment that once in our lives, we will need jobs that will get us jumping out of bed in the morning. Buffet rightly pointed out that people need fulfilment. However, team workers can feel significantly thwarted in day-to-day work if they do not have the right tools or environment to deliver in the workplace. Anyone who has ever suffered the frustration of a printer not working or not being able to connect to Wi-Fi to access some information urgently will know exactly how this feels! Humanity is at a paradigm shift in technology innovation, but people need good tools to participate equally on this journey.​ A study by Intel showed that, by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month [1]. 

Successful businesses have an equilibrium in the triangle of people, knowledge, and technology. The Great Resignation may or not be here, but ultimately, we want our organization to recruit and retain the best people. So we have moved on from the Knowledge Worker to the Learning Worker – the worker who is figuring things out as they progress, and that path is not always linear. They need a well-performing platform that won’t interfere with or impede their progress to be fulfilled and effective.​

Resolving the Productivity Paradox through a focus on the customer

The Productivity Paradox has been discussed and debated for many years now. There are many variations of the paradox, but fundamentally, the paradox is that as businesses and governments invest more in information technology, worker productivity may go down instead of up. However, one crucial aspect missing from the debate has been the customer.​

The pandemic has shown that business leaders are more human about the impact on how they do business and operate. The human mind is beautiful and uses heuristics and shortcuts to help navigate our confusing and complex world. For example, people believe that a wrong career decision is a stroke of lousy luck whereas, in contrast, hard work rather than a stroke of good fortune is responsible for career success. The shortcuts are not always correct, however. These cognitive biases mean that humans hide information from view, so it is not discoverable. As leaders, we need to proactively tackle these shortcuts in ourselves and other people and recognize their manifestation as ‘unconscious biases’ that adversely impact some groups of people, not others. ​

As I discussed recently on this webinar, one crucial unconscious bias is proximity bias, which means bosses often reward people they see more frequently. To help circumvent the proximity bias, people need to recognize it. As workers continue to work remotely or in a hybrid manner, bosses need to provide high-performing devices that level hybrid and remote workers’ playing field to help them actively contribute toward innovation while reducing the impact of the proximity bias. The learning worker needs fulfilment through collaboration and contribution to innovation. Business leaders need to consider how technology will enable and keep that level playing field to empower people to contribute to innovation. ​

Intersectionality can mean that some people may consider other groups of people more negatively than other groups of people. However, since unconscious biases are unconscious, the negative perception is not always evident. For example, if an older person experiences a technical issue with their laptop, they may be considered more negatively than a younger person who shares the same technical problem. In addition, collaboration tools will become increasingly feature-rich as remote workers and hybrid workers have new needs. For example, as Microsoft Teams becomes increasingly prevalent, it will become increasingly resource-hungry to cope with the new features. Therefore, well-performing devices are crucial because they will directly impact people’s ability to collaborate if the resources are not on the device to support it. ​

What are the magic ingredients to facilitate productivity while supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Learning workers need to be engaged and have opportunities to collaborate to be productive and innovative, regardless of their physical location. Diversity and inclusion initiatives will enable engagement, innovation, and performance, helping to support customer service. ​

Diversity and inclusion initiatives can help innovation by adding context to customer data. For example, context can often explain outliers and anomalies in the data. DEI can help to provide context by looking at the data through different lenses. However, if people can’t access the data in a timely way, or can’t get into a Microsoft Teams meeting properly because of poor equipment, then those potential and actual insights may be lost. Like being unable to use a tool properly, it can be frustrating not to be able to get your point across.​

Further, if knowledge workers have been struggling with technology, they are not in a good place to feel inspired. If your IT department is issuing sub-par devices to some people, it is clear to the other team members and departments that they are not as valued as others. Everyone needs a fair platform to participate and contribute equally. ​

Can diversity and inclusion initiatives support innovation?

A company’s digital transformation strategy is also its innovation strategy. For example, one advantage of diversity and inclusion initiatives is that learning workers can find insights about customers by better understanding the context surrounding the data. However, this is not possible if people from diverse backgrounds do not have adequate tools to be genuinely data-driven and engaged with the data and the opportunity to collaborate to maximize decision-making from the insights. ​

Automation means an opportunity to refocus businesses on the customer experience rather than trying to blend data and systems to create the data needed to make better decisions. However, automation efforts will fail if people do not have the platform to interrogate the data products. Employees will not do well if they are frustrated by not having the right tools, and the business will not benefit from diversity and inclusion initiatives if people cannot contribute equally. Leaders cannot expect to get the best from frustrated and isolated learning workers who do not have an optimal platform to be data-driven and inspired by insights; this is easily solvable with the right hardware.​ A study by Intel showed that 91% of IT decision makers reported that the Intel vPro platform helped them to respond to employee needs more quickly after the quarantine, which supports the employee in their innovation journey.

Innovation is not simply about developing better products. Innovation means humbly listening to your customer’s needs through a diverse lens, thereby circumventing the productivity paradox by putting the customer first. Learning workers need the right tools to support innovation in a more comprehensive digital transformation strategy. The Future of Work is hybrid and remote, and businesses need to recognize that this is crucial to innovation. However, people equally need robust devices that allow them to work anywhere, everywhere, and they need a platform that includes everyone. IT departments need a simplified and modern technical estate that helps them bring everyone equally along the digital transformation journey. ​

Next Steps

As Ernest Hemingway put it, “Don’t mistake motion for action.” As leaders, it is incumbent on us to drive engagement, look for further opportunities to optimize, and create real value to help put the ingredients together for the business. ​

Businesses want to work smarter, hooking into the productivity paradox. Instead, diversity and inclusion considerations mean that business leaders recognize that there is always a cost. 

Savvy businesses can choose where to put that cost if they are a faithful customer-first business. Is it employee time, or perhaps even longer hours at the expense of their health or better business spend? The Intel vPro platform can help the business performance for a range of reasons. For example, the Intel vPro platform facilitates responsible leaders to make diversity and inclusion work for the organization and individuals by offering equal access to great devices that will level the playing field so that nobody is disadvantaged. In addition, Intel vPro helps combat proximity bias and issues on intersectionality by providing an ‘everywhere’ platform to help overcome business user disadvantages. Finally, for reasons that are often nebulous but very impactful in the culture, business-class performance is crucial to engage the learning workforce and empower them equally to make a difference. ​To learn more about Intel vPro technology, please visit the Intel vPro platform website for more information on how it can help your business, large or small.​



Source: “This Is the Future of Remote Work In 2021,” Forbes, December 2020. Read the full article

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Source: The Total Economic Impact™ of the Intel vPro Platform,” an Intel-commissioned study by Forrester Consulting, January 2021, which surveyed 416 ITDMs at enterprises across the world using Intel vPro® platforms, including US, UK, Germany, Japan, and China. 91% respondents marked “agree” or “strongly agree” to this statement.  Read the full study. Results may vary

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