Part 2: The role of tech and data in improving D&I at every level – an interview with the CEO of Werkin

10 Dec 2020

Part 2: The role of tech and data in improving D&I at every level – an interview with the CEO of Werkin

We speak to Hayley Sudbury, the CEO and co-founder of D&I software firm Werkin, about how she's seen the D&I agenda shift in recent years, and how leaders can improve diversity, inclusion, and belonging at every level of their organisation.

What are the major challenges that corporates face when it comes to inclusion and diversity?

One of the biggest challenges is when the company doesn't look representative of the community and customer base it serves.

The customer is deciding where they spend their money and because there's now power in those customers coming together, they're calling it for what it is. If you don't have representation that looks and feels like your customers, there are some real questions about whether those customers should put money into your company.

If your company wants to serve the mass market, the mass market has a percentage of people who are people of colour, and your company should be hiring at least that percentage to ensure that you can also build the best possible business and products for your customers – that's when you have the power of true diversity because you're not developing something in isolation to try and understand how every customer thinks.

The issue is bigger than just hiring. If that person is stepping into a culture that isn't inclusive, then they aren’t going to stay. You need to look at what you can do to keep people from underrepresented groups in the organisation because if they're not staying, it says a lot about your culture.

Another challenge is data – often companies don't have data to demonstrate what they're doing. These companies need to put measures in place that provide real data, and then share this data in order to learn and grow.

How can C-level executives do the right thing when it comes to inclusion and diversity?

It's about being very real and vulnerable as a leader to acknowledge any mistakes, gaps, and learnings but also having a real intention to do things differently and acknowledge the problem.

Secondly, you need to have the data conversation because every company is under so much pressure for this to not just be a marketing campaign or a one-off – it must be something that is sustainable long-term. There needs to be an investment in finding out what data you have and what data you need to start collecting so that you can find the truth when it comes to inclusion and belonging in your organisation.

You also need to look at different ways of measuring the data and use this to move towards different platforms that can create different behaviours in your organisation. From here you can assess what new data points you need to tell a compelling story of change.

One thing we're working on very closely with many companies is putting in place a reverse mentoring programme for BAME employees that demonstrates to their people that they are feeling heard and supported.

Whether it's that or another sponsorship or career development programme – there needs to be one real thing that you can point to as a company and as a leader right now, that you are doing and is happening inside the organisation that you are personally signing off on. It's not enough when the c-level steps away and hands it off to the HR department.

When it comes to D&I technology, what's the difference between artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence?

One of the biggest trends we see is 'AI for everything', particularly in disruptive HR tech and general workplace optimisation technology. AI is great when you can optimise a process but when it comes to changing people's behaviour, what you shouldn't do is replace that behaviour. AI is about replacing human behaviour as appropriate to make something efficient and there's a lot of HR tech platforms that are talking about doing that.

When it comes to being the digital standard for inclusion and belonging, we focus a lot on data but we also focus on the interventions aspect and how our technology helps people to see things differently – which is why it's augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence. With augmented intelligence, we're looking to truly change the employee experience.

With augmented intelligence, I'm giving you a different experience and changing your relationship to a data point that you've probably not interacted with previously. It will change who you see in your organisation, which might not be someone who works directly in your team or someone who even looks and feels like you or has the same life experience; they may not even be in the same city or country as you.

If you want to create true behavioural change in your organisation it’s about making sure the thinking is there to help people and organisations be the best versions of themselves.